Friday, 10 May 2013

Tigers v Quins: Semi Final Preview

The marathon is over, now begins the sprint.  22 games over 8 months have given us our top 4 sides that will battle out for the title.  Saracens host Northampton on Sunday but of more concern here is the first semi final, the re-match of last year's final Leicester v Harlequins.

Tigers make 2 changes from the side that finished the regular season as Mat Tait and Dan Cole replace Geordan Murphy and Martin Castrogiovanni.  Murphy misses out on the match day squad completely as Matt Smith comes onto the bench; Toby Flood regains the captaincy.

Ed Slater misses out after failing to recover in time from his injured triceps; despite this week being named in England's squad to tour Argentina.  Adam Thompstone misses out again, presumably through injury; though as usual no word on whether it is injury or form has escaped from Oval Park.

Harlequins will be without England captain Chris Robshaw, he has failed to recover from an ankle injury sustained 3 weeks ago against Worcester so Luke Wallace will deputise.  The only other change from last year's final is Tom Casson previously of Nottingham instead of Jordan Turner-Hall.

Welford Road will hold no fear for Harlequins who boast a fantastic record at the historic ground winning 3 of the last 4 games between the two sides in Leicester.  Tigers, however, have never lost a Premiership semi final and have won their last 12 semi finals in all competitions.

Tomorrow's referee will be Greg Garner.  A Coventry native Garner was in the same year at King Edward VII school as Andy Goode and James Grindal.  Garner refereed the 16-12 win over Northampton in November as well as 6 other Tigers' gmaes the most recent the LV Cup thrashing in west Wales by Llanelli.  

The key areas:
1. The Breakdown 
Quins have selected two 7s in their back row as Luke Wallace is joined by Samoa's test openside Mo Fa'asavalu.  Tigers pair of Julian Salvi and Tom Croft are no slouches in the rucks but they must be at their best to expose the missing man Chris Robshaw.  Tigers hold two back row players in reserve to try and turn the tide if things go against them.  Tigers edge might come from Number 8 where Jordan Crane is a renowned ruck specialist whilst Nick Easter is more of an attacking off loading 8. 

2. Half Back
Tigers badly missed Toby Flood in last year's final so will be hugely relived to see him starting this match.  Both sides are heavily reliant on their England international scrum halfs as Ben Youngs and Danny Care set the tempo for both sides attacking game.  The pair's breaking ability is well known to both sides so who stops the lazy defence and busts open a big run may well be the difference.  Evans v Flood goal kicking duel will be important as both men have the ability to keep their side in touch or slowly pull away with penalties.

3. The Scrum
Harlequins heavyweight pack is both their biggest asset and their biggest weakness at scrum time.  They like to hit and drive, because if 20 stone behemoths Kohn and Johnstone start rolling forwards it is nigh on impossible to stop.  This makes winning the hit crucial as Tigers light second rows won't have the ballast to absorb and repel the Londoners once they get going.  Equally if you can get that pair on their heels then no back row will ever stop them so a penalty almost always comes.  Quins know this too so referee Garner's control of the engagement will, depressingly really, make a huge impact on who will control territory and possession.   

15 Mathew Tait
14 Niall Morris
13 Manu Tuilagi
12 Anthony Allen
11 Vereniki Goneva
10 Toby Flood (c)
9 Ben Youngs
1 Logovi'i Mulipola
2 Tom Youngs
3 Dan Cole
4 Graham Kitchener
5 Geoff Parling
6 Tom Croft
7 Julian Salvi
8 Jordan Crane
16 Rob Hawkins
17 Fraser Balmain
18 Martin Castrogiovanni
19 Steve Mafi
20 Thomas Waldrom
21 Sam Harrison
22 George Ford
23 Matt Smith

15 Mike Brown
14 Tom Williams
13 George Lowe
12 Tom Casson
11 Ugo Monye
10 Nick Evans
9 Danny Care
1 Joe Marler
2 Joe Gray
3 James Johnston
4 Olly Kohn
5 George Robson
6 Maurie Fa'asavalu
7 Luke Wallace
8 Nick Easter (c)
16 Rob Buchanan
17 Mark Lambert
18 Will Collier
19 Charlie Matthews
20 Tom Guest
21 Karl Dickson
22 Ben Botica
23 Ross Chisholm

Last 6 Meetings 
Welford Road 08/10/2011 L 18-27 Prem
The Stoop 28/01/2012 W 19-9 LV
The Stoop 21/04/2012 W 43-33 Prem
Twickenham 26/05/2012 L 23-30 Prem Final
Welford Road 22/09/2012 L 9-22 Prem
The Stoop 16/02/2013 L 21-25 Prem
Tigers Semi Final Record

Sunday 14 May 2006
Welford Road
London Irish
W 40-8
Tries: A. Tuilagi, Ellis, 2 Lloyd, G.Murphy; Pens: 3 Goode; Cons: 3 Goode
Saturday 5 May 2007
Welford Road
W 26-14
T: Ellis, G.Murphy; P:4 Goode; C:2 Goode
Sunday 18 May 2008
W 26-25
T: A.Tuilagi, Mauger; P:3 Goode; C:2 Goode; DG: Goode
Saturday 9 May 2009
Walkers Stadium
W 24-10
T: Hipkiss, Vesty, Moody; C: 3 Dupuy; P: Dupuy
Sunday 16 May 2010
Welford Road
W 15-6
P: 5 Flood
Saturday 14 May 2011
Welford Road
W 11-3
T: A.Tuilagi; P: 2 Flood
Saturday 12 May 2012
Welford Road
20, 173
W 24-15
T: A.Tuilagi, Mafi; C: Ford; P: 4 Ford

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