Monday, 30 September 2013

It's Gamage Limitation as Steele puts Gloucester to the Sword

Tigers Extra Firsts triumphed 38-16 tonight in a ill tempered A League match with Gloucester at Welford Road.  Tries from the returning Miles Benjamin, Henry Purdy, George Catchpole, Scott Steele, Michael Noone and a penalty try secured victory with both sides seeing red after referee Darren Gamage sent Ryan Lamb and Koree Briton for the proverbial early bath.

The match was scarred by Gloucester's negative tactics of holding players on the floor, when Tigers took exception to this the Gloucester response was to pile in with fists as well.  First team forwards Huia Edmonds, Lua Lokotoi and Matt Cox were all extremely fired up and needed no excuse to start scuffles.

Referee Darren Gamage, the managing director of a Cambridge security firm, lost control from early on.  He failed to spot the numerous Gloucester offences around the ruck which just emboldened them to push for more.  

Tigers had already showed a different class to their opponents with the first two tries coming in the first 10 minutes.  The first came from a simply beautiful break and off load by Terrence Hepetema finding the surging Miles Benjamin on the inside tracking line.  Benjamin was playing his first game for over a year and was lively in the first half before tiring and being replaced around the hour mark.

Henry Purdy, last year's top try scorer and going the right way to retain that title, was next on the score sheet.  Sebastian De Chaves charged down the Gloucester clearance and showed terrific work rate to secure the loose ball.  Tigers whipped the turnover through the hands from the Crumbie touchline to towards Purdy on the old Members side.  A simple finish for a man of his caliber, Purdy couldn't quite get it central enough for Ryan Lamb to land conversion, making it 12-0 to the Tigers.

Gloucester then started edging into the game more with a good spell of possession.  Gamage now badly flailing under the pressure of the two sides tried to assert his authority with a penalty against Joe Cain for dissent.  Johnny Bentley slotted it to secure Gloucester's first points.

Bentley doubled the Elver Eater's tally just 4 minutes later when play was stopped for a "high" tackle by Terrence Hepetema.  This happened right in front of me and was a perfect text book tackle.  He hit him in the ribs and drove him up and back.  

Tigers were not to be held back for long however.  Purdy was given good counter attacking ball and spotting lumbering lock forward Lua Lokotoi in the back line he turned him this way and that moving from the halfway to the 5m line.  A cheeky chip through for Lamb was blocked but Gloucester infringed at the breakdown anyway.  Purdy, now full of beans, fancied himself down the blindside with the quick tap and Perry Humphreys in support but the pair were bundled in to touch.  Chance wasted.

But no!

The Cherry 'n' Whites lineout, from Australian Test hooker Huia Edmonds no less, was miles overthrown.  First to react was quicksilver Irishman Michael Noone who scrapped it back on the Tigers side.  The ball was bobbling and Ryan Lamb showed a touch of class as his quick "Fijian Flip" pass drew in the onrushing Ryan Mills and let George Catchpole wander under the posts completely unmolested.

This cheeky trickery from the exiled Gloucester native clearly ruffled a few feathers.  Thankfully in my roughly 17 years watching the Tigers I can't recall another time when a fight has broken out in the queue to get through the Crumbie terrace at half time but Gloucester managed it.  Gamage had let tensions simmer so high it was inevitable that it was going to boil over at some point but practically in the crowd is not a good sight, as much as I love a good punch up.

Much like Nick Mullins in the Premiership 7s I couldn't tell whether it was Steph Reynolds or Drew Cheshire that took exception to Lamb's exceptional skill but it was an ugly reaction that foreshadowed what was to come.

With no obvious talking to from the referee at halftime both sides returned from their break refreshed and fired up.  Harry Thacker replaced George Chuter and Will Owen made his A league debut in place of Thomas Waldrom.

It did not take long for the match to spark, for the pot to boil over, for the Gloucester players to avoid all pretense and nakedly ambush Ryan Lamb.  5 minutes into the half, certainly no more, and Lamb put up a steepling Garryowen for the backs to chase.  As all eyes followed the ball the Gloucester forwards set upon Lamb, with baby faced assassin Lewis Ludlow flying in for such a late hit the first I noticed of it was when the Crumbie reacted to all the flying fists.  Ludlow and Koree Britton were both on top of Lamb with both sides certainly giving as good as they got.

The referee's 14 year old touch judge came in to report the misdemeanors.  Red cards for both.  I have no problem with straight reds for violence so no qualms there.  But the decision to restart the game was odd.

The sequence of events seemed to be this: Lamb kicks ball, is taken late, reacts by punching Ludlow in the head, Britton piles in and as one twitterer put it "went Duncan McRae on Lamb".  Now surely that should be a Tigers penalty to restart?  First offence is Gloucester, without which we would have had no fight at all, then after Lamb reacts so does Britton.  If we are reversing pens then surely it goes Tigers reversed to Gloucester reversed to Tigers?

But no, Gamage with the help of the not quite shaving school boy not only gave Gloucester the pen but a further 10 meters too.


Tigers reacted better to the reduction though as Scott Steele's muscular display came to the fore.  This hardy carrying game makes him a very different proposition to our other scrum halfs and an interesting option ahead of the likes of Mele and Harrison.

Tigers earned a penalty from the scrum in the Gloucester 22 which Steele tapped quickly.  He raced around the pack before cutting back outside, holding off the Gloucester challenge to squeeze over in the far corner.  With Lamb off Steele missed the conversion.

Gloucester's night was about to get worse though as a the red cards had done nothing to remove the niggle from the game.  Lua Lokotoi was chief culprit again, particularly boisterous after Balmain had smashed through him on the counter ruck.   The Tigers' tales were now up and they scented blood. 

With George Catchpole playing fly half we kicked to the corner.  A mighty surge came on from the young pack and forwards they marched.  Tongan international Lokotoi collapsed the maul inches from the line and was carded for his troubles.  With Tom Bristow, Tiziano Pasquali and Tom Price now in the engine room the scrum surged forwards and as the Gloucester players were spit out the side Gamage put them out of their misery and raced under the posts for the penalty try.

Gloucester responded well with Billy Burns, younger brother of Freddie, now introduced to the fray they went quick from one of the only "holding on" penalties given all match.  This length of the field breakaway whilst down to 13 men will be some consolation for the Gloucester boys.

With the benches now emptied and the villain Lokotoi returned the Gloucester scrum was not improved.  A promising Tigers move was pulled back for the final pass being forward but it mattered not.  A huge 8 man shove drove the Cherry 'n' White pack back at a rate of knots.  With the scum now our put in a try was inevitable.  This time Gloucester let Michael Noone ground it for an old fashioned push over rather than cheat and gift us the conversion.  Steele nailed it anyway.  38-16.

And that was the game really.

Steele would be my Man of the Match (Man of Steele?) for his calm performance once robbed of his half back partner but as ever the likes of Purdy and Noone were impressive.  Benjamin showed well in his first run but will require time to build up the fitness required for 80 minutes of Premiership rugby. 

Sunday, 29 September 2013

Heavenly Tigers silence Sandy Park crowd

A dominant first 20 minutes was enough for Tigers to see off a spirited final hour from Exeter as they triumphed 21-9 at Sandy Park.  Renowned by some for a terrific atmosphere Sandy Park was a strange cross between a morgue and a library as Tigers had a choke on hold on the game, and even though their grip loosened in the second half they never let go completely.

Tigers started the game terrifically as the heavyweight pack selected by Richard Cockerill acted like a wrecking ball through the Exeter midfield.  Great awareness from Toby Flood spotted occasional full back Phil Dollman out of position and took advantage with a dinked chip for Niall Morris.  He looked to have scored but the T.M.O. ruled that his fumble in the grounding went forwards.  To my eye that went backwards and he was next to ground it for a try.

Tigers went close again as a Jordan Crane looked to free Ben Youngs round the side of a driven maul.  He tripped though and referee Wigglesworth ruled holding on.  The mighty Leicester pack was not to be denied however and it was from a similar move that Ben Youngs squirmed over, this time it was elder brother Tom Youngs who drew the last man.

Flood missed the conversion but atoned with a penalty not too long afterwards.  Tigers’ backline defence was excellent with Blaine Scully’s defence immaculate.  Vereniki Goneva, in his favoured position of outside centre, was particularly quick off the mark and showed an excellent work ethic to get back to the outside if he was beaten.

Typical Tigers to find the Fijian good at all the dull things to go with his magic feet.

Exeter finally arrived in the second quarter as they finally got some ball and field position to use it.  Usually it is the away side you say were “still on the bus” but Exeter’s minds looked elsewhere for long periods of the first half.

Goneva’s never stop work rate was rewarded on the stroke of half time when he pounced on Jason Shoemark’s loose pass to race away under the posts.  Toby Flood converted for a 15-0 half time lead.

Tigers’ mega-sized back five finally tired in the second half.  Ed Slater brings immense physicality around the field and as an option in the lineout he is fantastic, but what you gain in those stakes you lose out on the floor of the ruck.  

With only Julian Salvi as a true flanker Tigers struggled to stem the Chief’s flow in the second half.  Consequently they lost out on possession, territory and the chance to claim the try bonus point.

Tigers were out on their feet for much of the second period and the injection of fresh legs from Kitchener and Gibson helped somewhat to turn the tide back in the Leicester favour.   

2 of the 3 second half penalties from Exeter were simply due to speed of ball and pressure.  The other a fairly bizarre scrum penalty for Tom Youngs standing up, despite the Tigers pack marching forwards at the time.

I look forward to seeing Dylan Hartley penalised off the park next week.

With 70 minutes gone Tigers still had the chance to press for a third try and open up the possibility of the try bonus point.  Tigers were finally getting some ball in the Exeter half and had earned a scrum penalty.  At 9 points up the penalty insured against a two score Exeter come back but a kick to the corner might have opened the game up for an extra point ourselves.

This summed up both sides as neither was really positive enough to take hold of the game in the second half, so Tigers first half stranglehold held firm.

At the end of the match Ben Kay’s man of the match Vereniki Goneva let slip Tigers tactical master plan.  “I’d like to thank the Lord” he said.  With the Almighty as our 16th man no wonder our defence seemed omnipotent!

Friday, 27 September 2013

Academy Trio Play for Nottingham on loan

Nottingham Rugby have selected 3 Tigers in their starting XV to London Scottish in Richmond this Saturday.

Winger Henry Purdy is named for his Championship debut whilst he is joined in the Notts backline by fellow England Under 20s back George Catchpole who plays 13.  Catchpole, originally from Norfolk, has played 13 in the previous two Notts games this season.

In the pack Tom Price is preferred to Neilus Keogh who moves to the bench.  Price impressed off the bench against London Welsh last season.

The bench sees another dual registered player as Ryan Bower covers loosehead prop.

Former Tigers Harrison Lee-Everton, Brent Wilson and Alex Shaw start whilst Michael Holford and Rory Lynn are ex-Tigers on the bench.

Nottingham Rugby
15) Ed Styles
14) Henry Purdy
13) George Catchpole

12) Joe Munro
11) Ryan Hough
10) Matthew Jarvis
9) Harrison Lee-Everton

1) Campese Ma'afu
2) Jon Vickers
3) Harry Williams
4) Tom Price
5) Dan Montagu
6) Tom Calladine
7) Brent Wilson (c)
8) Alex Shaw

16)  Ryan Bower
17)  Scott Wright
18)  Michael Holford
19)  Neilus Keogh
20)  Joe Burton
21)  Sean Romans
22)  Rory Lynn

AA gets 100th Call Out

Anthony Allen is set to make his 100th start for the First XV, as he is recalled to replace Dan Bowden in the centres.  Tigers make 7 other personnel changes along with several positional switches as they search for their best side to send to Ulster in two weeks.

In the back three Niall Morris comes in at full back and Blaine Scully moves to wing.  Thompstone is retained on the left wing whilst Vereniki Goneva moves to outside centre in place of the injured Manu Tuilagi.  Allen plays 12 as Flood and Youngs continue at half back.

The pack sees 4 changes as Tom Youngs and Dan Cole are recalled to the front row, Logovi'i Mulipola switches back to loosehead after starting on the otherside last week.  Louis Deacon is recalled at Lock as Ed Slater moves to 6 to accommodate him. 

Julian Salvi regains his mantel at 7 from Jamie Gibson who is on the bench.  Jordan Crane and Geoff Parling keep their shirts from last week.

Owen Williams is again preferred to Ryan Lamb on the bench whilst the form of Bowden gets some reward as he is retained in the match day 23.  Sam Harrison could make his seasonal debut as he replaces David Mele on the bench.

Exeter make one change from the side which last week won away at London Irish.  Zimbabwean number 8 Dave Ewers has recovered from a hamstring injury and replaces Ben White in the starting line up.  

Exeter still start with 7 of the side that won the championship in 2010, including both half backs: Coventry's Haydn Thomas and Ulster's Gareth Steenson.  Steenson is joined by one of the Chief's newer singings a fellow Ulsterman Ian Whitten.  

Tigers fans will remember Welshmen Phill Dollman, who scored 2 tries at Welford Road as Exeter roared to a half time lead in 2010,and Tom James who scored the last minute try for Cardiff Blues to force extra time in 2009's Heineken Cup Semi-Final.  James had a kick to win the penalty shoot out that day, taking Cardiff's 5th kick, but put it wide allowing Hamilton to equal the scores and Jordan Crane to eventually send us to our 5th Heineken Cup final.

Sunday's referee will be Tim Wigglesworth from Hull.  Wigglesworth has refereed 3 out of the last 4 clashes between the two sides including both of last season's encounters.  Given that at the time Exeter certainly felt hard done by after his performance in this fixture last March his appointment is unnecessarily controversial.  

This is typical Premiership Rugby.  It is a pressure that the referee could be feeling and is completely avoidable.  It is also, for me, not good practice to appoint only one referee for any particular fixture so often.  For instance Exeter could feel that some of Wigglesworth foibles help Leicester and hinder them.  A mix of refs avoids this.  

Exeter will go into this game full of confidence after winning 3 of the last 5 fixtures between the two sides including 2 out of 3 games down at Sandy Park.  

Tigers will be looking to use their heavy-jumbo formation to batter the Chiefs midfield, especially the 10-12 channel between teenager Sam Hill and fly half Steenson, then unleash the pace and power of the "Back Four" of Goneva, Thompstone, Scully and Morris.  It is a muscular back line but will be missing the irreplaceable Manu Tuilagi.

Tigers will be looking for a win so that we can protect our vital half backs against Northampton next week in preparation for the trip to Ulster the week after.

Leicester Tigers
15 Niall Morris
14 Blaine Scully
13 Vereniki Goneva
12 Anthony Allen
11 Adam Thompstone
10 Toby Flood (c)
9 Ben Youngs
1 Logovi'i Mulipola
2 Tom Youngs
3 Dan Cole
4 Louis Deacon
5 Geoff Parling
6 Ed Slater
7 Julian Salvi
8 Jordan Crane

16 Neil Briggs
17 Boris Stankovich
18 Fraser Balmain
19 Graham Kitchener
20 Jamie Gibson
21 Sam Harrison
22 Owen Williams
23 Dan Bowden

Exeter Chiefs: 
15 Phil Dollman
14 Ian Whitten
13 Jason Shoemark
12 Sam Hill
11 Tom James
10 Gareth Steenson
9 Haydn Thomas
1 Brett Sturgess
2 Jack Yeandle
3 Hoani Tui
4 Dean Mumm (c)
5 Damian Welch
6 Tom Johnson
7 James Scaysbrook
8 Dave Ewers
16 Chris Whitehead
17 Ben Moon
18 Carl Rimmer
19 Tom Hayes
20 Ben White
21 Dave Lewis
22 Henry Slade
23 Matt Jess

Exeter Kit:

Leicester Kit:

TV: BT Sport1HD, Sky 413, Virgin Media 549, 1PM (Kick Off: 2 PM)

Saturday, 21 September 2013


To raise awareness for the Rugby World Cup which kicks off in two years time the RFU have been putting up odd sets of posts in parks around LeicesterThe idea is to get people to have a kick about in park, get some air in the lungs, have a nice run around.  Nothing serious just a bit of fun.

Tigers and Newcastle it seems were recruited as ambassadors for the scheme as they had a nice relaxing game in beautiful weather.  Got some air in the lungs, had a nice run around with only occasional interruptions of seriousness.

As you probably know already it was not a happy return for Leicester legends Dean Richards and John Wells.  Their Newcastle side was dismissed with ease as Tigers just clicked through the gears to record a 31-6 victory. 

There was no messing about from Tigers as they kicked to touch from every penalty awarded.  Some people call it arrogant but frankly we don’t want to get into a tit for tat penalty contest, we want a 4 try bonus so might as well go for it from the off.

Tigers won a mid field penalty and Flood went to touch, from the maul Tigers won another penalty and this time Ben Youngs tapped it into the corner.  Jordan Crane claimed it at the back of the lineout and tigers went for the heave.  The Falcons were flagging already as Waldrom broke towards the Crumbie on the blindside.   

He was stopped inches short of the line but the Falcons defence had failed to wrap around the ruck and simple hands but JC in the corner. 

A traditional Crumbie groan greeted Flood’s attempt at the conversion.

In the week that Manu Tuilagi gave call me Dave Cameron “bunny ears” he was more like a Rampant Rabbit as he penetrated the Falcons defence time and time again.  He created the second and third tries through powerful thrusts into the Geordie midfield.  The second try he was unstoppable as he powered from outside the 22 to the 5 yard.  When he was stopped short of the line it was a pyrrhic victory as the defence was all at sea and Graham Kitchener had the proverbial open goal.

The third try was just before half time.  Once again Newcastle’s midfield indiscipline had given Tigers a lineout in excellent position.  Again it was on the Crumbie touchline and again the Tigers drive was strong.  Again the Newcastle pack chose to stop the maul by illegal means and Tigers had the advantage.  The Newcastle rush defence put Bowden’s second pass under pressure but Manu’s sheer strength and pace saw him brush off the attentions of his defender and feed Californian Blaine Scully for a dream debut try.

Sandwiched between the Tuilagi interjections were Newcastle’s only points.  Scully skewed his clearance kick into touch and the Falcons forwards took flight, well sort of, with a maul.  I’m not entirely convinced that Ed Slater did come from the side but it really doesn’t matter in the long run.  

Rory “don’t call me Nick” Clegg slotted the pen then 5 minutes later knocked over a rare sight a Welford Road, a drop goal.  Long gone are the days of Cusworth or Harris or even Goode where Drop Goals were a regular occurrence, Tigers haven’t kicked a drop goal in 19 months since Geordan Murphy’s last gasp winner against Saracens.

The second half’s early exchanges were tentative as Tigers were content to wait for their chance for the bonus point.  Dave Rose’s liberal approach to watching the game lead to an open game as lots of knock ons were missed by both sides.  Tigers almost profited as Goneva was set to race clear but at the last second Rose’s contacts came into focus and he spotted a knock on.  No complaints as there were several in the move but it is annoying when he spots the small one at the end after you’ve got away with a whopper early in the move.

The try was coming though and eventually it came.  Flood put Kitchener through a hole on the Newcastle 22 and as the giant strode forwards and about a million years after the pass he was clattered into by Kieran Brookes.  Brookes left the club in the summer after falling behind Fraser Balmain and no loved was lost between Brookes and the former Falcon Flood.  

Flood, not unsurprisingly given recent events, was not impressed by this blatant thuggery.  He rocketed straight back to his feet and after the tub of lard assailant, grabbing his ears and not quite head butting him but heads certainly were in contact.
Meanwhile, Dan Bowden was latching on to Kitchener’s pop pass to scorch under the posts.   

After the conversion Brookes was a lucky boy and only shown a yellow card.

With the bonus point secured Tigers used most of their bench, keeping Tom Youngs and Julian Salvi back for another day but giving allowing Tom Bristow to step up to the oche and make his debut for the club. 

The final score was reminiscent of the Deano and Wells hey day as the pack completely ignored their talented backs to shove the opposition pack back over the line.  It was the man wearing Wells’s old shirt that came up with ball after the push over, Thomas Waldrom the blindside for the day.  Young Welsh fly half Owen Williams slotted the conversion to keep up his 100% kicking record the club, all 2 out 2 of them.

Newcastle tested out the Tigers defence late on and Adam Thompstone was yellow carded for the crime of not quite catching a ball.  The Law (12.1 (e)) merely says that “A player must not intentionally knock the ball forward with hand or arm”.  So according to Mr.Rose, who played second division rugby for Moseley, Thompstone didn’t want to score a try or even attempt to catch the ball.  Which is rubbish.  I hate this from referees because it is massively disproportionate and is not in the rules.  It is just another chance for them to show off their egos and try to spoil the game for the players and fans. 

And that’s how the kick about in the park ended really.  Got some air in the lungs, scrapped some knees, had a run around.  Nothing serious, just an afternoon of fun.

Friday, 20 September 2013

Deano and Wells: The Boys are Back in Town

Tigers welcome club legends Dean Richards and John Wells to Welford Road this Saturday as they bring newly promoted Newcastle to the Tiger’s lair.

Richards was the iconic figure at the club for his 16 year playing career where he captained Tigers to the 1995 Courage League Title playing 314 games.  Wells captained the side to the 1993 Pilkington Cup, ending the clubs longest trophy drought and played 367 times for the club.  They both retired in the 1997/98 season and together took the club into the modern era.

In their first full season in charge Deano and Wells lead the Tigers to only their 3rd ever league title before repeating the trick the next three years to tie Bath’s record of 4 Title in a row and 6 overall.  But Europe was the stage where they made the biggest impact.  Both started in the painful defeat to Brive in the 1997 European Cup Final and used that hurt to drive the club on to its most memorable moments.

Who can forget Paris?  Or Nottingham?  Or the glorious return to Cardiff?

Newcastle were re-named from the old Gosforth club in the early 1990’s and ironically their only victory at Welford Road under that name was Richards final ever game for the club in December 1997.  Richards was a late replacement for Martin Corry and played in the second row wearing “S”.  Newcastle completed the double over Tigers that year as John Hall’s revolution powered the Geordie’s to their only ever League Title. 

Since then Newcastle’s fortunes have waned somewhat culminating in relegation to the Championship in 2012, their first year outside the top tier since 1996/7.  The nadir at Welford Road was reached in an 83-10 thrashing in 2005 when Ollie Smith scored 2 tries before half time making a mockery of opposite number Mat Tait’s selection for England two weeks previously.  Others in the Newcastle side that day were Toby Flood at full back and Geoff Parling.  Odd to think that currently we have more players from the Newcastle side that day than the Tigers one.

Tigers have named a much changed side from the one that tasted defeat last weekend in Bath making 10 changes in personal plus two positional switches.

Headlining the changes is the return to fitness of Ben Youngs, Toby Flood and Manu Tuilagi in the back line.  All three start for the first time since last May's Premiership Final.

Tigers also hand debuts to Californian full back Blaine Scully, flanker Jamie Gibson and hooker Neil Briggs.  Notably this is the first game that Tom Youngs has been available for but not started since the Premiership final in 2012.

The pack sees Logovi'i Mulipola switch sides to tighthead and Boris "the finger" Stankovich move into the No.1 jersey as Marcos Ayerza is still away with Argentina.  Graham Kitchener replaces Sebastian de Chaves in the second row as he misses out on the match day squad altogether as Geoff Parling returns to the bench.

Saturday’s referee will be David Rose.  The Birmingham native celebrated his 50th birthday this summer with a new position working for Badminton England as a “Regional Delivery Manager”, whatever that is.  Rose has refereed the Tigers 15 times with Leicester winning 10 times, drawing once and losing 4 times.  His last Leicester game was the Anglo-Welsh encounter with Newcastle in February 2012 when Tigers were victorious 24-13. 
  Newcastle make a slew of changes from the side that was victorious away to Sale last Friday as Rory Clegg, Rob Vickers, Kieran Brookes and Carlo del Farva all return to the starting line up.  Watch out for summer singings Franck Montanella from London Welsh and Dom Barrow from Leeds in the pack.

Leicester Tigers
15 Blaine Scully
14 Vereniki Goneva
13 Manusamoa Tuilagi
12 Dan Bowden
11 Adam Thompstone
10 Toby Flood (c)
9 Ben Youngs
1 Boris Stankovich
2 Neil Briggs
3 Logovi'i Mulipola
4 Ed Slater
5 Graham Kitchener
6 Thomas Waldrom
7 Jamie Gibson
8 Jordan Crane

16 Tom Youngs
17 Tom Bristow
18 Dan Cole
19 Geoff Parling
20 Julian Salvi
21 David Mele
22 Owen Williams
23 Niall Morris

Newcastle Falcons:
15 Alex Tait
14 Noah Cato
13 Adam Powell
12 James Fitzpatrick
11 Tom Catterick
10 Rory Clegg
9 Warren Fury
1 Franck Montanella
2 Rob Vickers
3 Kieran Brookes
4 Carlo del Fava
5 Dominic Barrow
6 Mark Wilson
7 Will Welch (c)
8 Chris York
16 Matt Thompson
17 Gary Strain
18 Scott Wilson
19 Sean Tomes
20 Andy Saull
21 Chris Pilgrim
22 Joel Hodgson
23 Alex Crockett

Leicester Kit:

Newcastle Kit:

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

AEB: An Arrogant English Bastard's guide to the European Dispute

I’ve been reading Planet Rugby.  I know, it was a bad idea.  Some people’s hypocrisy defies belief.  Apparently “the English” are greedy, power hungry and don’t care about the growth of the rugby beyond their own personal fiefdoms.  All unlike the ever wonderful unions which are only concerned with getting more people to play the sport and have lovely Corinthian values and motives.

Now obviously that is bollocks.

But generally telling people they are stupid and ending there doesn’t tend to convince them.  I know, shocker!

So let’s have a look at some of those claims. 


Jean-Pierre Lux, chairman of the ERC after his Zimbabwean election in 2011, had this to say in the Telegraph this week:
“ERC’s contribution to the Unions and clubs last season was €44.3 million (£37 million) – double the figure from 2005-06.
Under the current Accord, 85 per cent of the distribution is shared among six European countries with the remaining 15 per cent reserved for meritocracy based on which countries’ clubs progress furthest in the tournaments.
So from the nine European weekends last weekend, Premiership Rugby earned €10.8 million (£9.1 million), while the French clubs who were more successful, earned €12.1 million (£10.2 million). England and France are both guaranteed 24 per cent of the shared fund while 13.25 per cent goes to Ireland, Scotland, Wales, with 12.25 per cent reserved for Italy.”
Some might read that and say “hey you arrogant English bastards, you already get double everyone else so where’s the beef you grasping twats?”
But let’s look at those figures in more detail.  £37m is distributed to the clubs last season with 85% of that in “the share fund”.  So £37m x 0.85 = £31.45m.  

Now PRL on behalf on behalf of ERC receive 24% of that, or £31.45m x 0.24 = £7.548m.
£7.548m is then split by PRL’s policy of giving everyone equal shares so individual clubs get 1/12th of that, or £7.548m x 0.083 = £628,999.99. 
So whilst Lux might talk of English clubs gaining so much because there are so many clubs they only receive £629k each from ERC’s coffers. 
Now how about the Scot’s? They only receive 13.25 percent, or £31.45m x 0.1325 = £4,167,125.  However they only have Glasgow and Edinburgh to support.  That means that Edinburgh get half of that cash, or 0.5 x £4,167,125 = £2,083,562 and fifty pence.
So Leicester receives 30% of the ERC money that Edinburgh gets. 
Under the French and English proposals every team in the new-Europe would receive the same income from the “share fund”.
Now please tell me, who is being greedy?  On what planet is everyone receiving a fair and equitable portion greedy?
Power hungry:

Also called a power grab by some.  I’m not denying that clubs are after more power in new-Europe.  But what is the status quo and what is the proposal by the clubs?
Currently England and France have 5 votes on ERC’s board with Wales, Scotland, Ireland and Italy having 2 votes each.  

In England those 5 votes are split half and half between the RFU and the clubs’ body PRL; in France the split is 1 vote for the FFR and 4 votes for the clubs’ body LNR, more on that later; in Wales the WRU and the clubs’ body RRW gets 1 vote apiece.  The other Unions/Federations keep all the votes for themselves.
So the bodies that represents 30 of the 38 clubs who actually play in ERC’s competitions (79% of competitors) gets just 8.5 of the 18 votes (47.22%).  This means that an overwhelming majority of opinion is still not enough to force changes through ERC’s current structures. 
Take the last election for ERC Chairman.
It was Jean-Pierre Lux up against Peter Wheeler.  Wheeler had the support of the clubs bodies PRL, LNR and RRW as well as the old boys at the RFU.  You might think that that means he won.  After all that is 10 of the 18 votes, a clear majority. 
But no.
You see the RFU and FFR only “loan” their votes to their clubs.  The FFR were not happy that one of their own blazers was about to be voted out by their own clubs.  Sacre bleu.  So using an obscure clause in their agreement with the LNR over “the higher interests of French rugby” the FFR pulled their votes backed Lux and caused this whole mess. 
Clearly the clubs are not happy with being disenfranchised in this way and having no control over their own future.  Who can blame them?  Would you be happy to have no say in the running of your life? 
The new proposals are that the competition is run by the people who are actually in it.  We wouldn’t deal with the likes of Phillip Browne (IRFU), Roger Lewis (WRU) or Andrea Rinaldo (FIR) but with Mick Dawson (Leinster Chef Executive), Mike Davies (Scarlets CEO) or Amelia Zatta (Treviso President).
Now look I’m not denying this is a bit dickish.  But the point is that it is no more dickish than the current status quo where the likes of the IRFU have a snobbish disdain for the muck and sweet of club rugby and refuse to deal with us. 
If the provinces in Ireland are in unison with the IRFU as much as they like to say then what exactly is the problem?
There are the same number of English clubs in ERC as from Wales, Scotland, Ireland and Italy combined.  With no clubs being better or more worthy than any other, all clubs should have an equal say in their own futures.

I cannot see how anyone can argue, with a straight face, that it is right that the views of 30 clubs is worth less than the views of 8.
Growth of the game:

Yeah, yeah, yeah we’ve all heard it all before.  The unions are wonderful organisations that fund all the grass roots development and only have the goal of spreading the gospel of rugby union where as the evil clubs want to gobble up all the dosh and refuse to spend a penny on the grass roots.
We in Leicestershire know how wrong that is, our club does a huge amount to engage and enthuse people into the game of rugby at all levels.  The Prima Tiger Cup is 20 years old and now sees teams from half the country compete.  The club is intimately involved with schemes like Paying 4 Health and the Leicester Sports Partnership Trust. 
This isn’t an anti-RFU point as they also put a huge amount into grass roots rugby, just look at their All Schools initiative.  It is just dismissing this myth that the clubs have no interest in the wider game.
So we know that all parties are interested and involved in the growth of the amateur game.  But what about the World game?
Well under ERC’s auspices we have seen Italy lose its pro-league and we have seen them snub the Romanian champions Timisoara, on the grounds of travel difficulties.  Timisoara’s airport handles over a million passengers a year, roughly the same as Cork.  As a guide the city is roughly the size of Leicester.  It is vital for new-Europe’s credibility that they embrace teams from Romania’s professional Superliga.

The need for a third tier of European Rugby is palpable.  There is a hotch potch of regional competitions like the North Sea Cup, for teams from Germany, Holland and Belguim; the Regional Rugby Championship featuring sides from Hungary, Austria, Serbia, Croatia and  Bosnia and Herzegovina, whose 2013 season starts this Saturday and the Baltic Rugby Club Union for sides from North eastern Europe.
Last year German domestic and North Sea Cup Champions Heidelberger RK won a unifying tournament between the champions of all three tournaments but have withdrawn from this year’s North Sea Cup seeing no point in playing in a competition that has no pathway to the Amlin Challenge Cup.  Heidelberg is a town the size of Northampton or Bath, both European Champions, so these emergent pro clubs in countries like Germany must be supported.   But ERC run by its endless committees have badly failed.

Premier Rugby is treated with scepticism by many and outright hostility by others but look what it managed to achieve in only three months this summer with the World Club 7s.  They managed to bring together sides from 5 continents including the Russian clubs so far ignored by ERC and also clubs from America.  They haven’t talked about including these nations.  They’ve done it.
So for anyone reading I hope you see that the English clubs aren’t the devil and that whilst you might not like how the media have portrayed the negotiations clearly their demands are reasonable and no less than anyone else would want in their situation.  So let’s have an end to name calling and agree that we’re right, okay?

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Lamb goes to Pot as Tigers lose out to Bath

Rugby.  It’s a funny old game.  I must start off by admitting I didn’t go to the Rec so settled in to get my Tigers fix on BT Sport instead.  Apparently BT Sport is new best thing but at least when Sky covered the Rugby they covered the Rugby.  They didn’t spend 10 of the 15 minutes of build up talking football, they didn’t constantly run football scores across the top and they didn’t offer us the piercing insights of Marouane Fellani at half time.  Though to be fair he probably knows as much about Rugby as Dewi Morris.

And for those that don’t know I quite like football.  Been going to LCFC all my life.  But I do not accept Fife v Brechin Athletic score updates are needed on the top of my screen during the Rugby.  Any Rugby.  Let alone Tigers!

Anyway.  The Game.  The Rugby.

As Jake Humphreys might say it was a game of two halves; 21-3 to Bath in the first half, 17-6 to Leicester in the second.  Tigers really had the majority of the attacking play all day, spinning the ball wide and gaining ground round the fringes.  David Mele was the preferred kicker ahead of Ryan Lamb this week and put Tigers 3-0 up early on after Bath sealed off in the shadow of their posts.

Unfortunately that good start did not last long for Mele.  A free kick awarded to the Tigers was turned into a penalty for Bath by his behaviour.  At the next scrum the packs wheeled, as they do under these new rules, somehow Garner discerned that this was deliberate and Bath levelled.

Tigers were still on top with Scott Hamilton have a great chance of a finish but refusing to back his pace.  It’s an old stick to beat Cockerill with but would Purdy have had the pace to finish?  That dominance was dissipated in a sliding doors moment. 

Ryan Lamb threw a classic long floated pass and classically he’d got it wrong.  Jonathan Joseph stepped in front of Sebastian De Chaves to intercept the pass and raced away for the try.  If the ball had got past Joseph Tigers had a 4 on 1 and would have surely scored themselves.  Small margins our sport at times.

One of the things Martin Johnson used to talk about was compounding mistakes.  And the rest of the half saw Tigers compound and composite their mistakes in a goulash of awfulness. 

It starts with Mulipola.  He goes a bit high on Dave Attwood.  Garner mistakenly thinks there are no arms but there is little difference in terms of a penalty.  But he produces the yellow card.  Now.  I’ve got no problems with that as a yellow.   None at all.  But if we’re playing to those rules where were they last week?  Maybe a case for Geraint Ashton Jones in his new rule as consistency czar. 

Then a scrum.  With Boris “the finger” Stankovich manning the fort the scrum was better.  We looked like we’d won a penalty.  But no.  Mele, already in a bad mood and aggravating the referee, shoved Peter Stringer over.  Hard work nullified.  Mistake compounded. 

Ford makes a poor cross field clearance that Thompstone catches; he then collects his own grubber before being held up over the line.  Mele feeds the scrum.  Penalty.  Mistakes compounded.

By the by one thing I fail to understand in this brave new world of scrums is the penalty for a second feed.  They downgraded feeding from a penalty to a free kick in 1977 because it was spoiling the game and having too big an influence on major matches.  Now we seem keen to unlearn the lessons of history and spoil yet more games.  It’s also inconsistent within the game; we don’t start awarding penalties if a hooker throws two line outs not straight do we?

From the lineout Ed Slater and Jordan Crane are deemed to have entered the maul from the side.  Penalty.  Mistake compounded.

 Brilliant touch finder from Ford puts Bath 10 meters out.  That’s an 85 meter territory loss through indiscipline.  Youngs brilliantly stops the maul with an incredible drive.  But Garner has Tigers in his sights now after Mele’s antics and other sloppy penalties.  He sees the end result of the maul stopped and gives the penalty; instead of seeing the brilliant play of the how he only sees the cynical of the result. 

It’s a referee management issue as without the sloppy pens and the histrionics of Mele the referee won’t see the maul collapsing he will see the brilliant play by Youngs to stop it completely legally.

This time the referee compounds the error with a very harsh yellow card.

Back to Geraint Ashton Jones to explain how last week’s 17 penalties gained only 1 yellow card for Worcester but the 9 penalties here are worth 2 yellows for Leicester.

Ford makes it 16-3.

Mulipola is due to come back on.  Take the time for the lineout and we’ll be back to 14 at least.
But Lamb takes it quickly. Down to 13 for longer than necessary.  Mistakes compounded.

A lovely passage of play for Tigers over 14 rucks to the left and the right get us to within 5 yards of line.  Mele is caught at the base by Rokoduguni.  He clearly knocks it forwards out of Mele’s hands but that is missed.  Ford hacks clear.

Now this is the worst passage of play in the whole match.  Hamilton could kick it out.  He doesn’t.  Lamb could kick it up or out.  Bafflingly he doesn’t.  He grubbers it along the line on the floor.  Why?

Just why?

What is he thinking? 

He can’t play his forwards on side with the grubber.  He’s put it nowhere near touch.   We’re down to 13 men at this point and his kick has left 5 of them offside and out of the game.

I just can’t fathom why he thinks this is a good move.  There is 50 seconds of the half left. 

Boot it in the Avon get back to 14 men and half time will be in a matter of seconds.

This is why Lamb has never fulfilled his early promise and this is why Flood can be knocked out stone cold and be a better fly half.  For all Lamb’s good play in the second half (after a thousand words on the first I promise I will get to the second eventually) his bone headedness has lost us the game.  The first was a risk worth taking.  Okay its gone wrong but it was the right thing to do.  This one was the very worst option he could possibly take.  A penalty for holding on at least gets us back to 14.

Mistakes compounded.

And then Banahan runs it in from the half way line.  Really Morris and Hamilton should between them be able to hold him up.  Mistakes compounded.

And relax.  It’s mostly good from here.

More football from BT at half time.  Maroune “Dewi” Fellani offers us his analysis of Bath’s narrow rush defence and how Tigers are using the wide channels to good effect.

Now back to 15 this time it was Tigers who punished Bath’s mistakes.  Finally referee Garner spotted Paul James walking around the side of the scrum and Tigers cleared their lines to the 10m of their own half. 

Lamb throws a lovely dummy and steps inside the Bath rush, not once but twice.  He finds Ed Slater who charges past opposite number Hooper to gain good ground before passing a touch early to Thompstone.  Two phases to the right and a cheeky break by Niall Morris is stopped as his shorts fall down.  Back to the left and Youngs finds Lamb at second receiver.  He floats a lovely cross field kick for Thompstone. 

He gathers and off loads to Steve Mafi on the half hobble half swagger over the line.  The TMO checks for a forward pass but as Thompstone has his back to the line it would be an impressive feat of physics to go forward.

Mele skews the conversion well wide.

Tigers are now full of confidence and Morris combines with Hamilton to set the kiwi free through the middle.  He runs away from his support though and the moment is lost.  But Tigers are back in business and Bath are reeling.

Goneva is next through the middle.  The Fijian in his preferred position of outside centre cuts a swath through the Bath mid-field.  Two phases, and a lovely switch from the impressive Slater, later and the referee calls maul then turnover from no quick ball.  I feel there is a bit too much of this in the game at the moment.  A ruck can take an age but a fast moving maul goes to ground and unless the ball is immediately, and I mean immediately, available it goes to the opponents.  Just a quick chance for the scrum half to dig it out would be better in my view.

Tigers turn it back over but Lamb can’t find Thompstone with the ambitious pass on the outside.

But it’s all Tigers now.  Tom Youngs picks George Ford out of the defensive line and drives him back 20 meters to get onto the front foot.  Tigers’ multi-phase attack is in all its glory as they probe left and right, subtly pulling the defence apart over 9 rucks before Ed Slater squeezes over in the corner.

It is a credit to Bat’s defence that all the tries were scored in the corner.  It is an old Tigers trick to make them score out wide as it makes conversions harder and the tries worth less than ones under the posts. 

Mele converted this time and Tigers were within 7. 

Morris had clashed heads with Ford earlier in the game and was withdrawn.  This forced Ryan Lamb to full back and Bath were quick to test him out.  He fumbled the Garryowen and Mele hacked at the ball from an offside position.

The momentum was broken and Tigers were outside winning distance again.

But freed from the pressure of going for the win they rallied yet again.  More controlled possession and multiple rucks followed as Tigers moved 30 yards forward to within inches of the line then toyed with the blindside before Owen Williams, Ryan Lam and Tom Youngs span it wide for Thompstone.  He turned provider again popping it up for Goneva to run it in from 5 yards out. 

Mele scooped the conversion wide though so it would have to be a try to win it.  If he had got that then his next kick, a scrum pen after Ford put the restart straight out, we’d have been in the lead for the first time since the 13th minute.  But ifs don’t win games players do.

A poor clearout from Thomas Waldrom allowed Bath to win a penalty and Ross Batty’s lengthy injury break took the wind out of the sails a little bit.  Bath’s maul earned them another penalty when Waldrom charged into the side.  Ford now displaying all the talents we saw last year slashed the kick wide.

Waldrom not having best game in a Tigers shirt lost control at the back of yet another mess of a scrum and Micky Young pounced.  Bath worked the ball left then back to the centre but their charge was stopped when Jamie Gibson lazily lay all over the ball at a ruck.  27-20 then and 1 point.

For the hardy souls who have battled through almost 2,000 words of battered prose well done to you.  Your reward is the pearls of my infinite wisdom.  This game was incredibly frustrating in isolation as Tigers shot themselves in the foot over and over and over again.  But as part of the canvass of a season it was very positive.  We completely outplayed Bath without a slew of our star names; we burst the hype bubble surrounding Mele before we did anything stupid like picking him ahead of Ben Youngs; we defended incredibly well only conceding tries on the counter attack and we saw players like Slater and Goneva grow in the shirt even more.  We might have lost the battle but I’m still convinced we can win the war.

Friday, 13 September 2013

U 18s League Fixtures released

Tigers Academy Under 18s will open the defence of their Northern Conference Title  with a trip to the north west to face their Sale counter parts on Saturday October 26th.

Last season Tigers' cubs romped to a 100% record of 6 bonus point wins from 6 and this year's age group will look to emulate the 2012/13 team and go one better as Leicester Tigers UltraSubMarines understands that there will be a final with the Southern Conference Champions to crown inaugural national U 18s champions.

After the trip to Sale Tigers welcome Worcester and Northampton to Oval Park in consecutive weekends in December before traveling to Gloucester then Leeds in January.  They round off the league by playing Newcastle in February.

Unfortunately last year's double header of the Gloucester U-18 game with the Wasps LV Cup game can not be repeated as there are away games on the 21 December and the 8 February, whilst Montpellier has already been confirmed for Sunday 15 December.

To be eligible for the league games players must be born no earlier than September 1995; 3 "over age" players are also allowed so long as they are still 18 years old.

26 October Sale (A)
14 December Worcester (H)
21 December Northampton (H)
4 January Gloucester (A)
18 January Leeds (A)
8 February Newcastle (H)

Tigers aim to pull the plug on Bath's Gold Rush

A century of Leicester-Bath games is celebrated tomorrow at the Recreation Ground as 100 years and 1 day on from the very first meeting at Welford Road the two sides meet for the 182 time.  That makes this the 5th most popular fixture in Tigers history behind Northampton on 227, Gloucester on 211, Coventry with 204 and Harlequins with 191.  48 of the 181 games between the two sides have been played since August 1995 making this the most common fixture in the professional era.

Tigers make 4 changes from the side that gained the bonus point at home to Worcester.  Scott Hamilton comes into the backline replacing Dan Bowden, this causes a bit of a midfield re-jig as Anthony Allen moves into inside centre and Vereniki Goneva moves from wing to his international position of centre.  Geoff Parling and Louis Deacon miss out through England rest and injure respectively; they are replaced by Ed Slater and Sebastian De Chaves who makes his debut.

In the week the devastating news broke that Tom Croft had damaged his anterior cruciate ligaments in the final throws of last weeks game.  He has already undergone a knee reconstruction and will in all likely hood miss the whole of the season.  This is a crushing blow only 13 games after his come back from a broken neck.

Replacing him in the First XV is Steve Mafi, who himself has started only 2 games since tearing his hamstring against Toulouse in January.

Sam Harrison missed the Worcester match with a back spasm but an impressive run at fly half in Monday's A League fixture has proved his fitness to sit on the bench.  New singing Jamie Gibson could make his debut if he features from the bench.

Bath's only change from the side which defeated Deano's Newcastle Falcons is enforced by injury as cross coder Kyle Eastmond is ruled out and replaced by perma-tanned Gavin Henson.  Henson has had several run ins with the Tigers over the years, who can forget his infamous assault on Alejandro Moreno where he had the cheek to plead not guilty to this assualt:

That video cuts out before he goes on to kick Moreno in the head.  Nice chap.  Maybe Carl Fearns could have a word with him.

Starting at 10 for Bath will be George Ford.  Ford left the Tigers in the summer over "a lack of opportunities" as he had only started 27 games by the age 19, compared to no name nothings like Martin Johnson or Tom Croft who had barely made their debuts by that age let alone played in 3 major finals.  It has taken Bath 10 years to make 3 major finals.

Saturday's referee will be Greg Garner from Coventry.  Garner, who was in the same year at the same school as Andy Goode and James Grindal, will referee Tigers for the 8th time in his career.  Tigers have won 6 out of those 8 games including last season's Premiership semi final victory over Harlequins.

Leicester Tigers
15 Niall Morris
14 Scott Hamilton
13 Vereniki Goneva
12 Anthony Allen (c)
11 Adam Thompstone
10 Ryan Lamb
9 Dave Mélé
1 Logovi'i Mulipola
2 Tom Youngs
3 Dan Cole
4 Ed Slater
5 Sebastian de Chaves
6 Steve Mafi
7 Julian Salvi
8 Jordan Crane

16 Neil Briggs
17 Boris Stankovich
18 Fraser Balmain
19 Jamie Gibson
20 Thomas Waldrom
21 Sam Harrison
22 Owen Williams
23 Dan Bowden

Bath Rugby
15 Anthony Watson
14 Semesa Rokoduguni
13 Jonathan Joseph
12 Gavin Henson
11 Matt Banahan
10 George Ford
9 Peter Stringer
1 Paul James
2 Rob Webber
3 David Wilson
4 Stuart Hooper (c)
5 Dave Attwood
6 Matt Garvey
7 Guy Mercer
8 Leroy Houston

16 Ross Batty
17 Nathan Catt
18 Anthony Perenise
19 Dominic Day
20 Alafoti Fa'osiliva
21 Micky Young
22 Tom Heathcote
23 Tom Biggs



TV: BT Sports 1 HD, Saturday 14th September 3PM (3:15PM KO)