Saturday, 19 October 2013

Thompstone on Time as Tigers tackle Treviso

A last play try from Adam Thompstone kept Tigers' European hopes alive as it secured the 4 try bonus point; Flood's conversion made the final score 34-3.

The result needs to be put in the context that Treviso finished the last season 7th in the RaboDirect Pro12; this is where Bath finished in the Aviva Premiership.  We would not be moaning if we got a 5 point win against Bath what ever the circumstances.

The performance though was mixed to say the least.

Tigers are never comfortable under lights, this game was moved due to a clash with Leicester City v Huddersfield (won 2-1 if you're interested), and this nasty habit reared its head again.  Treviso were excellent for large parts at spoiling the possession.  The laissez faire approach to the ruck by Pascal Gauzere was taken up with relish by Barbieri, Zanni and Vosawi who were a constant nuisance in and around the break down.

Ed Slater was magnificent, his line and pass for the final try were inch perfect, but he really is a lock in his break down work.  That is not an insult or an attempt to disparage him, he is a smasher not a grabber.

Outside of Slater, often marooned on the wing like our blindside often is, and the effervescent Tom Youngs Tigers carrying game was stilted and ineffective.  Waldrom made several telling interventions but tired, whether it was a lack of match practice or an injury I cannot say.

The back play drew most of the ire from the messageboards, and it was not good, but the ball was slow and stodgy whilst the Trevisian defence was fast and aggressive.  Going wide and deep plays into their hands.

Leicester opened the scores after 16 minutes.  Ben Youngs ran a smart wrap around with Bowden as the pivot to open up the Italian's blindside defence from a midfield scrum.  Youngs kept the move alive but without an offside line the Treviso defence recovered.  Hepetema, an early sub for Goneva, showed some lovely foot work to beat his man before Michele Rizzo sped out of the line to smash Toby Flood late and incur the penalty.

From the restart Berquist kicked straight out so Tigers had another midfield scrum.  A penalty was awarded when Rizzo, again, stood up.  Youngs scented the chance and went quickly, he drew his man and put Niall Morris into space.  McLean was beaten all ends up as he turned his back on the play.  But no!

Pascal Gauzere ruled that Youngs had taken it in front of the mark.  With the aid of my TV recording I can clearly see that he was wrong and that Youngs was indisputably not in front of the mark.  It was not even particularly close.  Perhaps J.P. Lux had had a word?

An harsh call for a forward pass by Toby Flood lost the move from the penalty.

But Tigers were finding their grove if not quit finishing it off.  Ben Youngs kicked intelligently for the corner and Californian winger Blaine Scully showed real desire chasing the kick, putting McLean under pressure.  His clearance kick was long but flat giving Morris excellent counter attacking ball.  His trademark break and off load saw the Tigers forwards stampeding through the center ground.  

Now that is more like it!  Tom Youngs takes it on. Kitchener turns it inside with a basketball pass to Mulipola on the charge.  Quick ball and Flood puts it inside the rush to Ed Slater; he goes inside right again to Waldrom who makes 10 yards.  No ruckers from Treviso means Kitchener can pick and go through the heart.  Botes just about stops the rampaging Salopian on the 5m but refuses to roll away.  Advantage.  Flood wastes it with a nothing chip.

Fair play to Gauzere he had no messing around and produced the yellow card straight away.  Tigers now completely in the ascendency and playing beautifully.  They take the points 6-0.  Not aggressive enough or showing the opposition correct respect?

Treviso weathered the storm well though as they played possession for the bulk of the 10 minutes.  The rain was now getting more persistent and Tigers hands started to falter.  Hepetema juggled but gathered then Geoff Parling fumbled an easy catch.  From the scrum Salvi then Waldrom slipped off tackles on Bob Barbieri.  He fed Manoa Vosawi for an eye catching break but wasted it with an atrocious pass to no one in particular

A succession of penalties from Treviso marched them back to their own goal line.  They dealt with the first maul well enough but again did not roll away and Tigers did not need asking a third time.  A well constructed maul saw Thomas "the Tank" barrel his way over for a 13-0 half time lead.

Tigers were back on form at the start of the second half, a trademark Ben Youngs break opened up the play and Ed Slater took advantage of an extremely loose definition of tackler not held to snatch a huge gain.  Traditional Tigers multi phase rugby saw the ball travel to within 5 yards of the try line where Thompstone was tackled into touch.

It wasn't over though.  Kitchener pilfered the Italian lineout.  Waldrom Went through the heart of the ruck and wriggled and squirmed and crawled and finally made it over the line.  Ruled as a double movement I have to question at what point was he held?  To my eye the first crawl is clearly unheld then he scores the try with his permitted single movement.  Little did we know at the same time they were also discussing this at Wembley.  Waldrom's was a darker shade but both decisions were gray rather than black or white.

The frustrations began to set in.  A poor pass from Ben Youngs.  A penalty against Cole.  A penalty against Tom Youngs.  13-3; a penalty for Botes the South African-Italian scrum half.

Flood passes to no one then cross kicks to no one in particular.  The clock is ticking away and the crowd is becoming agitated.  Another Flood pass goes to floor then bounces over Scully's head.  The rain is pouring down.

Flood is drifting away from Youngs, the passes have to be longer and loopier.  The Treviso defence is driving, pushing, harrying the Tigers into mistakes.  Flood and Hepetema mistime a simple switch.

The tide turns as Gauzere first bins the captain Antonio Pavanello for not rolling away then 40 seconds later Tongan-Japanese winger Christian Loamanu for a swinging arm high tackle on Blaine Scully.  Down to 13 men the Italian barricades finally are breached.

Another driving maul, this time with Tom Youngs in the driving seat.  Louis Deacon and David Mele are now on.  Deacon's muscularity is immediately to the fore as the maul surges over the line for a Tom Youngs try.

It was not all our own way though as Mele tried to use Thompstone on the blidside rather than let the maul do its work.  Now it was Bowden's turn to have a few moments.  A poor pass in the vicinity of everyone but to the hands of no one was followed up with a fairly sloppy dropped catch when quick hands could have seen a try.  Hepetema then throws a pass behind Thompstone's feet and into touch.

The need for 4 tries was seeing the players choke. The crowd were getting on to them and they were trying to force it too wide too early.  Forwards through the middle, draw them in would have been far far more effective.  Ed Slater slashes through a few week tackles but Salvi knocks it on at the ruck.  AHHHHHHH.

Dan Cole snaffles a turnover in midfield and Tigers break through.  Swift inter passing from Crane, Morris, Bowden and Thompstone gets us to within 5 of the line on the Crumbie touchline.  Deacon straightens a Flood pass into the shadow of the posts and we have advantage for an Italian offside.  It goes back left to Bowden who is gang tackled.

Mele takes the tap penalty.  Simple hands, take pass, draw man, pass from Flood and Crane puts Scully into the corner.  A delightful delay from Crane makes sure of the try.

Back to 15 men and Treviso are back to frustrating us.  It's panic stations and it isn't working.  Treviso are building possession in the 22, it's not the score we are bothered about it's the time.  5 minutes left.  Then 4.  Then 3.  We are still in our own 22.  

79 minutes up and we win a penalty from a scrum in our own 22.  It's now or never boys.  No mistakes.

Parling wins the lineout and Bowden takes it up.  Briggs and Mulipola prominent with their carries.  Dan Cole picks and goes.  It attracted the defenders, Slater and Thompstone slip wide and Bowden fires the pass wide to find Slater with the 2 on 1.  Slater does the simple thing that many make look so hard by holding his line, holding his nerve and passing as late as possible.

It is no easy finish for Thompstone as he steps off his left foot towards the posts beating one, beating two, beating three.  Relief.  He's got it.  Try number 4, worth 5 points.  Leaves us with 6 points in the group.

So it wasn't vintage Leicester but we'd be pretty chuffed stopping Bath at source and putting 4 past them so let's not get ahead of ourselves.  Work to do but job done.

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