Monday, 9 December 2013

Benjamin Double Lifts Leicester

Tigers kept their Euro hopes alive with a 41- 32 bonus point victory against Top 14 powerhouse Montpellier.  Both sides scored 4 tries as Tigers set off like a Rocket but were inexorably pulled in by the French side.

Tigers’ former training ground is now named Nelson Mandela Park; it sits just behind the Goldsmith’s stand between the Welford Road and the Prison.  It was re-named after the Tigers were banned from playing on “the Rec” for 12 months by the City Council after allowing their players to tour apartheid South Africa with England in 1985.  The Tigers ended up taking the matter all the way to the House of Lords, winning just 2 months before the ban was due to expire.  In the amateur era the club had no hold on the players they argued, and the Lords agreed.

Rather fitting then that it was this end that saw a simply breath taking opening 15 minutes.  First it was the Flying Fijian Vereniki Goneva.  Returning from a hamstring injury ,and now looking almost an equal of Manu Tuilagi at centre, he charged on to Dan Bowden’s pass after only 4 minutes out pacing the Montpellier to score.  Bowden had done well to clean up Ben Youngs pass which whilst poor also drew the French defence forward creating the chance.

Credit must also go to Miles Benjamin whose line behind Goneva had caught the eye of Rene Ranger in the Montpellier defence.

The next two scores were both from that man Benjamin. 

The first was a stunning individual effort; forward carries had created a large blindside towards the GNC Stand side, Benjamin received the ball with nothing really on before beating 4 men to touch down under the posts.  He went inside two men, outside another before brushing off Nagusa for the try.

The second was a more classical winger’s finish.  A lose up and under was claimed in the midfield by Graham Kitchener, Bowden dragged it back to Hamilton who straightened the line.  Hamilton found Goneva who ran straight drew two men and created the overlap for Benjamin.  It still required a lot of finishing as Pelissie worked hard to contest the grounding.  It went for a cursory glance by the TMO but he gave it after a single replay showed the quality of the finish.

24-3 after 15 minutes and Tigers could be forgiven for trying to push their luck and seal the try bonus point before half time.   We had an attacking penalty and went for the corner, an unpenalised early drive by Montpellier snuffed out any chance of the push over.  They were turned over then Lacey, with ERC in his ear perhaps, ruled we were “sealing off”; where was he when we played Quins?

But we whilst we were dreaming of bonus points Montpellier were actually getting scores on the board.  Scott Hamilton got isolated in the attacking 22 and turned over.  No Tigers players bothered to react.  On the right wing Benjamin, Thompstone and Gibson just stood watching as Montpellier turned it over then strode away to score under the posts.  It took 20 seconds so anyone of them could have chased back to force the conversion wider.  Neil Back would have spitting feathers at the laziness.

Credit to Dan Bowden who did chase all the way, even if he missed his tap tackle at least he put some effort in.

Goneva had a golden chance to seal the win and kill off the comeback before it got rolling.  Secure the bonus point too.   Tigers had attacked left from a scrum, forming a ruck on the GNC side of the ground.  Flood’s wide pass cut out the rushing Montpellier defence to leave Goneva with a 4 on 1, two outside him and one inside.  But the overlapping players were Tom Youngs and Gibson, and the Montpellier defence was coming across to cover Bowden on the inside.

He could have passed left, he could have passed right, he could have backed himself and gone for it.  He did none of them!  Running Youngs out of space yet not backing himself he finally made a form of pass to get Youngs into the corner.

Now the forward pass rule.  When it’s Quins it’s all about “the hands” and the fact it’s gone a mile forward is irrelevant, but yet again when Tigers do it we ignore the hands and rule that it has blatantly gone forward.  One rule for some teams, wanked over in the media, and another for the rest of us.  He clearly flicked his wrist backwards.

He should have scored it about 3 different ways but the point is on some weekends by some favoured teams that try would have been given.  If it is truly “about the hands” then that was a try.

To make matters worse Montpellier got another try before half time.  After Goneva’s moment Tigers turned the French back over only for Lacey to again spot an attacking penalty.  From the attacking lineout they played phases right before coming back left.  Rene Ranger spotted Gibson in defensive no man’s land and turned him inside out. 

Nagusa floated behind the Montpellier line to pop up and create the overlap at the very end, cantering in for the try.  Once they have got behind us it was a try barring a penalty from us or a knock on from them.

Montpellier almost took the lead in the second half as Audrin pounced on a loose Flood pass.  Only a superb cover tackle from Tom Youngs stopped him dead before Dan Cole’s rush defence forced the error from Gorgodze.

Around the hour Tigers finally got the scoreboard moving again, 35 minutes after our last score, with a Toby Flood penalty.  Big Jim Hamilton had failed to roll away.

Tigers’ fourth try had a touch of luck about it.  A piled up ruck would have been given as a maul and scrum to the opposition by many refs but not Lacey.  From said scrum Waldrom broke from the back and off loaded to Ben Youngs, but he was scragged by Beattie so turned it inside again to Gibson who flopped over for the try. 

Flood pushed Tigers further ahead, Montpellier collapsed a maul and good job too; much like the first half the visitors came back with a vengeance once they were well down on the score board. 

The kick off was straight out so Tigers scrum was set on the half way.  The otherwise impressive Bowden had been freed down the left 5m line but left the ball hanging out, looking for the off load.  He was stripped by Ranger and Nagusa broke away in counter attack.  Drawing the full back he sent Pierre Berard under the posts.

Another Flood penalty settled the nerves again before he was pulled for Ryan Lamb.  Lamb was controversially preferred to Owen Williams despite Lamb’s last act being to crazily throw it away against Bath then get sent off for the Extras. 

A mid field break from Alex Tulou found Escande with men over.  The pass was sloppy and Lamb had done well to intercept it.  There was 1 minute 45 seconds left on the clock.  Kick out.  Kick it out surely.  Kick the ball OUT!  No, Lamb forever the maverick in his own head dummies and gets smashed.  With no Tigers around inevitably be gets turned over.  With huge gaps in the Tigers defence it is a question of who will score the try and it is Berard on the overlap for his second.

From leaving with nothing suddenly Montpellier has 2 points from this fixture.  Lamb makes some amends with a last second drop goal to claw one point back.  But if that point costs us I will be next to Cockerill in the lynch mob for Lamb.

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