Saturday, 11 October 2014

Tigers battle to vital win

A gritty, a battling, a brilliant performance from Tigers ended the 3 game losing run and restored some pride with a 6 point win over equally troubled Harlequins.  17 points from the boot of Welshman Owen Williams and a try of rare quality from Californian Blaine Scully was enough to see off the Londoners who responded with a 3 penalties from Kiwi Nick Evans and a sniping try from Karl Dickson.

This was an old fashioned match with both teams attempting to win the arm wrestle up front, both teams decidedly only playing when it was clearly on and neither team making a rash of substitutes; Tigers made 2 subs and Quins only 3.

Tigers made a fast start; Fraser Balmain and Leonardo Ghiraldini sweeping a loose ball in midfield away to Ben Youngs.  The ball was quickly shifted through Mat Tait and Manu Tuilagi for Jamie Gibson to roam into some open space.  The blindside did well to hold the ball for long enough to commit last man Luke Wallace just enough to let Blaine Scully squeeze by for the American's fifth try for the club.

Some Quins fans have been suggesting the final pass was forward.  All I can say is that after last year the irony is delicious.

Tigers will feel hard done by Wigglesworth's first penalty against them, even on multiple viewings I can't find an offence.  No help from BT sport who seem to view actually discussing why penalties were given as completely beneath them.  Rizzo's drive is directly over the ball and Gibson's release and roll speedy.  Either way Evans made a good 3 points.

The next spell saw three penalties in as many minutes.  First a scrum penalty against Quins was converted from 43m out by Williams; Quins dragged one back after Ghiraldini collapsed the maul he set up with a stand up tackle on Tikoirotuma; Tigers rounded off the period with another 3 points from long range after Will Collier's lazy attempt to slow play down at a ruck.

Tigers had a great chance to go further ahead before half time; Quins failed to deal with a fairly standard garryown and Goneva was first to the bouncing ball, only a try saving tackle from Matt Hopper forcing the Fijian into touch stopped a certain 5 pointer.  

Owen Williams' usually reliable radar was then faulty at two more long range attempts but in my view both should have been re-taken. 

The reason was rule of the game 21.5 (c) :

If the kicker indicates to the referee the intent to kick at goal, the opposing team must stand still with their hands by their sides from the time the kicker starts to approach to kick until the ball is kicked.
The Londoners seemed to think they were at Piccadilly circus such was the movement at Williams' kick, following a bit of sealing off from replacement hooker Dave Ward.  Lock forward George Robson was the chief offender both times.

Tigers did get another 3 points in the first half after a tough penalty against Chris Robshaw for what seemed to be a good disruption attempt.  This time the kick was from the 22 rather than half way and the tireless Quins managed to keep themselves still for a moment.

After half time it was much the same, trading penalties, Tigers eeking out a territorial advantage with a better executed kicking game.  Evans opened the scoring 5 minutes in; Balmain simply lost his footing at a Quins scrum and such are the rules of the game a good kicker like Evans takes 3 points.

Williams canceled the slip immediately, Scully's hustle from the kick off was rewarded with a dominant man-and-ball tackle on Tikoirotuma forcing the Fijian to hold on for the penalty.  Williams gained the 3 points and had a chance to extend the lead 5 minutes later.

Salvi poached an over throw, Tigers were rampant in the Quins 22 surging forwards and left.  Going right against the grain Williams on an outside arc could have gone himself but instead forced the pass in front of Scully who was unable to take it.

Williams was treated for a blow to face, which he took clearing out a ruck.  After the game Williams could be seen vomiting profusely on the side of the pitch, a common symptom of the current zeitgeist injury concussion.

Whether it was the head knock, the now torrential down pour or simply the difficulty Williams was unsuccessful with another 40m+ long range kick a few minutes later.

A fairly simple 3 points was offered almost 20 minutes after the last disturbance to the score board, Charlie Mathews getting on the wrong side of a tackle. Williams took the 3 and Tigers must have felt the game was won.

Harlequins to their credit responded immediately; claiming the re-start, upping the tempo and gaining possession inside Tigers 22 for the first time in the match.  The sealing off was blatant even by modern standards but unpunished as Quins recycled possession probing for a gap.  Eventually they manufactured one as Karl Dickson took advantage of Manu Tuilagi being unaware of his surroundings on the fringe defence.

I thought Quins would keep going with the style that reaped them immediate rewards but instead they were content to play kick tennis and hoof the ball off the field with the clock dead.  Shows that Tigers aren't the only side in the league that might be lacking a bit of confidence.

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