Thursday, 18 December 2014

Tigers tamed in Toulon

Tigers unbeaten streak of 6 competitive games came crashing to a halt with a dispiriting defeat in Toulon.  The defending double European Champions avenged their loss at Welford Road 6 days previous with a blistering opening 20 minutes where they romped to a 16-0 lead.  Tigers held the Red and Blacks from then onwards with the final 60 odd minutes yielding only seven more points, the game finished 23-8.

This was Tigers worst defeat since October's calamity at Kingsholm; and bore similar hallmarks.  A trip to a famously partisan atmosphere, a poor start snowballing into a unassailable lead before a gritty second half keeping the score respectable.

Tigers were simply out muscled for the first try.  A succession of negative tackles that halted the man but only after he gained ground eventually led to Ali Williams crashing over to the right hand side of a goal line ruck.  Some commentators have claimed there were "no missed tackles" in this move.  Bollocks.  If your tackle from 2 metres out hasn't stopped him grounding the ball then to me it's pretty obviously missed.

Whilst Toulon never got that momentum rolling again they were constantly knocking Tigers back in both attack and defence.  Tigers forwards were unable to gain ground and referee George Clancy's more classical (read lax) interpretation of tackler's release and Tigers inability to ruck them clear contributed to a stream of slow ball and penalties for holding on as Basteraud in particular wreaked havoc.  

The lack of a forward platform was exacerbated by a poor day with the boot from Owen Williams.  The usually reliable Welshman was off target with two of three kicks, costing the Tigers 5 points in the first half.  Were he successful with those kicks the half time score would have been 16-10 and if still a slim chance of the win then definitely the chance of the losing bonus point.  Williams punting was also askew with several kicks straight into touch and one penalty kicked dead.  The Welsh wizard did spark Tigers sole try, with a powerful burst up the middle setting up Jamie Gibson to put Blaine Scully away to the corner.

With Ulster losing away to Llanelli second place in the group is achievable but no bonus points in four games has left us behind in the race for one of three best runners up spots.

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