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Tigers win thriller at Millennium Stadium

Monday 9th October 2006

12:00 am (GMT)

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- 09/10/2006 11:11

- 09/10/2006 11:11

It seems crazy to talk of “last chance saloon” so early in a Heineken Cup season, but, if that is exactly where Leicester Tigers are following their last-minute home defeat to Munster last week.

And now they face the tough task of taking on a confident Cardiff Blues team fresh from an historic first away win in France in Round 1.

The Blues have the momentum, a squad packed with quality, and a determination to do well that could see them make the quarter-finals for the first time since 2001.

Xavier Rush replaces Ben White on the bench for the Blues in the only change to the team. Robert Sidoli, Tom Shanklin and Ben Blair have recovered from minor bumps and bruises for the match that will be played in front of at least 20,000 supporters.

England half-backs Harry Ellis and Andy Goode return to the starting line-up for Leicester Tigers. Both came off the bench to play during the second half of last week’s match against defending European champions Munster and have now been promoted to the starting XV.

Geordan Murphy has recovered from an eye injury to reclaim his place, while Julian White is at tighthead prop, with Martin Castrogiovanni moving across to loosehead. James Hamilton, who joins up with the Scotland squad for the first time next week, is in the second row alongside Ben Kay after injury to Leo Cullen.

“With Harry, Andy and Julian, I am rewarding their efforts in the second half of last week’s game, though you also have to acknowledge the guys who put in such a lot of hard work in the first half,” said Tigers head coach Pat Howard.

“Leo Cullen was touch and go whether he played against Munster – he has been carrying a few knocks – but he battled on and played very well. We have four second rows who are very, very close and they are all performing well, so I have no worries in bringing Jim in this time.

“It was a tough call on leaving out Johne Murphy because he has done well, but Geordan had done nothing wrong before he was injured in the run-up to last weekend.”

Brett Deacon replaces Jordan Crane on the bench as the only other change to last weekend’s matchday 22.

The match has caught the imagination of Cardiff Blues supporters who have already purchased over 17,000 tickets for the game. Supporters without tickets are encouraged to purchase tickets beforehand or to buy them early on Sunday.



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Tigers win thriller at Millennium Stadium

Monday 9th October 2006

12:00 am (GMT)

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- 09/10/2006 11:11

- 09/10/2006 11:11

Heineken Cup champions Munster are the only unbeaten side in Pool 4 as the Tigers subdued a brave Blues outfit at the Millennium Stadium on Sunday.

The Cardiff side’s patchy European record in recent seasons saw them go into the match as underdogs, but they threw everything at the visitors and perhaps deserved more than a losing bonus point.

If Munster do the double over the Blues in December, the Tigers would have to turn the record books upside down and win at Thomond Park to challenge for top spot in the pool.

Blues skipper Martyn Williams admitted his side faced “a massive task” against Munster in December.

“We always knew it was going to be tough to get out of this pool, but I think we have shown that we can compete with anyone. We just have to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and wait for Munster in the next round. That will obviously be a massive task.

“I just think Leicester were a little bit more clinical than us today. We had our chances, but the commitment was there our guys and we weren’t too far away.”

The Blues showed grit in front of a bumper 26,000-strong crowd at the Millennium Stadium yesterday, but their lineout gradually got worse and their scrum spent much of the second half going in the wrong direction – not helped by a 50th-minute red card to prop Gary Powell for a head-butt.

Blues fly-half Nicky Robinson – unwanted by Wales coach Gareth Jenkins this autumn – opened the scoring with a clever chip over Tigers skipper Martin Corry, but it took the Tigers barely two minutes to hit back.

Centre Ollie Smith finished off a move started by a lack of communication at the back of a retreating Blues scrum, and Andy Goode added the extras before producing a moment of genius. A Blues midfield move broke down and Robinson was forced to scramble clear. The ball fell to Goode, who glanced at the other 29 players scattered across the field and delivered a perfect cross-field kick to give winger Tom Varndell the easiest of tries.

Ironically, Goode’s poor clearance kick moments later gave Tom Shanklin the chance to take on the defence and flick the ball to Wales winger Chris Czekaj to score in the corner.

Leicester took a 15-14 lead into halftime, but they lost Smith in the process, the talented centre being helped off with a serious-looking knee injury.

Goode edged his side further ahead with his second penalty goal, before Powell aimed an ineffectual headbutt at George Chuter. Referee Alan Lewis had no option but to send him off, but made the game 14-a-side moments later when Varndell was yellow-carded for a blatant professional foul.

Fullback Ben Blair made it a one-point game with a pressure-packed penalty goal, but the Blues’ handling let them down at crucial times, and a Sam Vesty dropped goal gave the Tigers some much-needed breathing space in the dying stages.

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