Leicester Tigers tasted defeat for the first time in the Premiership Rugby Cup on Friday night. After fighting their way back from behind, a late Falcons try meant Tigers didn’t even come away with a losing bonus point. Our four tries did ensure we came away with a try-bonus point at least.
Considering the experience gap between the two sides, the game can only be seen as a huge positive from Tigers’ perspective. Our young pack in particular showcased the benefits of working under Steve Borthwick with a strong performance against more seasoned opponents.
As you’d expect for a side who aren’t regularly playing together as a unit, it wasn’t an especially fluid exhibition of rugby. But there were plenty of individuals who put their hand up for Borthwick to consider when needed for bigger games.
📝 Match report: Leicester Tigers
Onto this week’s three positives, two areas for improvement, and one talking point.
3️⃣ THREE POSITIVES
1) Leicester’s DNA running deep
Tigers scored two tries from maul drives and were unlucky not to get a third. It was hard not to smile watching these scores as it was as if we were watching the first team. It is encouraging to see the impact of a strong coaching team running right through the entire Tigers squad. One thing I’ve always (reluctantly) admired about Saracens over the last decade is the fact that their DNA runs through the club, from academy to first team. As a result, they are all so well drilled that it never feels like they put a weak team out. It is encouraging to see a similar sort of DNA, right across the entire Tigers setup, taking root.
2) Archie Vanes, Tomiwa Agbongbon, Sam Edwards
I thought Vanes had a strong game as hooker. He carried the mantle of the try-scoring hooker well, but his lineout throwing was solid and he was a strong presence the whole time he was on the pitch. Agbongbon impressed too from blind side flanker. He was a constant nuisance throughout and made numerous strong carries. Edwards came on early in the second half at scrum half and he was critical in getting us back into a game that could have slipped away from us. He added pace and precision with his passing. His box kicking was on point too. (So good at times he made the mistake of admiring one rather than getting into position!)
3) Low penalty count
We only conceded eight penalties in this match. And two or three of those were at the end, trying to keep Falcons from stealing our losing bonus point. For a young side, that’s an impressively low count. It’s also something that’s been a general improvement this season. It is one of the main reasons why we managed to stay in the game.
2️⃣ TWO AREAS FOR IMPROVEMENT
1) Midfield defence
We conceded two tries that cut straight through our first line defence. I’m not going to be too critical—with the side we put out, errors like this were always going to happen. They felt soft though. Also, our overall tackle success rate was barely over 70%, with 15 tackles missed. Something to work on.
2) Raising the standards of the fringe players
It was good to see Kobus van Wyk and Hosea Saumaki get some game time. They are two players who should be pushing for more first team action. We saw the good, the bad, and the ugly from them both though—particularly Van Wyk—and why they’re not first team regulars. Compared to Guy Porter, Harry Potter, Nemani Nadolo, and Chris Ashton, they make too many mistakes. There’s real talent there, just too many errors.
1️⃣ ONE TALKING POINT
1) A certain Dean Richards as TMO
Okay, so it wasn’t that Dean Richards (current Newcastle director or rugby) as the Television Match Official for the game, but you did wonder at certain moments! When Tigers had a try ruled out from a lineout drive, it felt like he’d gone fishing for a reason to disallow it. They way he intervened too—‘There’s an obstruction I need to show you’—took the decision completely out referee Sara Cox’s hands. Then, right at the death, the Falcons scored a fifth try that, once converted, meant Leicester lost the chance for a losing bonus point. Here there was a clear and obvious pre-bind that should have ruled the try out. So the TMO sees something far from clear and obvious in disallowing a Tigers try but then, I don’t know, didn’t have his glasses on or something when Falcons got their last minute try. (Sara Cox, I should add, had a strong game I thought. Issues solely are with the TMO.)
Thanks for reading,
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