With the game not televised, and my not being able to attend in person, we have a special guest to write the 3–2–1 post-match review this time. Elliot Butlin writes the excellent ‘A View from LE2’ blog and is also one half of ‘The Rolling Maul’ Tigers fan podcast. If you’ve not added that to your podcast feed already, what are you waiting for? You can also follow Elliot on Twitter.
Match report: Leicester Tigers
48 hours after winning down at Sandy Park against Exeter in the league, Leicester Tigers played again, this time at home to London Irish. League efforts were swapped for Cup exploits as Tigers faced their final group fixture of the Premiership Cup looking for a win that would give them a chance to progress into the semi-finals. Whilst their fate was not completely in their hands, Leicester went into the game knowing a victory, and preferably one accompanied with a bonus point was required from themselves ahead of tonight’s fixtures.
Like previous games in this competition, Tigers picked a side that featured a mixture of fringe senior players, needing some game time, to play alongside several of our young players from the Development and Academy squads. Despite an early set-back in conceding early to Irish – reminiscent of the league fixture recently – Tigers got to work and came away with a 41–26 victory, securing a win and a bonus-point to boot. 15 points secured from their 4 cup fixtures, with 3 wins and 3 bonus points represents a very healthy return, showcasing that we are a genuine force in all competitions this season.
3️⃣ Three positives
1) Five point win
Yes this feels a bit obvious, but winning is a habit, and without sounding too much like Steve Borthwick, we were a club that had got out of the habit of winning. As a result, getting a victory with a mixed side, and with a bonus point demonstrates that we are a club in good health currently. The culture within the club at all levels is one geared to winning and improvement. Last night’s game ticked both of those boxes. Not only that, the players selected had to overcome adversity in conceding early, and had to work hard to overpower a dangerous London Irish side.
2) Youngsters and squad depth standing up
As has been a feature in this competition, Tigers have used a combination of youth and experience, creating a healthy blend which has been a big factor in their success in the Cup. Last night was the perfect example of that. Senior players like Francois Van Wyk, Charlie Clare, captain Olly Robinson, Juan Pablo Socino, Kini Murumurivalu, Hosea Saumaki and Bryce Hegarty formed a spine of the team that guided their fellow youngsters through and allowed them to shine. Lewis Chessum, Tomiwa Agbongon and Emeke Ilione all stood up well under the bright lights of senior rugby. All told, last night was a strong showcase of the brilliant squad depth we now have at Leicester.
3) Three rolling maul tries
The Tigers trademark was in full operation last night, with 3 tries all scored from a rolling maul secured from a catch and drive line out. To do it at first team level so consistently is great to see, but to do it in the cup with a mixed selection shows that the coaching is strong at all levels of the club. It’s really satisfying that the “Tigers Brand” is on show across the board, and makes the transition to senior rugby a lot easier. Not only that, the quality of the maul finishes was very strong, with Irish making Leicester work hard and find a way to the line each time.
2️⃣ Two areas for improvement
This is not just an issue from last night, but is seemingly a club-wide issue. Taking restarts from the kick-off was a real issue last night, as time and time again possession was handed back to Irish too easily. Communication, positioning, timing, whatever the issue, was all wrong last night, as it has been for a while now. As Leicester approach the business end of the season, they just have to tighten up on these areas as they are easy fixes and absolute basics they have to get right.
This feels maybe a tad harsh, but it is linked into the above point. Conceding 26 points at home, even against a strong Irish side feels too many points given away. In addition, there were many occasions where Irish sliced open the defensive line with Tigers’ defenders falling off or just missing straight up tackles. This is an area that maybe highlighted the work needed from our young lads to get physically bigger to deal with the demands of senior rugby, as well as showing the organisational issues that come with a mixed selection. Either way, certainly room to work on with Sir Kev.
1️⃣ One talking point
1) Phil Cockanasiga
The young London Irish centre started at 12 last night, with rumours rife that he is to join Tigers for next season. Well on last night’s showing, he looks a player of real promise and talent, and will certainly add something to Leicester if he does join. Powerful and quick in his carrying, with a very exciting sidestep, he caused the Tigers defence issues all night and took his try very well. Throw in his physicality in defence and you have a really good centre on your hands. Very pleasing.
Thanks for reading, and thanks again to Elliot for writing this 3–2–1 review.
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