Another home win for Tigers. And another five points closer to securing a home semi-final in the playoffs. It was a solid performance by Leicester against dangerous opponents. The early red card for Irish always left the result in little doubt, but they put up a fight and scored a couple of wonder tries. Tigers ended up scoring seven tries, but it’s hard to read too much into games where one side has a player less for so long.
Onto this week’s three positives, two areas for improvement, and one talking point.
1) The Nadolo show
Nemani Nadolo should bring his mum to more games if it triggers performances like this. When he’s in the mood like he was on Saturday, he’s unplayable. After a couple of quiet games, his impact was devastating, scoring two tries, and causing chaos and leaving a trail of distraction every time he had the ball (or the opposition just thought he might be about to have it). When Tigers manage to successfully integrate Nadolo into games like this, he elevates our scoring threat to another level.
2) Quickly fixing last week’s restart issues
We messed up three restarts last week. One led directly to a Saracens try. This week those errors were completely removed. Our security from Irish kick offs was absolute. The sign of a good team is to recognise problems quickly and address them quickly. We did both. Interestingly, we used Bryce Hegarty as our main catcher when they kicked centrally. His growing assurance under the high ball is a bonus, especially with Freddie Steward away with England.
3) Chris Ashton’s integration with the team
Chris Ashton’s first try for Tigers was a wonderful moment. He made a tricky finish look easy. It was the celebrations after that stood out most though. The smiles across the team were genuine and enthusiastic. Pretty much every one on the team went out of their way to go over and celebrate with him. It was genuine. You can tell he’s been welcomed and accepted into the squad. In light of his frosty exists from previous clubs, this is a great sign. As the season moves closer to its conclusion, we’re likely to need him, and a happy, positive, engaged Ashton is going to cause problems for whoever we play against. Not a bad squad member!
TWO AREAS FOR IMPROVEMENT
1) Several rare lineout malfunctions
Tigers’ lineout has been rock solid for much of this season. Not unexpected since that’s Steve Borthwick’s specialism. Saturday’s lineouts were a real mixed back though. At least two were lost. Though not costly, set piece precision is ultimately what lays the foundation for Leicester’s game. It was good to see a couple of innovative short lineouts—though it’s not clear if they were pre-planned or a response to the lineout struggles when throwing deeper.
2) Cutting out the sloppy spells
Teams talk about 80 minute performances. It’s the holy grail. Of course, it’ll never happen since there’s always another team in the mix. And they’ll always have their moments of pressurising you into mistakes, no matter how well you’re playing. Tigers do seem to have a worrying tendency to have recurring short spells though where they completely switch off. To concede at the start of the first half after giving their threatening backs the ball is one thing, to do the same again at the start of the second is another. Yes, it was great play by Irish, but the second try in particular felt sloppy, and like our heads weren’t yet in the game after the half time break.
ONE TALKING POINT
1) Red cards don’t ruin games but…
As with the red card for England against Ireland, there was no doubting that the red card for Irish player Curtis Rona was warranted. A horrible, dangerous tackle. And even if red cards do ruin games, they still have to happen. Player behaviour won’t change without that ultimate sanction. They do fundamentally change games though. Irish, as with England, were never going to win the game going for so long a player down. The games can still be great—as the fight from Irish and England showed yesterday. But the sense of jeopardy surrounding the result is lost. And that’s always a dampener on the game.
Thanks for reading,
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