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Leicester Tigers (15) 25 - 9 (6) Leinster Rugby
Welford Road, Leicester
Att: 17,003
Saturday, 19 January 2008, 15:30

Although this match effectively constituted a dead rubber it was nonetheless a match both sides would want to win. Leinster had been unable to replicate their Magners League form on the road in the Heineken Cup and Leicester and their supporters were smarting at their group stage exit after going all the way to the final the previous season. For old boys Leo Cullen and Shane Jennings the motivation to play well would have been high.

As has been the theme of the season, Leinster started well and opened the scoring with barely two minutes on the clock. Contepomi struck a penalty and then he and Goode exchanged penalties. Leicester were dominating possession however and Leinster were struggling to contain Seru Rabeni who made surging run after run through the heart of their defence.

It was no surprise that Leicester put the first try on the board Louis Deacon the scorer after another Rabeni surge.  Goode missed the conversion but in less than two minutes Leicester were again over the line this time Rabeni did all the work himself and scampered home. Goode converted, but his kicking skills again abandoned him a few minutes later when he failed to send over a penalty. Leinster were reeling but were only trailing by 15 - 6 and were to soon be presented with a numerical advantage.

A match that had been physical turned nasty. First Julian White was sent to the sin bin for punching. Malcolm O'Kelly found himself on the wrong side in a maul and White landed several body shots before landing a right hook on the lock's admittedly sturdy jaw. The yellow card that was produced following consultation with the touchjudge was met with relief despite the pantomime boos from the crowd. Five minutes later Leicester were reduced to thirteen. Andy Goode was sent for ten minutes following a high tackle with both arms on Brian O'Driscoll. The Leicester outhalf pursued the prone O'Driscoll on the ground, presumably not to exchange niceties but again the colour of the card was of the non-crimson variety.

Leinster knew that they had an advantage, with Leicester seemingly losing their heads and reduced to thirteen for the remainder of the half it was imperative that points were scored. However it is to the credit of the Leicester players and an indictment of the Leinster team that the scoreline was the same at half time as it had been before the red mist had descended onto the Leicester team.

The second half saw Guy Easterby depart the field on his final appearance for the club, well maybe. Contepomi scored the first points of the second half after missing a penalty a few minutes earlier. It was Leinster's first points since the 7th minute, and it was to be their last. Leicester were back to their full complement by then and Leinster were unable to make much headway with either inaccurate kicking or passing leading to turnover and the crash ball tactics in the midfield not paying off.

It was Leicester who finished the match on the scoresheet, Goode sending over a penalty before Ben Herring's late try adding the gloss that Leicester's performance deserved. The final moments of the match were punctuated by substitutions, perhaps most notably Jonny Sexton's 4 minute spell that saw him replaced himself by Gary Brown after fracturing his thumb. The break will be a blow to Sexton who had hopes of breaking through into the Irish set up.

As last season Leinster's Heineken Cup Odyssey ended in disappointing fashion on English soil. On this occasion however despite Leicester's win they also suffer an ignominious exit at the group stage. Hopefully now all attentions will turn to the Magners League.

Match Statistics
  Leicester Tigers   Leinster Rugby
Tries Deacon
Conversions Goode (2)    
Penalties Goode (2)   Contepomi (3)
Sin Bin White 29 - 39
Goode 35 - 45
Teams Geordan Murphy 15 Girvan Dempsey
Johne Murphy 14 Luke Fitzgerald
Ayoola Erinle 13 Brian O'Driscoll (C)
Seru Rabeni 12 Gordon D'Arcy
Tom Varndell 11 Robert Kearney
Andy Goode 10 Felipe Contepomi
Frank Murphy 9 Guy Easterby
Martin Castrogiovanni 1 Stan Wright
ben Kayser 2 Bernard Jackman
Julian White 3 Stephen Knoop
Louis Deacon (C) 4 Leo Cullen
Marco Wentzel 5 Malcolm O'Kelly
Brett Deacon 6 Stephen Keogh
Ben Herring 7 Shane Jennings
Jordan Crane 8 Jamie Heaslip
Replacements George Chuter (for Kayser, 67) 16 Ollie Le Roux (for Knoop, 35)
Marcos Ayerza (for Castrogiovanni, 72) 17 Cian Healy (for Wright, 67)
Dave Young (for White, 79) 18 Cameron Jowitt
Ben Kay 19 Keith Gleeson
Ben Youngs (for F. Murphy, 69) 20 Chris Keane (for Easterby, 47)
Ian Humphreys 21 Jonathan Sexton (for O'Driscoll, 76)
Sam Vesty 22 Gary Brown (for Sexton, 80)
Not Considered
due to Injury
    Shane Horgan
Fergus McFadden
Chris Whitaker
Officials Referee: Christophe Berdos (FFR)

by Sarah Lennon, © 2011-08-23