Leicester (3) 13-12 (9) Llanelli
Heineken Cup Semi-Final
Nottingham City Ground
Leicester: 15 Stimpson, Murphy, Smith, Kafer, Tuilagi, Healey, 9
Ellis; 1 Rowntree, West, Garforth, M. Johnson, Kay, Moody, Back,
Replacements: Lloyd for Tuilagi (71), Hamilton for Ellis (64).
Not Used: Freshwater,***erill, Deacon, Balding, Goode.
Llanelli: 15 G. Evans, M. Jones, N. ***yer, L. Davies, Finau, S.
Jones, 9 G. Easterby; 1 Madden, McBryde, J. Davies, Cooper, Wyatt,
Hodges, S. Easterby, Quinnell.
Replacements: Proctor for G. Evans (71), Gross for Wyatt (72), I.
***yer for S. Easterby (72).
Not Used: Booth, Thomas, Peel, G. Bowen.
Conditions: Firm pitch but very blustery, with occasional squalls.
Wind maybe in Llanelli's favour first half.
Ref: David McHugh (Ireland).
Third time round, and all at stake after the win apiece in the pool
stages of the EC. Way back at the end of September, Leicester had just
pipped Llanelli by 12-9, in a forward dominated game, and Llanelli had
won more convincingly at home in mid January.
Plenty of compliments from either side leading into the game, with the
verdict of the Leicester spokesmen that Llanelli are probably stronger
than Wales at the moment.
It was strange to park on the banks of the Trent and not be going to
the test ground. Absolutely heaving full house, with a steward telling
me Forest have been getting about 20k recently. He seemed delighted at
the behaviour of the supporters, with the segregation just because of
the way the tickets had been allocated.
It turned out the Llanelli fans had been given the better end, as
although the flags were pointing all over the place, the wind within
the stadium seemed influential in keeping the ball away from the Trent
End pretty well all game.
As to the game, it was pretty much the same as the previous two games,
with just a small adjustment in the key phases. Llanelli did slightly
better in the lineout, with the occasional scrappy ball for Ellis to
deal with as best he could, and one or two knock-ons. On the other
hand, Leicester has the slimmest of edges at the scrum - at least the
way McHugh blew it.
In the tight, the big Llanelli runners, Quinnell and Madden, were kept
comparatively quiet, with some crunching tackles around the fringes.
On the other hand, Leicester again tried to put width on the ball too
early, without using the forwards first. At least they tried though,
whereas Llanelli pragmatically put boot to ball at every opportunity.
It was a good idea too, especially in the first half with the wind in
their favour. One consequence of the wide pitch, which might not have
been obvious on TV, was the difficulty in Leicester 1st half, and
Llanelli 2nd half, getting the ball into the opposition territory.
Llanelli an advantage in the first 40, without ever threatening the
Leicester line, and it was just a question of whether the 6 point lead
at the break was enough. It wasn't, by the barest margin. Ellis broke
the try duck between the sides when he suddenly found a gap close in,
and ran 25m or so to score early in the second half. See what happens
when you don't automatically shovel the ball out, Tigers?
A penalty from Jones to put Llanelli back 12-10 ahead with lots of
time on the clock still, but the conditions still favoured Leicester.
Plenty of territory, but far too often Leicester were overe***d and
fell foul of McHugh in Llanelli territory, giving the Scarlets a
breather. Near the end, and a hideous knock on from Johnson seemed to
seal the game. But no, frantic stuff and a penalty for Leicester a few
metres in their own half. time for a punt and lineout in the Llanelli
22? Seemingly not, and Stimpson called for his tee. I'd put it down as
a 20% chance. Drilled very low to beat the swirling wind above the
height of the stands, off the woodwork and over.
The closest of teams, and a desperate way for Llanelli to lose their
second semi in three years. Seems the great engraver still can't get
the hang of those Lls. Next year, boys. You can't always be so
All the best,