Tigers finished a mixed bag of a preseason with a tight 21-17 win against Cardiff in the Welford Road rain. Freddie Burns slotted 11 points with tries from Bob Barbieri and Ben Youngs; Cardiff’s points came through a Lloyd Williams try, a Rhys Patchell drop goal and 3 Patchell penalties.
Tigers debuted their new bright orange away kit, “Cherry Tomato” as the manufactures have it, and their new bright orange new big screen sponsors Sthil. Equally eye catching was the opening 10 minutes; Tigers attacked with pace and vigour to score two tries of good quality.
First Manu Tuilagi took the ball down the Crumbie blindside; with his path blocked, belying the internet intellegencia who decry him as a bosh merchant without a brain or skill, he fancied his chances with a grubber kick. The bounce deceived Wales 7s international Dan Fish and let Bob Barbieri claim the loose ball for his first try in Tigers colours.
The second was an all time Welford Road classic. Burns threw a fantastic long pass to find Tuilagi, the Samoan burst powerfully through the middle before passing to Goneva. The Fijian freed the arms and found Ben Youngs sweeping behind in support, who beat the last man to score.
Burns was on target with the first conversion but elicited the famous Crumbie groan when his second attempt sailed wide. Welcome to Leicester, Freddie.
Cardiff had looked out of sorts in the early stages, as if Warburton and co. had celebrated the week’s long awaited peace deal between the WRU and the Regions a little bit too much. The visitors eventually found their feet and scored from their first real attack. Fly half Patchell made an outside break, his pace taking him away from a despairing Barbieri lunge, with the defence broken he committed Goneva before passing to Williams, the Welsh scrum half just eluded the covering defence to score.
Patchell missed the conversion but chipped further into the lead when referee Mathew Carley ruled Salvi offside from a contested high ball. 4 minutes later Patchell landed a second penalty for a half time score of 12-11.
Cardiff made a raft of substitutes at half time including a whole replacement front row; it made little difference as Tigers possessed superior power all game. Patchell gave Cardiff the lead after half time with a superb drop goal and then stretched the lead following a bizarre penalty against a rampant Tigers scrum.
In a heavy down pour Tigers tightened up and started to utilise the forwards much more to bring the game under control. Tigers produced a sustained period of pressure in the Cardiff half with the Welsh side giving away a penalty for Burns to reduce the arrears to two.
Some of the Tigers fans were disappointed that we didn’t try for the corner and the 5 points from the second half penalties, but I can’t agree with this. Burns needs to get used to kicking at Welford Road and kicking under pressure. The first priority has to be to win and kicking the goals was the way to do that.
Burns missed his first chance to go ahead after a fierce driving maul but just moments later a scrum penalty gave him a second chance which he took. The coup de grace was applied after a towering Garryowen and a superb chase by Manu Tuilagi.
Tuilagi really was the difference between the two sides, the two times in the first half we gave him the ball in the opposition half we scored. Manu's injury badly affect us last season, we failed to gain a single try bonus point during his abscence, so Cockrerill will hope to have Hinckley's favourite Samoan fit and firing all season.