Tigers were dumped out of the LV Cup by Exeter, losing by 8 points at the semi final stage. Tigers shot themselves in both feet, several times, conspiring with the referee to hand the match to a bemused Exeter who did next to nothing to earn the win. Just stand back, let the referee whistle the opposition off the park and watch them implode when he didn't.
In essence you can boil the game down to two crucial decisions. Two crucial pass. Two ex-rugby league forwards. Laurence Pearce, with turnover ball, didn't raise his head, didn't look around and fed Exeter wing Vainakolo with a simple interception pass. About an hour later Brad Thorn, after a scintillating Miles Benjamin break, was the last but one man with a single defender in front of him he didn't raise his head, didn't look around and this time didn't feed the Tigers winger waiting for his chance.
14 points swing right there. And with that we wouldn't be micro analysing Tim Wigglesworth's joke shop refereeing, we wouldn't be asking where, exactly, the Hull based offical feels the middle of a maul is if it isn't where the ball is and we wouldn't be steaming mad for two weeks but playing Saracens in a final.
Tigers started the game with real ambition and married it to perfect execution. Benjamin cut through on a terrific line before Catchpole kept it alive. Mele found Michele Rizzo running a perfect line back towards the ruck and the Italian dove over for the opening score after only 4 minutes.
But after that beginning Tigers decided to retreat to their shell. With penalties galore Tigers decided to kick for goal, to enter into a tight niggly match when they could have pushed on and blown a shaky Chiefs out of the water.
Exeter leveled the score through hooker Tainoe, unlike Tigers they kicked for the corner. Tigers, having seemingly forgot how to defend lineouts, stood off and let Exeter form the maul. Once the maul is set a referee like Wigglesworth is not going to let them leave without a penalty at least and a try at worst. And they did, driving the hooker over off the side of the maul.
With one of Tigers penalties giving us a 10-7 lead Exeter kicked off. With ball bouncing loose Mele swept the ball to Whetton, with an over lap begging he passed on to Pearce. We've already discussed what happened next. 14-10 to Exeter and we never saw the lead again.
Tigers were seemingly happy with tit for tat penalty goals for much of the match. Showing no ambition to play and executing their kick and chase very poorly, it was not a combination for a happy crowd with the boos starting from the Crumbie.
Tigers slowly began expanding their game though, with Thorn breaking through the middle. Exeter offended, offside and never onside they killed the momentum and lost a man for ten minutes. In the ten minutes Tigers added the 3 points from that penalty and should have killed the game.
Miles Benjamin eschewed the rigid kicking game to gloriously counter, finding Neil Briggs in support. The Sale bound man had neither the pace nor the support to finish the move but it was quickly swept left towards the Crumbie. But Thorn did not find Catchpole, who followed him up into the ruck. Illegally according to Wigglesworth. The only in at the side by the attack all game. Apparently.
With that the momentum seemed lost. Tigers tried to play the tight game but were stymied by a referee who simply refused to ping the Chiefs. For their final try he may as well have put on a white shirt and joined the maul. Sam Harrison spots the ball carrier at the front of the maul and latches onto him. This, according to the man who has refereed hundreds of games and has presumably read the rule book at some stage, is in at the side. Where can you come from then? What can you actually do once you don't disrupt the set up?
From the second lineout it was inevitable. Tigers can only blame themselves for this one. They didn't compete for the ball, they didn't hit the man the moment his feet touched the floor and drive them backwards. These days with any referee, a good one or one like today, you will concede if you passively let them set up then try to hold the drive. I know that, you my millions of readers know that, why don't the players on the field?
A very frustrating day for Tigers. We were good enough to win, with a competent and fair referee we would have won, if we hadn't quite literally thrown the game away we would have won. I think this will be the last we see this season from a number of today's players.