So after many years in National 3 the team from Welford Road, Leicester – that’s South Leicester RUFC not Leicester Tigers made their home debut in National 2N.
Renowned for a strong and assertive pack, there was a Tuilagi brother starting at 6. The playing surface was immaculate and it looked as if both teams had just had their new playing shirts delivered.
As we reported on many instances during the 2014/15 season most National 2 teams are very poor at receiving the kick off and re-starts. This game further emphasised the fact. Immediately from kick off, Tiger’s hooker Johnny Mathews went on one of his trademark bursts breaking tackles and going in for the first try on the minute mark. Steve Collins converted.
The South Leicester team looked aggrieved by the start and the rallying call was to get “in their faces”. It was clear that a forward battle was on the cards. The Tigers Pack looked cohesive and strong. Their big runners not getting isolated and quick ruck maul got them back into attack. A series of well-set mauls pushed the defence and nice work by Paul Urmston saw Collins release Matt Riley for a score which was converted.
South were struggling with their plan A, use the forwards. It was South’s 10 who decided to change tactics and produced a superb chip ahead causing havoc for Tigers back three. A refusal to mark the ball in the danger area saw good pressure and a turnover which eventually saw South in for there first try by full back Jacob Heath. South’s 10, Rickie Aley was looking like he could get South back in the game.
The now infamous re-start got involved and poor work by South’s forwards allowed the Tiger’s pack to move forward at pace and it was the hooker Matthews who broke through 3 missed tackles to score his second.
Tigers on paper were in control but on the pitch they were losing control. The next 10 minutes would see South look threatening and with a line out taken off the top from South, the pack were back to Plan A and expertly trundled over for their second try by tight head prop David Peck on 31 minutes. This was reminiscent of the way Ampthill had played during the 2014/15 season with great effect; gaining promotion to National 1. As we reported on Twitter “there was an Islander throwing punches like a windmill”; this was Tuilagi. Whilst he was fortunate not to get a card, this incident further stoked up South.
Tigers had the last points of the half as Steve Collins kicked a penalty to set up a good half time lead.
South Leicester 10
Sedgley Park 25
The ten minutes play before the half time break had given South the belief they needed. It was clear it was back to Plan A and allow Aley to turn the Tiger’s back three. An 'in your face' attack put pressure and doubt into Tigers mind but it was the electrifying pace of Souths inside centre Gareth Turner who burst down the outside channel for a return inside ball finding fly half Rickie Aley who once again chipped ahead for flanker Will Evans to run through the posts on 52 minutes. Rickie Aley kicked the conversion.
The Sedgley website picks up the story: “Even with this fightback by the home side Tigers seemed to have that extra edge and a great strike out run by scrum half Paul Urmston got Sedge on the move. An out the back of hand pass was picked up very well by Matt Riley who cheekily kicked ahead collected his own ball and dotted down between the posts for Sedge bonus point try on 60 minutes. Steve Collins converted.
Tigers with their tails up look very dangerous and and it was outside centre Mike Waywell who showed his class with a brilliantly taken solo effort on 63 minutes. Steve Collins kicked the conversion.
Tigers rang the changes and like last week this seemed to upset the flow of proceedings, and if you chuck in a determined home side effort Sedge soon found themselves in trouble.
Two quick fire tries by Souths winger Callum Gunn on 68 minutes and 70 minutes with the latter being converted by Rickie Aley.”
The game had no structure and with the exception of Rickie Aley, there was no calm control. Momentarily it looked like the Tigers would have their backs to the wall. Again it was the Tiger’s pack that gave the team some forward momentum. The tight five looking athletic and powerful. Both starting locks Birtwell and Lloyd seem very influential signings.
Even when Ben Lloyd was replaced by Jimmy Lloyd there was no change. Last week’s MOTM, Shaun Manley had started on the bench and he brought some old fashion 7 lay to the last quarter. The forward pressure by Tigerts saw the ball out wide and impromptu winger tight head Ben Lloyd to juggle the ball over the line on 72 minutes.
The final act of the game was another massive run by Bob Birtwell who found a rampaging Matt Lamprey two metres out, not a chance, try on the last play of the game. Steve Collins kicked the conversion.
South Leicester 21
Sedgley Park 51