Leicester Tigers earned a second win in the European Challenge Cup with a hard-earned 28-20 triumph in Bayonne on Saturday evening.
In the first-ever meeting of the clubs in European competition, and seven years since their last victory in France, Tigers led 17-6 at the Stade Jean Dauger after 30 minutes following tries from Tommy Reffell and Dan Kelly.
But with Tigers down to 13 men with props Joe Heyes and Nephi Leatigaga yellow-carded, Bayonne replied on the stroke of half-time to cut the lead to just four points.
Outstanding work off the ball not only defended that lead even with two men short but also gained the penalties which allowed Zack Henry to add to the advantage before Kini Murimurivalu claimed his first try for the club and stretch it to 15 points.
Bayonne scored again after a third yellow card, this time for Cyle Brink, as the game entered its closing stages, but the discipline and defence deserved the win.
Following a silence in tribute to Jean-Pierre Lux, the former chairman of the European Cup organisers, the game got underway just after 9.00pm local time in an empty stadium with Henry kicking off on a mild December evening in the south-west of France.
Henry had been recalled to the team after missing the win over Brive, while Ollie Chessum, Cameron Henderson, Dan Kelly and Jack Van Poortvliet all joined a matchday squad in Europe for the first time and James Whitcombe came on to the bench for his senior debut in a team captained for the first time by Jaco Taute.
Tigers kept their rivals pinned in their own 22 for the opening two minutes, carrying and recycling in the forwards until Henry made the call to go for a drop-goal, but he pushed his attempt just wide of the left-hand post.
Bayonne, wearing a green and white kit in the Challenge Cup which required the visitors to change to blue, had an opening just moments later when Maxime Lafage aimed a pinpoint penalty into the right-hand corner. But the referee blew in Tigers’ favour at the lineout as the hosts tried to set up their push for the line.
When the defence was penalised again at the restart, full-back Gatean Germain kicked his side’s opening points with eight minutes gone.
But the Tigers response was immediate, a scrum securing ball and Henry twisting through a tackle to find Reffell who ran in under the posts. The conversion made it 7-3 after 10 minutes.
Bayonne broke back upfield with their offloading attack on the left, until Joe Heyes picked off a loose pass. But when the French won ball back, they opened space on the opposite wing. Tigers scrambled back and then stood up to a tap penalty to force an error and put-in at a scrum five metres in front of the posts.
Jordan Taufua’s persistence at the next breakdown brought a penalty and then a huge collision as Tomas Lavanini made a tackle in midfield knocked ball out of Bayonne hands but also led to the departure of Charlie Clare who was replaced by Jake Kerr.
A second kick from Germain made it 6-7 before Heyes received attention to a cut head and Dan Cole was sent on from the bench, meaning two-thirds of the front row had changed in the space of just a couple of minutes halfway through the opening period.
Reffell and Murimurivula combined at a breakdown following Henry’s high kick and when referee Chris Busby raised his arm in Tigers’ direction, the fly-half scored the penalty.
A big scrum brought another attacking opportunity down the left, where Harry Simmons made 20 metres before being brought down with a high tackle. Turning down a shot at the posts and, after almost taking a lineout drive over the line, Taufua got within a fraction of scoring before Kelly provided the finish, his first for the club. Henry’s conversion from left of the sticks stretched the lead to 17-6.
Lafage kicked another penalty into the right-hand corner at the opposite end and, when the whistle blew again, tempers flared and the referee spoke to both captains. Play restarted with another kick to the corner but this time Reffell and Leatigaga attached themselves to the ball and held up the drive.
Murimurivalu and Ben White combined to eliminate another scoring chance, but Tigers were quickly short-handed with Heyes sin-binned as he blocked Bayonne progress in attack and Nephi Leatigaga was also banished a minute later for bringing own a maul just short of the tryline.
Bayonne ruthlessly exploited the advantage with the clock already up to 40 minutes, keeping play in the corner for set-piece ball to set up scrum-half Hugo Zabalza to wriggle through and score. Germain’s conversion brought it back to 13-17 as the teams headed for the break.
Tigers started the second half still two men short, but not only did determined defence see out that period, they also played a disciplined game in opposition territory to give Henry the opportunity to add two penalties and stretch the lead into double figures before the front rowers returned.
Bayonne still looked dangerous moving ball quickly in attack, but fumbled under pressure next to the posts on 55 minutes, though play remained in the Tigers half of the field until forceful defence pushed their rivals deeper and deeper, creating the chance for a third try, with Murimurivalu chasing Henry’s well-placed kick on the left. The fly-half’s conversion came out off the post with the visitors 28-13 in front.
Chessum, not for the first time, stole valuable lineout ball as Tigers stayed pinned back and they were down on numbers again on 67 minutes when replacement back-rower Cyle Brink was yellow-carded as he clawed at ball on the floor.
Still Bayonne knocked at the door, and finally scored through replacement Andrei Gorin from close range, with the conversion taking the score to 20-28 with 10 minutes left on the clock.
Lafage hit the post with a last-minute kick as the game closed with Tigers in possession on their own line.
LAFAGE HITS THE POST
Lafage hits the post after attempting from the tee and the ball comes back into play, Luke Wallace advances and Tigers come forward, and the referee awards the penalty to Tigers who kick as the clock hits 80.
TIGERS ON THE BACK FOOT
Bayonne continue to work it across the field, and win the penalty advantage.
Lafage will kick for the posts as they aim to narrow the gap in the closing minutes.
BREATHER FOR TIGERS
The Bayonne back line continues to stretch Tigers, but Bayonne waste the chance and can't collect as they advance into the Tigers half.
Henry and Chessum hold on in the tackle along the way, and we'll set for the scrum with just five minutes left on the clock.
TIGERS PLAY DOWN THE CLOCK
Bayonne have a scrum in their half, with Jaco filling in at 8. The ball is out and Bayonne try to move it quick.
Chessum is pealised and Bayonne can kick for touch,
BAYONNE NARROW THE LEAD TO 8
Germain takes the quick kick and the lead is just eight points between the two, with Tigers still down to 14.
THE TMO GIVES IT
There's nothing clear, but the referee sees enough to give it as Andrei Gorin is given the points.
WE'LL GO TO THE TMO
Bayonne think they are over having had the ball held up on the line, so we'll have to go upstairs for a closer look.
BRINK RECEIVES YELLOW
Cyle Brink is shown the yellow for playing the ball on the floor.
CHESSUM STEALS THE LINEOUT
Ollie Chessum steals the ball deep in his own half from the Bayonne line-out relieving the pressure for Tigers, as they look to catch their breath.
The play moves to the half-way line and the relentless Bayonne backline come at Tigers once again.
Jaco misses the tackle, and Simmons and Murimurivalu can sweep up.
Nephi and Coley come together to bring down another advance, and we'll have another yellow as Brink is penalised for playing the ball on the floor.
TIGERS UNDER PRESSURE
Bayonne pressure the backline to force a scrum following the penalty and we'll reset for another showdown.
They keep the pressure on, as they take the time to find the gaps but Tigers back row finds itself in the think of it. Brink and Wells both putting in big hits.
KINI SCORES HIS FIRST FOR TIGERS
Kini Murimurivalu scores his first try for Tigers capitalising on some fantastic pressure at the breakdown. A searching crossfield kick finds its way to him to score. Henry hits the post with the conversion attempt.
Bayonne are trying to find the space spreading the play across the field as Tigers are stretched. But they give away the penalty following an attempt throught the legs.
It's a good old fashioned Tiger maul in their own half as Taufua comes away with the ball. Lafage collects and attempts the chip, but is held up.
Bayonne still with the ball and Tommy Reffell and Joe Heyes are in the thick of it.
Both teams have felt the efforts of the opening 10 minutes of the second half, looking to find terriroity from the boot.
After a number of exchanges, Zabalza finds touch on the Tigers right flank.
WHITE MAKES WAY FOR JVP
NEPHI AND JOE RETURN FOLLOWING YELLOWS
Nephi Leatigaga and Joe Heyes return to the field of play following their sin bins. Tigers back to full strength now after an impressive start to the second half.
BAYONNE COME BACK STRONG
The wind is with Bayonne who will feel they have the momentum at the moment.
Tigers back line working hard to push Bayonne's ball carriers back.
And Jaco Taute leads by example and forces the penalty in Tigers favour.
TIGERS CHOOSE TO RUN FROM THE LINE-OUT
Tigers full of confidence following a win in the line-out from Ollie Chessum, with Taufua breaking the gain lines.
The ball works its way back to Bayonne however, and quick hands evade Jaco Taute but the Tigers numbers are enough on the left flank.
No mistake from Zack Henry once again, as Tigers make some real ground in the opening stages of the second half.
KICK-CHASE WORKS FOR TIGERS
Ben White's kick-chase is pressured by Guy Porter who can bind and get in front of the ball, as Tigers win the penalty. Another chance for Henry from the tee here...
HENRY AGAIN FOR TIGERS
Zack Henry keeps adding to his tally tonight successfully converting another penalty as Tigers reach the 20 point mark early in the second half.
CHANCE FOR HENRY FROM THE TEE
Jaco Taute attempts a nudge but the referee pulls if back for the earlier infringement, and Henry has an early chance to add to Tigers tally from the tee.
TIGERS KEEP BALL FROM RESTART
Ben White with the box kick following a Ollie Chessum collect from the kick-off.
Tigers retain the ball in the breakdown and Guy Porter finds Zack Henry who spreads the play with the boot to find touch on the left flank.
WE'RE BACK UNDERWAY
Both teams return to the field and it's Bayonne to get things underway.
HT | BAYONNE 13-17 TIGERS
Tigers discipline is punished in the final moments of the half as Bayonne find a way back into the game.
BAYONNE NARROW GAP ON HALF-TIME
It's another kick from the tee for Germain as Tigers see out the half with just 13 players on the field.
BAYONNE PRESSURE PAYS OFF
Scrum-half Hugo Zabalza finds a gap in the depleted Tigers backline and it's Bayonne's first try of the game on the half-time mark.
NEPHI SEES YELLOW BEFORE THE HALF
Nephi Leatigaga brings the maul down intentionally and is shown the yellow. Tigers now down to 13 men in the final moments.
JOE HEYES SHOWN THE YELLOW
Joe Heyes is shown a yellow card for a cynical claw of the ball and Tigers will see out the half with 14 men.
PACKS FACE OFF AGAIN
It's getting heated for the forwards as Tigers force the penalty in the breakdown and opt to scrum once again on their own five metre.
Taufua comes away with the ball and Tigers retain possession. Ben White with the box kick, amd Bayonne come back.
It's backs to the walls stuff for Tigers as Bayonne advance down the left flank, a reverse pass from Zabalza finds a gap, but Tigers get back in numbers once again.
BAYONNE LINE-OUT LEADS TO HANDBAGS
The line-out forces the pressure for both packs as tempers flare and there's a lot of grabbing. The referee cools things down and we'll have a Bayonne penalty, who opt to kick for the right corner.
BACK AND FORTH
Both teams enjoy a stint of possession, but Zack Henry's boot finds touch and TIgers can advance. The ball comes back and Simmons collects but the penalty is conceded.
Lafage kicks for the corner and it's a dangerouns Bayonne line-out.
HENRY KICKS THROUGH
Zack Henry can add to the score as Tigers lead 17 points to Bayonne's 6.
HENDERSON GOES OVER
Cameron Henderson is able find the inches following heavy pressure from the Tigers pack as Tigers extend their lead.
TIGERS BALL FROM THE SCRUM
Tigers come away from the scrum with possesion and quick hands from the midfield release Murimurivalu who finds Harry Simmons on the left flank. He's caught high, but advantage is given as Cameron Henderon joins the attack from the restart.
Henry has men over on the left, but it's too far for Porter so we'll come back from advantage kicking for the corner.
TIGERS INTO DOUBLE FIGURES
Zack Henry successfuly kicks from the tee from just to the right of the posts and 30 meters out. Bayonne 6-10 Tigers.
TIGERS FORCE THE PENALTY
After play resumes following the Tigers replacement, a high kick from Zack Henry puts the Bayonne back line under pressure. They can't collect and the work of Kini Murimurivalu is rewarded with a penalty attempt at the posts...
BAYONNE NARROW LEAD
Tigers are penalised for playing the ball on the floor and Bayonne will have the chance to kick to the posts from ten metres out.
Germain makes no mistake and there's one point in it. Bayonne 6-7 Tigers.
TAMAS WITH A HUGE HIT
Tamas Lavanini puts a huge hit on the Bayonne number 8 as Tigers continue to make the yards in their own half. Charlie Clare is down and receiving treatment as both teams catch thier breath.
DUMMY LINE-OUT KEEPS PRESSURE ON TIGERS
Delonca tries a sneaky short throw from the line-out and catches the Tigers forwards off guard. They can't gain any yards and Taufua does the work at the breakdown to relieve the pressure.
WE'LL SCRUM AGAIN...
Ben White has another chance to feed the scrum as Tigers are deep on their five metre line. Taufua aims to run it out but is met by a Bayonne wall. White has to kick from breakdown and Bayonne keep the pressure on.
TIGERS ON THE DEFENCE
Tigers are caught on the counter, as Bayonne show their danger on the break. But Tigers are back in numbers and force the accidental obstruction giving Ben White the chance to feed the ball into the scrum.
HENRY ADDS THE EXTRAS
Zack Henry kicks the extras as Tigers extend thier lead
REFFELL GOES OVER FOR TIGERS
Tommy Reffell collects the ball from a darting Zack Henry win to score the first try of the game.
BAYONNE OPEN THE SCORING
It's the replacement Gaetan who kicks for the posts over Lafage as Bayonne take the lead with a penalty. Bayonne 3-0 Tigers.
BAYONNE CREEP FORWARD
The Bayonne midfield are seeing a lot more of the ball now, as they push from the resulting line-out.
The reach 10 metres out and there's a penalty advantage coming their way. Lafarge will go for the posts.
SCRUM GOES BAYONNE WAY
Bayonne force the error in the scrum and Maxime Lafarge makes them pay with a kick into the Tigers left flank.
The line-out forms the maul, but Bayonne are too eager and concede the penalty. Henry to find touch.
TIGERS STRONG IN THE BREAKDOWN
Tigers win possesion back from the Bayonne high ball. And can come forward again, Ben White is seeing a lot of the ball, but Bayonne force the penalty and we'll have our first scrum of the game.
TIGERS ON THE FRONT FOOT
Tigers have started strong seeing a lit of the ball in the first few moments. Bayonne spilled the kick from Henry and Tigers find themselves camped on the 22,
Henry attempts a drop goal but misses and Bayonne have posession.
TIGERS KICK OFF ROUND 2
Zack Henry gets the action underway at the Stade Jean Dauger in Round of this season's #ChallengeCupRugby campaign.
BOTH TEAMS ARE IN...
With just five minutes until kick-off at the Stade Jean Dauger, the players are finishing their final warm-up preparations and head into the changing rooms for one last time.
CHANGE AT 15 FOR BAYONNE
There is a change at full-back for the host as Gaetan Germain comes in at 15 in place of Aymeric Luc, with Brandon Fajardo replacing him on the bench.
Here’s how the Leicester Tigers squad will line up this evening…
Borthwick's Team Talk
Listen to what head coach Steve Borthwick had to say ahead of the trip to France as he previews his team selection and the challenge of Bayonne.
FIRST MEETING IN EUROPE
Bayonne today become the 14th different French side that Leicester Tigers have faced on their European travels over the years.
Leicester’s only two Challenge Cup defeats have both been at the hands of French teams in last season’s campaign. Pau in Round 6 and Toulon in last season’s semi-final.
It’s seven years since Tigers last won in France, the opposition were Montpellier then, a stat that head coach Steve Borthwick will be hoping to end this evening.
MATCHDAY LIVE - CHALLENGE CUP LIVE FROM FRANCE
Welcome to Matchday Live for real-time commentary of Leicester Tigers second match of this season's European Challenge Cup.
We’re coming to you live from the Stade Jean Dauger in the south of France just shy of the city of Biarritz, as Bayonne host Tigers in the clubs first ever European meeting.
With just half an hour until we kick-off, we’ll bring you all the action as it happens via LeicesterTigers.com and the official Leicester Tigers app.