A Tom Hardwick penalty with the last kick of the game secured a 14-11 victory for Leicester Tigers against the Cardiff Blues in the second round of the European Challenge Cup on Saturday evening.
Tigers made it two wins from two games with a hugely energetic performance from a young team as they secured only a second-ever win at the Arms Park.
After Pau’s big win over Calvisano in France on Friday evening, they moved level with Tigers and the Blues on five points before kick-off in the Welsh capital, but it was Geordan Murphy’s men who sat on top of Pool 5 by the end of the weekend.
Both coaches made a raft of changes to the line-ups following first-round wins, with Tigers bringing in international prop Ellis Genge for his first start of the season and Ben White taking the captaincy as one of 13 academy graduates in the matchday squad.
After going behind to two Jarrod Evans penalties, Jordan Coghlan’s first try for the club got Tigers on the board and, although they quickly conceded a score from Aled Summerhill, they trailed by just three points at 11-8 at half-time.
But Hardwick kicked the scores level on the hour as the Tigers defence made it tricky for the blues to settle in possession and they got their just rewards with the fly-half’s vital kick in the final action of the game.
Hardwick was among three European debutants in the starting XV as he got the game underway on a rainy evening in the capital, but the Blues claimed the first points with a fourth-minute penalty following a deliberate knock-on by Guy Thompson in the midfield.
A Blues team known for their liking for keeping ball in hand, stretched play right and left while using No8 Nick Williams to draw in defenders, but Tigers stood up well in defence while also creating a couple of attacking chances of their own with skipper White at the heart of their efforts.
Andy Forsyth looked sharp on the left wing as he ripped ball in a tackle and booted 70 metres upfield to relieve some pressure and a trademark charge from Genge, with Guy Thompson in support, had Tigers back on the attack, which was only halted when Blues were whistled for hands in a ruck near halfway.
Willis Halaholo, freshly called up by Wales, showed his footwork as Blues countered and, although White stopped his progress, Tigers were penalised at the ruck and Evans added his second three-pointer with 25 minutes gone.
Harry Wells and Tomas Lavanini were prominent as Tigers showed their aggression in defence before Coghlan provided a breakthrough on the half-hour.
After retaining possession at a scrum, White burst on to a Thompson break and waited for the last defender to commit before passing ball on for Coghlan to run in on the right. Hardwick, though, was well wide the conversion kick at 6-5.
Halaholo, who had been hurt during the Blues’ last attack, left the field as the game restarted and Blues almost capitalised on a Tigers mistake out wide, only to knock-on. But they quickly won turnover ball and claimed a try as Evans spotted a three-man overlap and kicked for Summerhill to dot down unopposed on the left.
Undeterred, White and Coghlan combined again in attack before George Worth cleverly drew a defender close to the right touchline and passed on to Adam Thompstone. When he was brought down just short of the line, the referee brought play back for a penalty after a tackle off the ball on Sam Lewis. Hardwick added the kick to make it 11-8 with just over a minute left on the clock.
Another charge from Genge took Tigers out of the own territory from the restart and, although, the referee awarded a scrum after the ball was wrapped up at a maul with the clock on 40 minutes, Tigers stayed firm in defence to close out the half three points behind their hosts.
Williams was ab absentee when Cradiff emerged for the second half, replaced by James Botham who was among the tryscorers in the win over Calvisano in Round 1.
Tigers showed real energy in defence as the game got back under way, with EW Viljoen and Sam Lewis pushing their rivals back over halfway and then White ripping possession as Blues looked to pick up at the base of a scrum.
His clearing kick ran out of play but Tigers refused to let the Blues out and then won a scrum penalty, but Hardwick dragged it wide from 35 metres.
The aggressive defence of the visitors was too zealous for the liking of French referee Pierre Brousset who called for two offside penalties well inside Blues territory, though from the second one Cardiff missed their lineout jumper and Genge took ball up. When Tigers forced another error, the Blues were whistled and Hardwick kicked the scores level with 60 minutes played.
Tempers flared a few minutes later which ended with the referee watching repeats of a tussle involving Wells. He took no further action after speaking to both captains, but play restarted with a blues penalty from deep in their own half.
The next whistle also went in Cardiff’s favour as Tigers contested a ruck on the touchline and Evans called for the tee as he looked to edge his side back in front. But he pushed it wide with 10 minutes still to play.
Sam Costelow and Cameron Jordan were introduced for their European debuts and it was the Wales Under-20s cap who made a decisive intervention as he tackled Summerhill into touch in the corner as the wing reached to the tryline.
Tigers lost the lineout and had to defend a five-metre scrum with seven minutes showing on the clock, but not only snuffed out the danger but hacked clear, with Harry Simmons taking play all the way back up to the Blues 22.
Tigers then won ball back from the Blues and threatened down the right before Coghlan and Costelow linked up just in front of the posts. Forsyth was closed out in the left-hand corner but play stayed there as the forwards trucked ball up towards the line. They fell just short, giving Blues scrum ball with the clock into the 80th minute.
They retained possession but could not make much progress before Nephi Leatigaga got over ball at a breakdown to win the penalty which Hardwick slotted for a well-deserved victory.
LAP OF HONOUR
The Tigers squad head around the Cardiff Arms Park pitch to thank the significant travelling support, who have been making their voices heard all night.
THANK YOU FOR YOUR SUPPORT
"You can't win anything with kids," Alan Hansen famously said.
Not a bad result on the road for a young Tigers team...
FULL TIME | 11-14
Tigers take the spoils in Cardiff after a dramatic final few moments of the game.
...and it's over! Tom Hardwick makes no mistake from the tee and ensures Tigers will take four points on the road in Cardiff.
A massive player for a massive moment.
Nephi Leatigaga gets over the ball and wins a last-minute penalty. Hardwick points to the posts...
Jordan climbs highest to claim Clare's throw-in, and the maul motors up to the five-metre line before being brought down. Brousset awards a scrum to Cardiff...
TIGERS ON THE LINE
A chance for Tigers to push up to the line now, as Nephi Leatigaga rumbles through the 22, feeds Joe Thomas, who gets the ball away quickly on the left through Hardwick and Costelow.
LINEOUT GOES AWRY
Clare goes quick and long with the throw, but Brousset brings play back for a Blues scrum.
After a few more phases of Cardiff posession, Tigers win the ball back and kick downfield for a spell in the home half.
ON THE LINE
Phase after phase of heavy carries off the back of the Blues scrum, but they can't quite break through.
Another crossfield kick and Cardiff think they're over, but replays show Sam Costelow has done an oustanding job of bundling the wing into touch in the knick of time.
CARDIFF BREAK THROUGH
The Cardiff crowd are onto their feet as their team break down the left, and spill the ball at the last moment. A big scrum on the Tigers five-metre line to follow...
Young guns Sam Costelow and Cameron Jordan are on for Viljoen and Lavanini, respectively.
FOR THE POSTS
Confusion as the Tigers defenders go for a ball that seems to be out the back of the ruck, but not according to the referee.
Evans goes for goal ... and misses. We're still all square, as Geordan Murphy makes two more changes.
TWO TIGERS CHANGES
Facundo Gigena and Harry Simmons both join the action, in the place of the impressive pair of Genge and White.
WARNING FROM THE REF
After a long look at he replays - and an even longer talk with both captains - the cards stay firmly in Brousset's pocket.
Cardiff back Matthew Morgan, newly onto the field, goes down awkwardly after a high-ball attempt, and there's a bit of a fracas as the players look to sort things out themselves on the field.
Harry Well is cuaght up with a man on the floor, and we'll go to the Television Match Official...
The hosts just about hold off the Tigers push, and dig the ball out quickly before kicking to the left. Leicester look to slow the ball with some great breakdown play ... and win the ball back.
CLARE FOR KERR
Charlie Clare is on for his European debut, in place of Charlie Clare in the middle of the Tigers front row.
He's into the action immediately as Leicester pack down on the Cardiff 22.
And, after the ball gets back up into Cardiff territory, the hosts swap hooker Liam Belcher for Kirby Myhill.
ASSIRATTI FOR ANDREWS
A change at tighthead for the hosts, who replace Scott Andrews with Keiron Assiratti.
NOT THIS TIME
...but the maul set-up is all wrong, and Brousset awards Cardiff a penalty for obstruction. They'll return with a touchfinder of their own.
Hardwick does a great job of taking a bit of pace out the game as he lines up a kick to the corner, and Kerr finds Lavanini at the lineout.
BACK WITH CARDIFF
Cardiff throw everything at the fluoro-red wall, with Rey Lee-Lo trying his best to break through on the right, before being brought down by three Tigers defenders.
Instead, they opt for another crossfield kick, which bounces perfectly for Forsyth to clear up on his wing.
...and it's through! Hardwick's kick takes the scores to 11-each.
A complete change of fortunes as Tigers win a penalty after a period of Blues dominance, and Hardwick will take his time setting up the kick...
Lavanini disrupts the lineout to great effect, and Tigers kick clear to return play into Cardiff's half of the field.
A period of scrappy play gifts Cardiff a free touchfinder, which Tovey drills into the Tigers half.
Cardiff go fast from the throw and seem to have found another gear in attack from their earlier efforts, but infringe on the floor.
Another short peep on Brousset's whistle and we'll scrum down just beyond Tigers' 10-metre line.
FRONT ROW CHANGE
Nephi Leatigaga takes Joe Heyes' place in the Tigers front row, and is immediately into the action as a lifter at the lineout.
WORTH INTO THE ACTION
Goerge Worth is called into action from the back for the first time in a little while - first on the left wing, where he puts in a tackle on Owen Lane, and then as he gathers a territory-tester down the middle of the field.
Sam Lewis is a man on a mission. He breaks off the flank of the Tigers scrum to go after Cardiff scrum-half Williams, before leveling first receiver Tovey. Whince.
They won't be doing that again in a hurry.
We may not have had any rain for a little while, but both teams are choosing the aerial option once again in this second half.
Tigers infringe after Forsyth claims a Tovey high-ball, and it'll be a Blues scrum on halfway.
MISS TO THE LEFT
...but it's just wide. Cardiff still lead by three poitns.
Cardiff double-down on their error by giving away a penalty at scrum-time in the face of another huge shove from the Tigers pack. Those half-time oranges have made great effect.
Hardwick points to the posts...
Tigers nab the ball after another Cardiff handling error, and White sprints through on the right. The last defender is over quickly, though, and the scrum-half decides to kick down the field.
Cardiff stuff-up the next phase, and it'll be a Leicester scrum.
BABY RHINO ON THE LOOSE
A big 'smack' as Ellis Genge connects with the next Cardiff player unlucky enough to run down his channel, and the England prop slows the Blues attack to a standstill.
CARDIFF BEATEN BACK
A nice tackle from Viljoen, who smothers the Cardiff attacker in the middle of the pitch.
SECOND HALF GETS GOING
Evans boots the ball from left to right - through the lingering walk-on smoke - and we're back underway at Cardiff Arms Park.
MATCH ACTION | COGHLAN CRASHES OVER
Jordan Coghlan's first-half score was his first try in Tigers colours. Nice.
HALF TIME | 11-8
Tigers get a good nudge on at the scrum, but Cardiff dig the ball out ... and can't quite finish off the play. Break for oranges, please.
With the clock well into the red in this first half, referee Brousset insists on completing a scrum just inside the Tigers half.
After a couple of resets, will it be third time lucky?
THREE FROM THE BOOT
Hardwick's penalty sails through the posts this time around, to bring Tigers to within three points.
CLOSE, BUT NOT A SCORE
More quick work in the Tigers line and this game has properly rattled into gear.
Ben White makes another burst down the middle, before finding Thompstone on his right wing. The Tigers veteran beats one man around the outside, but his offload is taken by a Cardiff hand.
We'll come back for a late hit on Tomás Lavanini.
NOT THIS TIME
A first miss of the night for Evans, whose conversion attempt hooks to the left.
Cardiff respond with a try of their own as Aled Summerhill latches onto another Evans crossfield kick.
Cardiff claim their restart and break down the right wing, and make it all the way into the 22 before the ball is lost.
Jason Tovey replaces Willis Halaholo for the hosts.
Hardwick connects badly with the ball on his conversion attempt, and the ball spins to the right of the posts.
TIGERS BREAK OUT
The Tigers scrum is strong again, and White gets the ball out to his backs. Guy Thompson breaks down the right before passing back to the scrum-half, who draws the last defender and puts Jordan Coghlan over to score.
Some great linespeed from the Tigers defenders forces Evans into a crossfield kick to the right, but Owen Lane struggles to get it into the bread basket, and knocks on.
Both sides will take a bit of water before we restart with a Tigers scrum on halfway.
Evans makes good ground with his touchfinder, but Liam Belcher's throw-in at the lineout is all wrong. The ball bounces up on the Tigers side ... but Cardiff are lucky to reclaim posession. They're back into the visitors' half.
BATTLE AT THE BREAKDOWN
As the conditions won't allow too much running rugby this evening, the real battleground is likely to be the breakdown.
While the Tigers pack do a good job of slowing down Cardiff ball, Brousset declares them to have done it illegally and awards another penalty, this time deep into the hosts' half. Cue a few cheers from the Arms Park crowd.
Another nice kick from Evans extends the hosts' lead, six points to nil.
This time Cardiff try to make ground through Willis Halaholo, whose dancing feet beat the first Tigers defender, though he can't find a way past captain White - who puts in a big shot on the inside centre.
But Tigers give away a penalty on the floor, and Evans calls for his tee once more.
ALL WRAPPED UP
Another high ball from Hardwick, once again taken by Amos. EW Viljoen is there to wrap-up the Wales international, and the danger is cut off quickly.
Another peach of a lineout from Kerr, who feeds Wells for the ball to quickly shift to the centre of the field. But as the play draws Cardiff defenders, White spots a gap down the blindside and makes a couple more metres before being downed by his opposite number.
Domachowski is replaced by Brad Thyer in the Cardiff front row.
PAUSE FOR TREATMENT
And we'll pause for treatment as Thompstone is seen to in front of the dugouts - but is quickly back on his feet - and to Cardiff loosehead Corey Domachowski, who is helped from the field.
AT THE BREAKDOWN
Tigers claim the restart, but Cardiff are pinged on the floor for not releasing their man. Hardwick opts for touch, rather than the tee...
Hardwick has his speculative kick through charged down, but Sam Lewis makes it back first to smother posession for the visitors.
He feeds Adam Thompstone, who beats two defenders down the middle of the pitch before kicking downfield. Jake Kerr chases it hard, but Jarrod Evans touches down over his tryline and we'll restart with a 22 drop-out.
CROUCH, BIND, SET!
Ben White feeds the Leicester scrum, which this time holds strong against the big Blues pack.
The ball is initially lost to the hosts, before Forsyth hacks down the left wing to take play into the opposite 22.
Cardiff are back into the Tigers 22 and running some more hard lines, but Leicester full-back George Worth is in exactly the right place to take the last man with a big tackle on the right-hand side.
The ball comes back to the left, where the Blues still can't find a way through the fluoro-red line. A couple of phases later, and the ball is spilled into touch.
Instead, we'll come back for a Tigers scrum - after a Blues forward pass - but the home side win the free kick. Scrum-half Lloyd Williams taps and goes quickly, but his side can't make anything of the posession.
HIGH BALL HARDWICK
While the rain may have eased, conditions are still pretty slick out on the 4G.
Neither side seems to want to string together too many phases ball in hand, with Hardwick kicking a high one, before Cardiff full-back Hallam Amos returns the favour.
WRESTLE ON HALFWAY
Adam Thompstone manages to wrestle his man into touch as Cardiff put the ball through hands from the throw, and Jake Kerr will feed into a Tigers lineout. Seems we've had more throw-ins than phases in this first 10 minutes!
The ball is batted back to Ben White, who kicks some decent territory down into the Blues half.
...but Cardiff take the pressure and win a scrum penalty of their own, and we're back to (almost) halfway for a home throw.
TIGERS CLAW BACK
The men in fluoro-red are up the other end of the field immediately, though, as Cardiff knock-on at the restart, and Tigers win the scrum battle.
Hardwick kicks to touch for a lineout for the next play, and Tigers claw forward again as Cardiff make another error. Leicester well into the home 22.
THREE POINTS FOR CARDIFF
Jarrod Evans nudges the ball from the tee and takes the opening points of the evening. Cardiff lead three points to nil.
Tigers are having to dig deep already in this opening phase of the game, as Cardiff hit it up all over the field.
Panic over as the ball bobbles free and Andy Forysth kicks downfield ... but referee Pierre Brousset brings us back for another breakdown penalty, and the hosts will have a kick at goal.
ON THE FLOOR
The hosts win an early penalty at the breakdown, and boot the ball downfield for a lineout on Tigers' 22.
But Jordan Coghlan is there to gather the throw and nullify the early threat.
KICK-OFF IN CARDIFF
Tom Hardwick gets the game underway as Tigers face Cardiff Blues.
ONTO THE FIELD
Both sides make their way up the tunnel and through the smoke here in Cardiff for European Challenge Cup Round 2.
Kick-off coming your way imminently...
While the rain has been teeming down for most of the evening, it seems to have abated - slightly - as we approach kick-off in Cardiff.
Tigers head up the tunnel after completing their final warm-ups, and we're not far from the action here at the Arms Park.
CONFIRMED TEAM NEWS
Rugby World Cup prop Ellis Genge is the headline inclusion for Tigers in this evening’s game as he packs down on his first club start of the season.
He is joined in the front row by Joe Heyes and Jake Kerr, while scrum-half Ben White captains the side in European competition for the first time.
Sam Lewis, Guy Thompson and Jordan Coghlan form a new-look back row, and George Worth slots in at full-back after scoring against Pau last time out.
Former Wales Under-20s international Joe Thomas makes his European debut for the club at outside centre, with Harry Simmons, Sam Costelow and Freddie Steward all included among the replacements.
Cardiff give a debut to Wales international Hallam Amos at full-back as coach John Mulvihill makes nine changes following the Round 1 win.
See the full match line-ups by clicking here, or scrolling down on this page.
COGHLAN EXCITED FOR EURO OPPORTUNITY
Summer signing Jordan Coghlan is another player handed an opportunity by head coach Geordan Murphy in this first European trip of the season.
He told LeicesterTigers.com he’s been champing at the bit for another start in Tigers colours, after last lining up in the XV away to Bath in the Premiership Rugby Cup.
“I’m excited to be back,” he said. “It’s good to get another opportunity to play.
“Geordie’s said he wants a more mobile team to suit the [4G] pitch, but it doesn’t change too much about how we play.
“We might throw the ball around a little bit more and expect a quicker game in defence, but we’ll have to be on our A-game in every aspect because they’re a strong side and will be raring to go.”
Catch more of the No8’s big match preview – including how the club’s international players have played a key part in preparing the matchday 23 – right here.
HARDWICK HANDED KEYS TO ‘FAST TEAM’
Leicester fly-half Tom Hardwick is one of 13 Tigers Academy graduates included in the matchday squad for this evening’s pool game.
The 20-year-old spoke to LeicesterTigers.com this week about his excitement at being selected in a ‘fast team’ to take on the Blues.
“I think it’s a great blend of experience and youth,” he said. “We’re a really fast team.
“We’re going to try and put on a great show for the travelling supporters, stick to what we believe in, and play hard.”
You can read more of Hardwick’s match preview here.
EURO ROUND 2 PREVIEW
Tigers travel to the Welsh capital following a five-try win over Pau at Welford Road in their first Challenge Cup game last time out. The Blues, too, had an impressive first round, putting 38 points past Italian club Calvisano in Pool 5’s other opening-day game.
This evening’s match is Tigers’ 11th trip to Cardiff Arms Park, with their only win coming on the most recent visit in 2015, as Adam Thompstone crossed twice in an Anglo-Welsh Cup tie.
Read our full match preview here, or scroll down on this page.
WELCOME TO MATCHDAY LIVE!
We’re LIVE from Cardiff Arms Park for Tigers’ European Challenge Cup match against Cardiff Blues, with kick-off at 8.00pm.
Follow all the action as it happens with our Matchday Live coverage, right here on the Tigers App and LeicesterTigers.com.