Leicester Tigers scored nine tries in a 59-7 victory over Rugby Calvisano to retain top spot in Pool 5 of the European Challenge Cup at Welford Road on Saturday.
A try bonus point was secured inside 20 minutes with an early score from Manu Tuilagi followed by two from fellow England international Jonny May and another from man-of-the-match award winner Sam Lewis – his first in club colours.
Tommy Reffell, Adam Thompstone and Jake Kerr added further tries as Tigers led 45-7 on the hour on the way to a 25th victory over Italian opposition in the club’s history.
Noel Reid dotted down an eighth try and then Telusa Veainu added another in the final minute as Tigers became the first English team to win the opening three rounds in the Challenge Cup since 2002.
Following a minute’s applause in memory of the club’s record appearance-holder David Matthews, Tigers got on the scoreboard with just three minutes played through Tuilagi.
They had already broken the defensive line once when Sam Lewis carried into the 22 and then at the next attack, starting with a lineout on the right, Tuilagi burst through one tackle and had the strength to push on for the line to the right of the posts. Ford’s conversion made it 7-0.
A second try followed just two-and-a half minutes later when a long pass from Noel Reid gave May space to run on the left and no defender got near him on a 60-metre run-in to score his first of the season. Ford’s kick from the left touchline sailed across the posts with Tigers 12-0 in front.
May was back on the attack shortly afterwards after Reid started a run from deep and claimed his second try on 11 minutes after superb hands from Reid and an offload from Steward gave him the chance. This time Ford added the kick to make it 19-0.
Turnover ball on halfway got Tigers going forward again and, after Tuilagi had taken play up the right, Lewis ran in for the bonus-point score with just 16 minutes elapsed. Ford’s kick stretched the advantage to 26 points.
Calvisano built their first attack as the game reached the 20-minute mark and had men spare out wide on the left only to misplace the pass.
Lewis almost found his way to the line a second time after linking up with May and then latching on to loose ball 20 metres out. But, after stepping past the first defender, he was taken down just short of the line and spilled ball as he looked for an offload.
Telusa Veainu, back in the squad after a broken nose in the win over Gloucester, replaced Tuilagi, with 19-year-old Steward moving into midfield alongside Reid.
May was denied a hat-trick as he found some space on the left again and chipped ahead. Although the Calvisano player got his hand to the kick, the ball still travelled up to the tryline but May knocked-on as he skidded on to it.
Tigers elected to go to a scrum just 15 metres out from the posts after a penalty award from referee Craig Evans and heard the whistle again at the set-piece but lost ball in contact on the right as Veainu tried to wriggle free.
A penalty against Sione Kalamafoni at a breakdown just inside the Tigers half gave the visitors a chance to kick into the corner. They over-shot their throw but managed to get ball back and, after two pushes near the line, prop Lorenzo Cittadini inched over to score with just seconds left in the half. The conversion kick from fly-half Paolo Pescetto brought the half to a close with Tigers 26-7 ahead.
Tigers claimed the first points after the restart, with Reffell timing his run on to a pass from Reid in midfield and burst through to score the fifth try of the day, converted by Ford for a 33-7 lead.
A break from Ford should have brought another chance but the Italian defence quickly rallied to stop Calum Green and then Sione Kalamafoni in support before Sam Harrison joined the action in a record 100th appearance from the bench for the club.
A penalty for obstruction gave Calvisano a rare attacking opportunity as they kicked down the right, but Tigers stole ball and then won a penalty of their own for a shoulder-charge at the contact area.
Ford’s day was completed on 50 minutes, with Tom Hardwick the replacement as he was straight into the game as May found a gap near halfway and Kalamafoni charged on in support before being stopped 20 metres out. The attackers were penalised at the breakdown, though, and Calvisano had brief respite with possession in midfield until Thompstone picked off a pass near the touchline and ran away to score.
Calvisano held ball near the Tigers tryline through several phases but were repelled by strong defence and then lost control in contact and play restarted with a scrum for the home team.
Two carries from Nephi Leatigaga threatened the Italian line and when Tigers set up a close-range maul, Jake Kerr steered it over for try number seven and Hardwick converted for a 45-7 lead.
The defence had to stand up to a driving maul which took play right up to the tryline before Tigers stole possession and then created an eighth try. This time, Hardwick broke a tackle on the halfway line and ran clear, looking for the support of Reid to beat the defence and go under the posts. Hardwick added the extras.
There was still time for Veainu to score after smart work along the backline from deep and the Tonga international beat the covering defence with a run-in down the right touchline. Hardwick's conversion brought the game to a close.
THANKS FOR YOUR SUPPORT
Thank you to the members of the Tigers Family who joined us at Welford Road this afternoon, and to those who have followed our Matchday Live coverage from elsewhere.
See you next Saturday (December 14) for the return fixture with Calvisano in Round 4 of the European Challenge Cup.
Until then, goodbye.
FULL TIME | 59-7
Tigers put nine past Calvisano to keep up their European record in 2019/20. That's three wins from three.
Hardwick splits the uprights with another last-minute conversion - but there's slightly more pressure on this one! And that's the game.
GAS FROM TELUSA
The ball is neatly worked out to the right, where Veainu burns the last man to sprint in for try number nine on the stroke of full time.
TIGERS CUB PICKS UP MAN OF THE MATCH
That moment when a cub becomes a man (of the match) ... Sam Lewis is announced as this afternoon's standout player, to a cheer from the supporters at Welford Road.
Calvisano give away a cheap penalty of their own on the 22, and Hardwick kicks to the corner as his forward pack eye a ninth score.
KICK IS GOOD
Two more points from Hardwick's boot break through the half-century for Leicester, who now lead 52 points to seven.
REID RUNS IN
Hardwick breaks the line, looks for support, and finds partner in crime Noel Reid, who runs in for Tigers' eighth try of the game.
LEWIS CLIMBS HIGHEST
Sam Lewis has been everywhere this afternoon, and he's hoisted into the air to steal the Calvisano throw.
... but the pressure is relieved when the ball is turned over in the maul, and we'll go back for a second lineout.
Calvisano empty their bench as Alberto Chiesa takes the place of fly-half Pescetto.
Tigers give away a cheap scrum penalty for playing the ball in the tunnel, and Calvisano will try and capitalise with a kick to the corner.
PAIR OF CHANGES
Gabriele Venditti and Antonio Barducci join the game, in place of Andrea Zambonin and former Tiger Brugnara.
Head coach Geordan Murphy swaps one experienced head for another, as Guy Thompson replaces Calum Green.
TWO FROM THE TEE
Hardwick's conversion is good, and takes the scores to 45 points to seven.
KERR RUMBLES OVER
Instead, the Tigers forwards set up a maul from the lineout and Jake Kerr is the man to get the ball down over the line.
ADVANTAGE ON THE LINE
Tigers push up to the whitewash after another of Boladau's signature runs, taking four defenders with him, and the home side win the advantage after Harrison is taken out at the ruck.
DOWN THE FIELD
Tigers are back in the right area of the pitch after a sweet Harrison kick off the set-piece splits the Calvisano backfield.
Another let-off for the Leicester pack as Calvisano are pinged for an early engagement, and Hardwick can use his surge boot to pin them back almost to halfway.
TWO MORE CALVISANO CHANGES
Federicos Consoli (21) and Mori (23) replace Nicolo Casilio and Jacopo Trulla, respectively.
LOST IN CONTACT
Cheers - of relief, more than anything - from the Welford Road crowd as Calvisano cough up the ball in contact, and we'll have another scrum.
Harrison has the feed this time, on Tigers' five-metre line.
CHANGE ON THE HOUR
Calvisano bring Gabrielle Morelli off the bench for hooker Matteo Luccardi.
Heyes is into the action immediately, with a scrum deep inside Tigers territory. Calvisano pick and go from the base.
FRONT ROW REPLACEMENT
Dan Cole is off the field, with Joe Heyes joining the fray.
BOLADAU FOR COGHLAN
Tigers loanee Ifereimi Boladau takes the place of Jordan Coghlan in the Tigers back row.
Veainu scampers back to gobble up a Calvisano kick, and works in tandem with wing May to clear the ball into touch.
Antoine Koffi is on for Calvisano lock Davide Zanetti.
...but it just curls away in front of the posts.
Nephi Leatigaga replaces Facundo Gigena in the Leicester front row as Tom Hardwick lines up his conversion attempt...
Adam Thompstone plucks off a loose final pass against the run of play, and runs in from halfway to score.
HARDWICK FOR FORD
George Ford takes the applause from the Welford Road crowd, and his afternoon is done. He's replaced by Tom Hardwick at fly-half.
TIGERS TAKE THEIR TIME
Tigers have really taken the game by the scruff of the neck in this second half, and roll up to the next lineout slowly, before Kalamafoni turns it up to 11 as he bursts through the middle.
Real to-and-fro stuff, this.
Calvisano try-scorer Cittadini is replaced by Piermaria Leso.
100 UP FOR SAMMY
Sam Harrison replaces Ben Youngs at scrum-half to make a century of appearances from the Tigers bench. That's a club record.
Calum Green's turn to break through this time, and he frees an arm on the floor to offload to support. But Calvisano hit the man late, and Ford will kick to the corner.
Ford's quick conversion adds two more points.
CHANGE AT HOOKER
Jake Kerr is on, in place of Tigers skipper Tom Youngs.
BETWEEN THE STICKS!
Tigers work the ball back into the 22, and Ford holds a nice ball back for Tommy Reffell to score under the posts.
The Tigers pack do a good job of pushing against the head, but Calvisano just about dig the ball out from under their feet ... and Jordan Coghlan is there to wrestle Vunisa to the floor, and steal the ball.
LINEOUT NOT STRAIGHT
Tigers work the ball up the field, and win a lineout on the five-metre line. But the throw goes awry, and Calvisano opt for a scrum.
Steward strides round the corner again, and doubles down with a great offload to Adam Thompstone on the right wing.
BACK UNDERWAY AT WELFORD ROAD
Pescetto gets the second half underway at Welford Road.
MATCH ACTION | FORD BARKS HIS ORDERS
Tigers general George Ford marshals his troops during the first half at Welford Road.
HALF TIME | 26-7
A frantic first quarter for Tigers secures the bonus point, but Calvisano have a try of their own to make it 26 points to seven at the break.
And, on the stroke of half time, fly-half Paolo Pescetto adds the extras from the tee.
CALVISANO HIT BACK
Calvisano creep up to the line through their forwards, and Italy international Lorenzo Cittadini gets over the line.
Calvisano No8 Samu Vunisa breaks from the base of the scrum - just in the knick of time - but goes to the right, and finds no support to back him up.
Tigers are pinged for a technical offence on the floor, though, and so the Italians keep possession of the ball.
CONTEST IN THE AIR
And, just as we type that ... Calvisano put up a high ball on halfway, and crowd out May two players to one. The Leicester wing seems to knock on, so we'll have another scrum.
CALVISANO CHANGE TACK
Rather than put boot to ball, the visitors instead try to break out of their 22 with ball in hand, but the green wall holds strong. The supporters in The Robin Hood Stand have seen plenty of action in this half!
Facundo Gigena wins a scrum penalty against the Calvisano tighthead, but Tigers are judged to have gone too quick with the tap-and-go, and we'll come back for another pushing contest.
More neat play in midfield between Ford and Reid at 10 and 12, with the Irish centre switching the ball back for May to make another couple of metres.
May thinks he's through for a hat-trick score, as he nudges the ball past wing Facundo Panceyra-Garrido to dot down beyond the line.
But referee Craig Evans calls for a knock on, and instead we'll restart with a five-metre scrum.
The scoreboard allows head coach Geordan Murphy to make an early change among his backs, with Telusa Veainu onto the field in place of Manu Tuilagi.
Full-back Steward will move up into the centres.
Tigers probe the Calvisano defence for more holes in front of the sticks, and Ford offloads to Lewis, who is brought down five metres out, unable to offload to Tommy Reffell.
Calvisano pick up the ball, but Calum Green takes the man high and the visitors have a penalty.
Some nice handling from the Tigers backs after another strong scrum, with Ford pulling in Steward and May, with the wing breaking through for another 10 metres down the left.
BATTLE AT SET-PIECE
An intriguing battle at scrum-time as World Cup finalist Dan Cole goes head-to-head with former team-mate, and Tigers Academy graduate, Riccardo Brugnara.
After a frantic first quarter, Calvisano now look to slow the pace of the game with their first real possession of the afternoon.
The ball goes out for a Leicester lineout, but the feed to scrum-half Youngs is a difficult take and he just knocks on. Calvisano scrum.
Tigers are being tested in defence for the first time in this match, as Calvisano use their heavy runners to press into the home 22. The ball is spilled into touch.
NOT THIS TIME
Whoops and hollers from the Terrace as May tries another chip and chase on the lookout for his hat-trick try, but it doesn't come off this time.
TWO MORE POINTS
A simple conversion for try-creator Ford this time, and the lead is stretched to 26 points.
LEFT, RIGHT, LEWIS.
Tigers have a bonus-point score after a quarter of an hour, as George Ford shimmies to the left, then onto his right, and feeds Sam Lewis for a first try in club colours.
Calvisano find a bit of space in between full-back Steward and Ben Youngs in the Tigers back-field, but a huge kick from Steward seemingly finds touch in front of the Breedon Terrace.
There's a little bit of confusion from the match officials - without a TMO for this game - as they can't decide if the ball was taken out by the Calvisano player. Instead, we'll restart with a scrum.
Ford makes no mistake with the conversion this time around, and that's 19-nil with almost a quarter of the game played.
TRY NUMBER THREE
Another try for May, this time after a brilliant offload from debutant Steward in the elft-hand corner.
Noel Reid finds an outside shoulder on the left, and scans for support as he bursts past two then three Italian defenders. He finds Tommy Reffell, who holds onto the ball in time for support to arrive.
CALVISANO KNOCK ON
Another handling error from the visitors, after a neat nudge through from May on the left. Full-back Jacopo Trulla knocks on just beyond the 22, and we'll scrum down deep into in Calvisano territory.
The touchline conversion attempt drifts in front of the posts, to keep the lead at 12 points to nil.
MAY GALLOPS OVER
Calvisano knock on, and Noel Reid uses the advantage to make a 15-metre miss-pass out to Jonny May, who gallops in from halfway.
AND THE EXTRAS
First kick at goal for George Ford ... and it's over. Tigers lead seven points to nil.
TRY TIME FOR TUILAGI
Sam Lewis takes the ball at the lineout in the Calvisano 22, and it's out to a hard-running Manu Tuilagi who gets over the line for the first score of the match.
TIGER CUBS COMBINE
An early aerial test for new full-back Freddie Steward, which he takes brilliantly in front of the Breedon Terrace.
A couple of phases later, the ball is into the hand of fellow Tigers Academy graduate Sam Lewis, who breaks through the Calvisano line on the right. He's brought down after a 30-metre break.
KICK-OFF FROM WELFORD ROAD
George Ford boots the ball into the Leicester sky to get this European fixture underway.
FINAL FEW MOMENTS
And, after an emotive minute’s applause, we’re ready to kick off this European Challenge Cup clash at Welford Road. Both teams take their places on the field, and we’re about to get going…
DAVID MATTHEWS: THE LEGEND’S LEGEND
Ahead of kick-off, we’re joined by the family of Tigers appearance record-holder David Matthews on the pitch. Rugby Football Union president and Tigers legend Peter Wheeler reads a short tribute to the crowd.
“The world of rugby lost one of its greatest servants with the passing of David Matthews earlier this year, bringing to a close an association with the club which spanned more than 60 years,” he says.
“An inspiration on the pitch and a huge influence off it, we remember his contribution to this great club and we celebrate his achievements today alongside his family, friends and former colleagues.”
And now, for a minute’s applause. Thank you, David
FIVE MINUTES TO GO
Both teams head up the tunnel after completing their final warm-ups on the Welford Road turf.
CONFIRMED TEAM NEWS
Telusa Veainu returns to the matchday 23 for the first time since the Gallagher Premiership win over Gloucester last month – but he’s kept out of the No15 shirt by 19-year-old Freddie Steward. The development squad full-back earns a debut start at Welford Road, alongside Jonny May and Adam Thompstone in the back-three.
Manu Tuilagi and Noel Reid rekindle their fruitful centre partnership from European Round 1 against Pau, with Rugby World Cup finalists George Ford and Ben Youngs continuing in the half-backs.
Tommy Reffell is the headline returnee to the Tigers back row after a six-week absence, and lines up alongside try-scorer at Cardiff, Jordan Coghlan, and Sione Kalamafoni. Facundo Gigena, skipper Tom Youngs and Dan Cole form a formidable front row ahead of the aforementioned Lewis and Green.
Sam Harrison will earn a century of replacement appearances – a club record – if used from the bench this afternoon.
On the other side of the field, Tigers Academy graduate Riccardo Brugnara returns to Welford Road in the Calvisano front row alongside Italy international Lorenzo Cittadini.
See the full match line-ups by clicking here, or scrolling down on this page.
YOUNG SAM SET FOR EUROPEAN ‘OPPORTUNITY’
After impressing in the win at Cardiff last time out in European competition, Sam Lewis is handed a second-ever start at Welford Road this afternoon.
Used on the flank in that game, the Tigers Academy graduate packs down alongside the experienced Calum Green in the Leicester engine room against Calvisano.
“I’ve been keeping my head down and doing what I’ve been practicing all pre-season, so to be handed a chance to do it on the pitch is good for me,” Lewis said.
“The game at Cardiff was about hard work, and working hard for each other. Now, these next two games [against Calvisano] are about taking our opportunities.
“Winning is key, really. A bonus point would be the icing on top.”
You can read more of the 21-year-old’s preview of European Challenge Cup Round 3 right here.
DAVID MATTHEWS DAY AT WELFORD ROAD
As well as the latest round of European action, Welford Road will celebrate the achievements and contribution of Leicester Tigers record-holder David Matthews this afternoon.
‘The heart and soul of the club’ and ‘the greatest of Tigers’ are just two of the descriptions attached to David, in recognition of his 65-year association with Leicester. He made 502 first-team appearances and also served as captain, coach, director, president and life member before his death this summer at the age of 82.
Members of David’s family are special guests for this afternoon’s match, and have been presented with a condolence book filled with tributes and memories from players, past-players, supporters and representatives from the rugby world.
We’ll also have a minute’s applause ahead of kick-off to celebrate the ‘Legend’s Legend’.
TIGERS LOOK FOR THREE FROM THREE IN EUROPE
After victories over Pau and Cardiff Blues in Pool 5, a win this afternoon would make Tigers the first English team to win the opening three rounds of the Challenge Cup since Wasps in 2002.
The match represents a seventh meeting between Tigers and Calvisano, though it is the first since January 2005 – when Tigers won 62-10 at the Campo Comunale di Rovato, but then had to wait until midway through their flight home before confirming that results elsewhere had secured their qualification for the knockout stages of the Heineken Cup.
Read our full match preview here, or scroll down on this page.
WELCOME TO MATCHDAY LIVE!
We’re LIVE from Welford Road as Tigers defend their European record against Calvisano in Round 3 of the Challenge Cup, with kick-off to come at 3.00pm.
Follow all the action as it happens with our Matchday Live coverage, right here on the Tigers App and LeicesterTigers.com.