Jonah Holmes ran in four tries as Leicester Tigers got the European Challenge Cup campaign off to a perfect start with a 41-20 victory over Pau at Welford Road on Saturday.
Early tries from George Worth and Holmes put Tigers in a commanding position at 17-3 in the team’s first-ever appearance in the competition. And, after a try from their rivals, Holmes ran in his second to secure a 24-13 lead at half-time.
The Wales international wing completed his treble early in the second half and then added a fourth with 10 minutes remaining to send the home crowd away happy.
Challenge Cup winners in 2000 and making a first visit to Welford Road since 2000/01, Pau came into the game in third place in the French TOP14 league, and showed some of their attacking threat as they stayed in the contest, though they also met determined defence in their phases within scoring range.
George Ford, who got the game started after Remembrance commemorations in the closest home game to Armistice Day, was joined by fellow World Cup silver medallists Manu Tuilagi, Ben Youngs, Dan Cole and Ellis Genge in the Tigers line-up, while Jaco Taute was added to the matchday squad for the first time.
Tigers started brightly with Sione Kalamafoni and Ifereimi Boladau carrying well and, despite seeing a chance go begging on the right when the final pass fell short of Jonah Holmes, they took the lead with a Ford penalty when Pau were penalised at a breakdown.
Both teams had been forced into an early change with Pau losing flanker Pierrick Gunther and then Sam Aspland-Robinson being helped off, to be replaced by Worth as EW Viljoen moved to the Tigers wing.
Pau’s first attack also brought three points, carrying purposefully around the Tigers 22 and then getting a shot at goal for Tom Taylor after the hosts had been whistled for a high tackle, levelling the scores with 10 minutes gone.
Tigers got the opening try, though, building from more positive work in the forwards to set up space on the right and Worth read the space and timing perfectly to run in.
Ford added the kick to make it 10-3 in Tigers’ favour and he had the ball back on the tee just two-and-a-half minutes later when Holmes read a mix-up in the Pau midfield to gather a kindly bouncing ball and run in for try number two.
But the visitors showed their own threats when they were held up over the tryline twice after set-pieces just five metres out.
Then, at the third attempt, after meeting more stern resistance, they finally found the gap to score, with scrum-half Thibault Daubagna providing the final reach for the line after Watsoni Votu had been stopped just short.
And they had an opportunity moments later to level the scores, only to find themselves back under their own posts.
First, the visitors picked up Tigers loose ball near halfway and broke clear, only to miss their own pass just 25 metres out. Tigers made the most of the escape as they quickly got ball to Holmes on the right and, from deep inside his own half, he beat two defenders tight to the touchline and ran in for his second score of the day. Ford’s conversion made it 24-10 on the half-hour.
Pau thought they’d scored again with four minutes remaining in the half as they showed quick hands on the ball down the right. But they were held up once more in the corner.
Tigers met fire with fire at the five-metre scrum, but Pau retained ball near the line until rewarded with a penalty award from Georgian official Nika Amashukeli in front of the posts which Taylor kicked to make it 24-13 at half-time.
Guy Thompson replaced Ifereimi Boladau at half-time in the Tigers back row and there was an early chance after a big push up front allowed the backline to make the most of space but Viljoen was closed out five metres from the tryline.
The home pack made sure there was no easy escape for the visitors, and had added Genge to the front row as Holmes completed his hat-trick with a clever finish on the right which also brought the bonus-point score.
Ford added the kick from the touchline to make it 31-13 and there was a flare-up among the forwards after the restart which the referee dealt with by speaking to both captains.
Play resumed with a Pau penalty for offside but, when they played into the corner, the Tigers pack hit them backwards and then wrapped up ball to have put-in at the restart.
But Pau were enjoying their spell of pressure close to the Tigers line and, despite seeing wing Bastian Pourailly hit into touch by Viljoen as he reached to the line, play was brought back for a penalty as Tigers lost Kalamafoni to a yellow card.
Another penalty followed at a scrum against a seven-man pack and Holmes was drafted into the back row when Pau called for the set-piece again. Tigers resisted again and then drew a big cheer from the home crowd when the whistle blew in their favour at the next attempt.
Taute emerged for his debut as a replacement for Ford, with Reid moving back to fly-half, and was almost gifted a scoring chance when Pau miss-kicked behind their own lines. But the visiting defence quickly scrambled back to keep him out.
Both sets of coaches emptied their benches with the game into its final quarter and Kalamafoni returned with Tigers back on their own five-metre line for another defensive set-piece which ended with replacement lock Fabrice Metz barging through to score. The conversion from Taylor made it 31-20 but reminded Tigers there was still a game to be won with quarter of an hour remaining.
Reid settled any jangling nerves with a penalty which made the advantage 14 points again before Holmes finished off a quick attack instigated by Ben White to claim his fourth score of the day and his eighth in eight games so far this season to go with the man-of-the-match award.
THANK YOU FOR YOUR SUPPORT
The Welford Road faithful show their appreciation for their Tigers as they leave the field following an impressive start to their European journey.
Thank you for following all the action with Matchday Live, whether you were part of the 15,250 here at the ground or elsewhere.
Join us again for our next European Challenge Cup clash, away to Cardiff Blues next Saturday, November 23 (8.00pm).
FULL TIME | 41-20
Five tries for Tigers - including four for wing Jonah Holmes - see Leicester kick off their Challenge Cup campaign in impressive fashion.
...and Pau bring the man down in the lineout, and that's full time.
ARM UP ON THE LEICESTER SIDE
Hooray! We've pretty much run out of ways to describe a scrum penalty at this point, but the decision goes the way of the Tigers pack.
Kerr feeds long into the Leicester lineout...
Pau win the penalty at the second time of asking, and take a quick tap to make a few more metres into the Tigers red zone.
But they knock on and we'll have one last (hopefully) scrum as the clock ticks up to 80.
And - would you look at that - the scrum is reset! Let's try this one again...
TO AND FRO
Pau are still working hard at this game, but Tigers are doing all they can to wring the last few points out of the match.
The home side win another scrum, and the Holland & Barrett Stand will get a close-up view of 16 men pushing against one another.
Reid's conversion from the far side is sweet as a nut. Two more points to the tally, please.
TRY NUMBER FIVE
A fifth try for Tigers - and we'll let you guess who.
Tigers win a free-kick before the scrum is fully set, and White takes it quickly - to feed Holmes on the right for his fourth try of the afternoon.
Blimey. Another scrum. This time on halfway.
White doesn't even have a chance to get the ball into this one, as referee Amashukeli resets for a bit more stability.
THREE MORE FROM THE TEE
Reid's penalty kick is successful, and stretches Tigers' lead to 14 points with 10 minutes to go.
WARNING FOR OFFSIDE
Pau have a third warning for offside at the ruck as Tigers bring the ball back into the visitors' half. Reid, now operating at 10, chooses the kick at goal.
CHANGE IN THE ENGINE ROOM
Harry Wells replaces Will Spencer at lock for Leicester.
The Pau fly-half adds two more points from his boot, and the visitors are within 11 points.
PAU BARREL OVER
Fabrice Metz crashes over for Pau after multiple phases in the home 22.
CHANGE AT HOOKER
Jake Kerr takes the place of Tom Youngs in the Leicester front row, as Kalamafoni returns from his yellow card.
A raft of changes for the visitors, with Barka, Lebail, Metz and Erbani all onto the field.
Dan Cole is off the field, replaced by Nephi Leatigaga.
White picks up exactly where Youngs left off, making a scything break round the corner into the Pau half. He offloads beyond halfway, to Taute and then Viljoen, who tests the last line of defence with a brilliant kick deep into French territory.
TAUTE MAKES DEBUT
Summer signing Jaco Taute is on for his club debut, replacing George Ford. Noel Reid will shift to fly-half for the remainder of this game.
MORE RESET SCRUMS
Something something ... French rugby ... something something ... scrums.
We've had a lot of pushing contests this afternoon, and now hat-trick hero Jonah Holmes is called into the Tigers pack to repel Pau's shove under the Leicester posts.
...and they have it! Welford Road is in fine voice as Amashukeli awards the scrum penalty Tigers' way.
Head coach Geordan Murphy swaps Ben for Ben - as White takes Youngs' place at scrum-half in green, white and red. A decent afternoon's work for the World Cup finalist.
Sione Kalamafoni is shown a yellow card for persistent offside from the Tigers side.
Viljoen makes a crucial tackle as Pau break quickly and attempt to run in on the right - but he gets his man just in the knick of time, barreling the winger into the corner flag. We'll come back for an infringement in the middle of the pitch...
...but Tigers don't have a chance to push at this scrum, as they're pinged for pushing early. Pau have a free kick.
PUSHING CONTEST TAKE TWO
Scrum-half Youngs box kicks away from the Tigers scrum, and wing Bastien Pourailly brings the ball back as he slips through two tackles on the right.
But the ball is won back after Pau knock-on, and we'll have another scrum - this time almost on halfway. A decent run of play for Tigers.
Pau win their throw - despite the best efforts of Lavanini - but the maul is held up by the Tigers pack, and the home side win a scrum of their own just beyond the five-metre line.
SCUFFLE ON THE FLOOR
Referee Amashukeli takes a few moments to break up the two teams after a mass scuffle on the floor. Unclear what caused the incident - or who took exception to who - but we have no TMO to ask the question of.
Pau have the original penalty, and kick to touch for a lineout inisde the Tigers 22.
Ford splits the uprights with a difficult touchline conversion, and Tigers lead 31 points to 13.
Holmes has his third try of the game off the back of a slick Leicester lineout.
BABY RHINO RETURNS
Ellis Genge is a popular substitution as Facundo Gigena takes the applause from the Welford Road crowd.
The Tigers forwards get another decent march on at the scrum, but Pau just about manage to get the ball out from under the feet of Antoine Erbani and kick clear.
Lourens Adiraanse takes the place of Nicolas Corato in the Pau front row, and the tighthead will be into the action immediately as we restart with a scrum on the French five-metre line.
TWO, THREE, FOUR, SQUEEEZE!
Another big shove from the Tigers pack wins the penalty, and the home side bring the ball to the left where Viljoen is brought down just inches from the line.
Pau knock-on before Tigers spill the ball themselves. It'll be a Leicester scrum.
SECOND HALF UNDERWAY
Tom Taylor boots the ball towards the Tigers 22 to start this second half at Welford Road.
CHANGE AT HALF TIME
Guy Thompson is on in the Tigers back row in place of Ifereimi Boladau, who has failed his head injury assessment during the half-time break.
RETURN OF (THE) CHIEF
Manu Tuilagi has been straight back into the action on his first club start of the season.
HALF TIME | 24-13
Tigers lead at the break after a frantic first half of European rugby at Welford Road. More of the same in the second half, please.
PAU FINISH WITH A KICK
Taylor's penalty is through, and he adds the three on the stroke of half-time.
Pau win the advantage at the first breakdown following the scrum, and we play on for another minute-and-a-half before the visitors knock on. We'll still come back for the penalty, though, and Taylor's called for his tee.
THIRD TIME LUCKY?
The Georgian referee has a word with both front rows to give each other a bit of room, and we'll reset for a third time. The ball is in and ... it's out again! On the Pau side.
We'll get going again with another Pau scrum, deep into the right-hand corner in front of The Robin Hood Stand.
The clock gets going ... and the scrum goes down. Amashukeli calls for a reset.
That's three times Pau have been over the Tigers try line, and three times they've been held up. The French side may have broken through the line, but it's stern defence to keep the ball off the ground each and every time.
The throw is good, but Amashukeli awards Pau the lineout on a technicality, and they find great touch with their kick into the Tigers 22.
FOOT ON THE THROAT
George Worth climbs highest to claim Taylor's return of the restart, and Pau scramble to gather the kick back into their half.
They miscue the clearance, and Tom Youngs will have the throw inside the visitors' half.
FORD KICKS TWO MORE
Fly-half Ford adds the conversion.
HOLMES TO THE RESCUE
Pau break through the middle of the Tigers line but lose the ball. Jonah Holmes scoops it up and beats two defenders on the outside as he gallops in from more than 60 metres.
Both sides opting to feel one another out as the game approaches the half-hour mark as scrum-half Youngs and Pau full-back Vincent Pinto engage in a spot of kick tennis.
It's Pinto's back three partner Watisoni Votu who puts the ball out for good, though, and there will be a Tigers throw in front of the Breedon Terrace.
AND THE KICK
Taylor makes no mistake with the conversion, with the score now at Tigers 17, Pau 10.
...but they can't hold forever, and it's Daubagna who breaks through for a Pau score.
CROUCH, BIND, SET
Tigers stomach the initial hit at the scrum, but Pau take a second bite of the cherry and start to move forward. The pack splinters before it can make it to the line, and the French side resort to one-out runners which Leicester can bring down at first...
PAU HELD UP
Pau create some territory in the Tigers 22 and win another scrum, and inch up to the try line with some big forward carriers.
They manage to get over the line, but referee Nika Amashukeli calls it as held up. We'll restart with a five-metre scrum.
INTO THE AIR
Tigers win the ball back from their own scrum, and opt to kick ... as do Pau. After a spot of kick tennis, Youngs makes another swooping run up towards Viljoen, who attempts to chip and gather, but can't quite make it work.
Kalamafoni cleans up by tackling the Pau player unfortunate enough to pick up the ball...
AND THE EXTRAS
Ford's successful conversion takes the score to Tigers 17, Pau 3.
AND ANOTHER ONE!
Jonah Holmes pounces on a loose Pau pass and runs in for a second score in as many minutes for Tigers!
Ford's conversion sails through the uprights, and Tigers have a 10-point lead.
TIGERS HIT BACK WITH A TRY
Ben Youngs makes a brilliant break around the corner to the left to find EW Viljoen, but the ball again comes back to the right and finds George Worth, who scoots round the final defender to score the first try of the match.
ANYTHING YOU CAN DO...
Pau fly-half Tom Taylor converts his penalty attempt, and we're all square here at Welford Road with 10 minutes played.
BIG HITS IN DEFENCE
The Tigers defenders are putting in some big hits as Pau truck the ball up the pitch, first through Tomás Lavanini - on his first start for the club - and next through the returning Manu Tuilagi.
But Leicester are pinged for an offence on the floor, and the French side will have a shot at goal themselves.
INTO TIGERS TERRITORY
Pau are into the home half for the first time in this match, as they restart and force a handling error from Tigers. Scrum down.
George Worth is on in the Tigers back three, in place of Sam Aspland-Robinson, who has to be assisted from the field.
FIRST BLOOD TO TIGERS
...and the kick is good. Ford takes the first points of this match from the tee.
Youngs is using every option available to him, and is getting the ball away from the base nice and quick - just as the Tigers Family would want.
EW Viljoen carries hard on the right-hand side, but Pau manage to grab the ball on the floor. We'll come back for Tigers advantage, and Ford points to the posts...
SCRUM AND LINEOUT
Pau win the scrum on their feed, and make enough ground for us to restart with a lineout just beyond their 22. But the ball is quickly down to scrum-half Ben Youngs, and Tigers look dangerous...
And Gunther is replaced by Martin Peuch. We'll restart with a scrum on the Pau five-metre line.
PAUSE FOR INJURY
We'll pause as Pau back-rower Pierrick Gunther receives treatment on the far side.
Tigers do a great job of securing the kick-off on the right, before putting the ball through the hands and making big breaks through Sione Kalamafoni and Ifereimi Boladau on the opposite side.
Jonah Holmes then takes the ball back on this near side and thinks he's over for the game's first try ... but we'll come back for a knock-on in the build up. Exciting stuff!
HELD UP AGAIN!
The visitors get a good shove on at their scrum, and trick most of the Tigers defenders into going left before scrum-half Thibault Daubagna digs the ball out and switches to the blindside.
He's held up, though, and so we'll rest all over again.
KICK-OFF FROM WELFORD ROAD
George Ford gets us going in the European Challenge Cup.
FINAL FEW MOMENTS
Now, after an impeccably observed silence, 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…
REMEMBERING THE FALLEN
As the closest home game to Armistice Day, today’s fixture marks the club’s annual Remembrance commemorations. Welford Road now falls quiet for The Last Post, before two minutes’ silence to remember those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice.
We will remember them.
FIVE MINUTES TO GO
Both sides have completed their final warm-ups ahead of this afternoon's match, and the Tigers team take the applause of the Welford Road faithful as they head back to the dressing room.
Not long until we're underway.
CONFIRMED TEAM NEWS
Five of England’s Rugby World Cup stars are named in the matchday squad for this afternoon’s opening European Challenge Cup match.
Manu Tuilagi comes into the backline, while Ben Youngs and George Ford resume their partnership at half-back. Dan Cole takes the tighthead shirt, and Ellis Genge is named among the replacements.
Elsewhere, Tomás Lavanini starts in club colours for the first time alongside the returning Will Spencer in the second row, while Noel Reid shifts back to inside centre.
EW Viljoen starts at full-back, and fellow summer signing Jaco Taute is set for his Tigers debut from the bench.
See the full match line-ups by clicking here, or scrolling down on this page.
THOMPSON LOOKS AHEAD TO EUROPEAN ‘BATTLE’
Tigers back-rower Guy Thompson says the Leicester squad are excited by the prospect of a European ‘battle’ with Pau this afternoon.
“It’s going to be tough – European competition is the toughest rugby you play – but that’s why we’re excited for it,” the 32-year-old said.
Thompson is named among the Tigers replacements after starting in all four of the club’s league games so far this season.
“Leicester have got a massive history in Europe,” he continued. “We want win games, and we’ve got to change our mentality and learn how to win again.”
Catch more of Thompson’s European preview here.
LTTV | ‘LENNY’ BACK IN GREEN, WHITE AND RED
Ben Youngs will make his first club appearance for more than 300 days when he runs out at Welford Road this afternoon.
The scrum-half had shoulder surgery at the back-end of last season, and has missed the domestic action so far this term while starring with England in the Rugby World Cup.
‘Lenny’ is one of five World Cup finalists included in Tigers’ matchday squad, alongside Manu Tuilagi, George Ford, Dan Cole and Ellis Genge.
“I’ve been away for a long time ... I haven’t played for the club since January,” the 30-year-old told LTTV. “To come back is great and have the opportunity to play for a club I love is what I am looking forward to.
“I want to try and help the boys now ... [and] try and contribute in any way I can.”
Catch Youngs’ full interview on LTTV, right here.
EUROPEAN RUGBY RETURNS
Leicester Tigers make a first-ever appearance in the European Challenge Cup with this afternoon’s home game against French visitors Pau.
This is the first meeting of the two clubs since 2000/01, when Tigers recorded a home-and-away double on the way to the club’s first Heineken Cup Final victory.
Pau currently sit third in the French TOP14 following wins over Bayonne, Castres and Clermont in recent weeks, and will serve as a stern test for the men in green, white and red.
Read our full match preview here, or scroll down on this page.
WELCOME TO MATCHDAY LIVE!
Welcome to Welford Road as Tigers take on Pau in the opening round of this season’s European 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.