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Preview: Aviva Premiership semi-final

Figure image
Leicester Tigers go into the knockout stages of a Premiership Rugby season for the 13th successive year as they prepare to meet Wasps on Saturday afternoon.

Following successive wins over Newcastle Falcons, Sale Sharks and Worcester Warriors at the end of the regular league programme, Tigers claimed fourth place in the Aviva Premiership table and travel to meet a Wasps side who finished in top spot after 22 rounds.
 
Click here for the season’s final Aviva Premiership table.
 
Head coach Matt O’Connor won the Premiership title three times in five seasons during a first spell with the club before returning to Welford Road last month and says Tigers have managed to build some confidence and momentum in recent weeks.
 
“We’re building slowly, but we know the enormity of the challenge against the form side throughout the competition,” said O’Connor.
 
“We’ve trained really well, the buy-in from the guys to the adjustments we are making has been first class and there is a buoyant mood in the camp.
 
“We have a good understanding of what knockout rugby is about and we have to deliver everywhere we can against Wasps. They are a quality side, they finished top of the table after 22 rounds and have a home semi-final, which they deserve.”
 
Wasps have won both previous meetings this season, though Tigers did win on their first visit to Wasps' new home in Coventry two seasons ago, when Adam Thompstone, Niall Morris and Vereniki Goneva scored the tries in a 26-21 triumph despite losing Seremaia Bai to a red card. Click here to re-live the details from that match.
 
Tom Youngs will make his 100th starting appearance for Tigers on Saturday, with Telusa Veainu and Ed Slater returning from injury to join the matchday squad. Wasps include Premiership Player of the Season and Golden Boot winner Jimmy Gopperth at centre, with Danny Cipriani at fly-half. Kurtley Beale and Willie Le Roux are also included in the backline of a team captained by England second-row Joe Launchbury.
 
Wasps’ director of rugby Dai Young said: “We are all really looking forward to the challenge and there has been a real excitement this week in anticipation of the game and what’s at stake.
 
“I’m sure Leicester Tigers will look forward to coming to the Ricoh Arena and will be keen to upset the party. It will be a ferocious contest against a side that has reached the play-offs 13 years on the bounce. You have to applaud that consistency and quality to finish in the top four year after year.
 
“We’re learning to handle these big occasions better each time we play in them. It has been a collective effort from the entire squad to get into the play-offs and I know every player taking the field on Saturday will give everything they have to do the squad and the club proud.”

Referee for the semi-final is Mr Matthew Carley.
 
Tigers will wear the club’s alternate kit this weekend.
 
The club will be followed by a large number of supporters in Coventry, with the initial allocation of tickets sold within hours of going on sale to season ticket holders last week. Match tickets remain on general sale via the host club.
 
Kick-off is at 5.15pm and there is a provision for extra-time and a place-kicking competition in the event of scores being level after 80 minutes. Click here for details.
 
Saturday’s game is scheduled for live TV coverage with BT Sport and you can keep up with all of the build-up, the match updates and the reaction via the Tigers club website and official social media pages throughout the day.
 
Exeter Chiefs host Saracens at 2.30pm in Saturday’s other semi-final.
 
The Aviva Premiership Final is a 2.30pm kick-off next Saturday (May 27) at Twickenham.
 
 

Match Details

HT ScoreHalf Time Score

WAS 16-13 LEI

FT ScoreFull Time Score

WAS 21-20 LEI

Attendance

29,051

Referee

Matthew Carley

Match Stats

Wasps
Leicester Tigers
Possession
55%
45%
Territory
54%
46%
Penalties Conceded
4
7
Yellow Cards
0
0
Red Cards
0
0
Tackles Won
111/122 91%
132/163 81%
Scrums Won
5/5 0%
4/6 33%
Lineouts Won
11/11 100%
9/9 100%

Player Stats

Wasps
Leicester Tigers
Leicester Tigers
TCDP
15Telusa Veainu1T
14
13
12
11Peter Betham1T
102C2P
9Ben Youngs
1Ellis Genge
2Tom Youngs
3Dan Cole
4
5Graham Kitchener
6
7
8
16George McGuigan
17Greg Bateman
18Fraser Balmain
19Ed Slater
20Mike Williams
21
22
23
Wasps
Wasps
21

Full Time

Leicester Tigers
Leicester Tigers
20

Opposition Lineup

Starting XV

15
Kurtley Beale
14
13
12
Jimmy Gopperth
11
10
9
Joe Simpson
1
2
3
4
Joe Launchbury
5
Matt Symons
6
7
Thomas Young
8
Nathan Hughes

Subs

16
Tommy Taylor
17
Simon McIntyre
18
Marty Moore
19
James Gaskell
20
21
Dan Robson
22
Alapati Leiua
23
Josh Bassett
posteamteam namepldwdlfadifftftatblbpts
1
Wasps
WaspsWAS221714693502191896113184
4
Leicester Tigers
Leicester TigersLEI22140856744512258486466

Late try ends Tigers' Premiership hopes

Leicester Tigers' hopes of reaching the Aviva Premiership Final ended in cruel fashion as Wasps scored late to win a pulsating clash at the Ricoh Arena.

Tigers led 20-16 going into the closing stages of the semi-final after Telusa Veainu had scored their go-ahead try after 53 minutes.

But intense Wasps pressure in the last quarter eventually told and Josh Bassett scored at the left-hand corner with two minutes remaining to book Wasps' place at Twickenham, where they will face Exeter Chiefs in the Final.

Tigers got off to a slow start and found themselves 10 points down following Kurtley Beale's converted try. Freddie Burns steadied the ship with his kicking boots before setting up Peter Betham for a try that levelled the scores at 13-13.

Jimmy Gopperth's penalty put Wasps ahead at half-time, before Veainu's converted try gave Tigers the lead for the first time with 26 minutes left. Matt O'Connor's men produced a brilliant defensive display that kept Wasps at bay until Bassett's heart-breaking late try.

Captain Tom Youngs made his 100th starting appearance for the Tigers. He was joined in the front row by Ellis Genge, who earlier in the week was named Premiership Rugby's Land Rover Discovery of the Season, and British & Irish Lions selection Dan Cole.

The only change in the forwards was the inclusion of Mike Fitzgerald in the back row. Telusa Veainu returned from injury to start at full-back. Mathew Tait partnered Owen Williams at centre.

Wasps scored the first points inside two minutes. Brendon O'Connor was pinged for not rolling and Jimmy Gopperth, the Aviva Premiership Player of the Season, kicked the penalty from 40m to put the hosts ahead.

Tigers responded with a smart break from full-back by Veainu before Ben Youngs sniped through a gap on halfway but sliced his kick into touch.

His half-back partner Burns produced a similar error which gave Wasps a lineout 30m from the Leicester line, and the hosts struck from the set-piece. Tigers defended narrowly at the lineout allowing Beale and Willie Le Roux to exchange passes on the left wing for the Australia international to scoot over for the opening try. Gopperth converted to put Wasps 10-0 ahead.

Tigers settled back into the game by going through the phases before Ben Youngs's chip ahead beat Veainu and Beale into touch.

The game was 16 minutes old before Tigers were awarded their first penalty. They made a mess of a Wasps maul and a defensive ruck, and with Wasps bodies all over the ball Tigers were given the verdict. Burns landed his kick to put Tigers on the board.

The Tigers fans found their voice and the team responded with Betham making yards down the left against Christian Wade. Veainu tried to go down the narrow channel from the breakdown but was bundled into touch.

Tigers continued to test Wade's defence and, when he was pinged for not releasing, Burns had a second kick at goal in the space of five minutes. The Tigers fly-half landed the penalty to cut the deficit to 10-6 after 21 minutes.

Referee Matthew Carley instructed Ben Youngs that the ball was out at the back of a ruck and when his kick was pressured by Joe Simpson, Tigers were ruled offside. Gopperth kicked the penalty to put the hosts 13-6 ahead.

Tigers hit back immediately. The forwards, led by Graham Kitchener and Dom Barrow, drove at the heart of the Wasps defence and gave Tigers a platform in the Wasps 22 for the first time. Once there they made the position count as Burns's pass floated over Wade's head to pick out Betham for a score at the left corner. Burns converted to bring the scores level after 29 minutes.

Leicester made it a huge battle at the breakdown and the tactic worked when Owen Williams stripped Elliot Daly of possession in midfield. However, Veainu lost possession forward as Tigers tried to counterattack.

Leicester were given a reprieve as Gopperth struck the outside of the left post with a penalty. And they almost made Wasps pay with a counterattack that saw Ben Youngs pick out Betham with a clever kick. Veainu and Owen Williams appeared to be tackled without the ball as they joined in, but Tigers were ruled to have knocked on.

Tigers got on the wrong side of referee Carley as the first half came to a close. Mike Fitzgerald was whistled for obstruction in midfield and Tigers were marched back for questioning the decision, bringing the posts into range. Gopperth landed his kick to give Wasps a 16-13 half-time lead.

Tigers started the second half brightly, going through the phases to test the Wasps defence. But when Tait tried to force the issue inside the Wasps 22 he knocked on under a heavy tackle.

The visitors contested every breakdown in a bid to stop the talented Wasps backline enjoying quick ball. However, they had to scramble in defence after Wasps overturned lineout ball in their own half. Wasps spread the ball quickly to Beale, who wrong-footed Betham with his kick into the Leicester 22 but Ben Youngs got back to tidy up.

It was Beale's last contribution. He limped off to be replaced by Josh Bassett. Le Roux went to full-back.

The physicality of the encounter began to show as the game entered the final 30 minutes with players from both sides requiring running repairs and Mike Williams replaced Luke Hamilton for the Tigers.

It was 50 minutes before Tigers had a scrum put-in, and with it the pack won a penalty for Burns to kick Leicester back into the Wasps half.

And there they stayed through phase after phase of pressure. Ben Youngs sniped, Mike Williams carried and just when Wasps thought they had stolen possession, Owen Williams intercepted the ball back. It was a timely intervention. Wasps players were lined up on the Tigers right for a counterattack,which created a huge overlap on the left for Veainu to score. Burns landed his conversion to give Tigers a 2-16 lead with 26 minutes left.

George McGuigan came on for Tom Youngs, as Tigers freshened their pack.

It was end-to-end stuff as first Wasps attacked and then Tigers countered. Wasps threatened through Cipriani and Wade before Veainu intercepted Cipriani's pass on his 22. The Tigers full-back was dumped into touch by Le Roux as he hacked into the Wasps 22.

Dan Robson, on as a replacement, broke from a ruck and had Joe Launchbury in support. But he threw a forward pass to Bassett that ended the move on the Leicester 22.

Ed Slater replaced Dom Barrow before Fraser Balmain came on for Dan Cole as the clock ticked into the final 15 minutes.

Tigers produced a stunning defensive set as Wasps sent wave after wave of attacks into the Leicester line. Somehow they stood firm in the face of intense pressure, and eventually forced the knock-on that Owen Williams cleared.

But Gopperth kept the ball alive and ran at the heart of the Tigers defence. Nathan Hughes, who carried all afternoon, carried once more but he was stripped of possession and Veainu finally brought a hectic four-minute period to an end by finding touch.

Tigers continued to come under huge pressure and Thomas Young looked to have finally broken through but after fixing last-man Veainu, Gopperth knocked-on with the defence opening up.

Tigers had to defend an 8m lineout with four minutes remaining. Mike Williams stole the ball but Gopperth won it back at the breakdown. It proved a key moment and the hosts this time made the position count. With Burns hurt making a tackle, the referee let play continue, and Tigers eventually ran out of defenders and Bassett crossed at the left-hand corner to give Wasps victory by the narrowest of margins.

Form Guide
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