Leicester Tigers took a first-leg lead in the Heineken Champions Cup knockout stages with a 29-10 win away to ASM Clermont Auvergne on Sunday.
After tries from front-row partners Ellis Genge and Julian Montoya, the scores were tied at 10-10 at half-time in the European Round of 16 contest at the Stade Marcel-Michelin as Tigers fought back from 7-0 and 10-5 down.
The, in the club’s first trip to Clermont since a quarter-final in 2014 and with the return at Mattioli Woods Welford Road next Saturday (5.30pm), some big defence and scores from Jack van Poortvliet and Hosea Saumaki took Tigers 10 points in front during the second half.
Then, after Guy Porter had been red-carded following a head contact with Clermont No8 Fritz Lee, and a continued big shift in defence across the pitch, the visitors claimed a fifth try from Harry Potter.
Potter and Saumaki had both been added to the Tigers backline following the league win at Exeter and Cupo triumph over London Irish, while Dan Cole returned to the matchday squad.
After a pre-match tribute to the people of Ukraine, the home team got the game started in a raucous atmosphere in the sunshine, with van Poortvliet involved early after being promoted from the bench following the withdrawal of Ben Youngs with illness.
Freddie Steward needed physio treatment after being grounded by a big tackle in midfield just as Tigers built promising possession but, as they made progress, following a penalty and a free-kick in Tigers’ favour from the first two scrums, a set-piece in a good attacking position went the other way and Morgan Parra fired ball out, the bounce giving his team lineout ball in the visitors’ territory.
George Ford had to react quickly to collect a chipped kick in front of the Tigers posts, but the whistle went to Clermont again for an offside. This time they went for a drive near the posts but Tigers wrapped up the final charge and held up play over the tryline.
The first try followed, though when Clermont fielded the clearing drop-out and created an overlap on their left where wing Cheik Tiberghien ran in. Fly-half Camile Lopez added a touchline conversion for the seven-point lead.
Tigers were quickly back on the attack and out points on the board after retaining ball through pressure near the tryline until eventually Genge barged over. Ford pushed his conversion kick across the posts.
Strong work from Tommy Reffell brought a penalty on halfway as the crowd got behind another series of Clermont phases of possession, but Tigers missed a chance when their lineout was ruled not straight after Ford had kicked down the right.
From a Clermont scrum 25 metres out, Tigers resisted an attack with a series of strong tackles, but play came back for a penalty and Lopez added the three points to make it 10-5.
A bruising carry from Genge got Tigers moving forward again and the backline challenged the left-hand corner before the forwards took over again, winning a penalty just five metres out on the opposite flank.
Progress was halted by a second whistle close to the tryline and when Tigers pushed onwards again, Montoya was on his feet to make the decisive drive over. The referee sought TMO support before awarding the try which levelled the scores at 10-10 just past the half-hour.
Moments later a Lopez penalty took play back into the Tigers 22 and he then sat deep to attempt a drop goal when Clermont recycled in the face of good defence but put the shot just wide as the half ended all-square.
Scrum-half van Poortvliet had to chase down No8 Fritz Lee to ensure it stayed that way in the opening moments after the restart after a 50-metre break from deep by Alivereti Raka.
A break by Ford through midfield put Steward in possession on the right and, although his offload was picked off in the corner, Tigers had the penalty when Reffell contested on the floor.
The lineout set up pressure and van Poortvliet spotted space in the right-hand corner to score and give his side the lead for the first time at 15-10, though Ford was unable to add the extras.
Montoya relieved some pressure on the Tigers defence with a penalty at the breakdown following a dangerous attack by Raka on the right, and the hooker was back on the ball in attack as Tigers set up a fourth try.
After winning aerial ball, Hanro Liebenberg and Montoya took play on until a sweeping attack to the left where Porter found Saumaki for the score. Ford added the extras to make the advantage 22-10.
Tigers were then penned back to their own line with a big push from Clermont at the restart, eventually forcing them backwards, though play had to come back for a penalty to the home team five metres out.
It brought an incredible response from Steve Borthwick’s men, multiple tacklers hitting phase after phase on their own whitewash before Clermont finally spilled possession.
Porter and Fritz Lee left the field for treatment after a clash of heads but, after checking replays with the TMO, there referee showed a red card for the Tigers centre.
With Tigers down to 14 men, Matias Moroni replaced Saumaki, but the strong work in defence continued as Dan Kelly wrestled back possession on the edge of his own 22 and replacement Richard Wigglesworth kicked clear.
Genge and Montoya then closed the door on another counter-attack started by Wesley Fofana, and Tigers could reset again when they won a penalty at the breakdown.
The travelling support had more to celebrate as Steward won a superb aerial contest and found Potter in support, the wing taking on and beating the final defenders before dotting down. Ford’s conversion made it 29-10.
Potter’s aggressive chase then took Clermont back over their own tryline and presented Tigers with a five-metre scrum on the right. A penalty followed, keeping Clermont pinned back and also eating into the clock approaching the final 10 minutes.
It also almost brought another try as Montoya reached to the line but, after checks of the replays, the referee ruled no score but gave Tigers put-in at a scrum as Nic Dolly replaced Montoya.
The set-piece brought another penalty and a word from the referee but the whistle went in Clermont’s favour as Tigers challenged the line again, ruling an obstruction as Dolly steered the maul onwards.
Pushed back by a penalty near halfway, Tigers wrapped up a Clermont maul and continued to make their tackles across the field to protect the lead ahead of next week’s return against the three-time Champions Cup finalists.