Leicester Tigers were beaten 39-0 at Castres Olympique in the European Champions Cup on Sunday.
In the fifth round of fixtures in Pool 4 and on the club’s first-ever visit to the Stade Pierre Fabre in the south of France, Tigers trailed from the first minute when fly-half Benjamin Urdapilleta hacked loose ball up the left touchline to score.
Two tries from centre Thomas Combezou stretched the Castres lead to 27-0 by half-time, though a much-changed Tigers team had been competitive throughout and also had their opportunities close to the trryline, most obviously when Sam Harrison was kept out in a moment which cost Armand Batlle a yellow card but ultimately saw the away team unrewarded for their efforts.
A fourth try, from wing Batlle ensured the points would go to the hosts, though Tigers continued to plug away and had several attacking opportunities without reward before the Castres No11 claimed the final try of the evening in the 78th minute.
Tigers were without England players Ben Youngs, Dan Cole, Jonny May and George Ford ahead of the Six Nations, while Logovi’i Mulipola, Matt Toomua and Manu Tuilagi, who have all returned to action in recent weeks after lengthy injury absences, were also left out.
Dominic Ryan, Tom Brady and Pat Cilliers returned after injury, with Greg Bateman named as captain for the first time. Michele Rizzo, on his return from a loan spell at Edinburgh, returned to take a place among the replacements.
Castres got the game under way on a damp evening and had an immediate score, fly-half Urdapilleta claiming a try with just 46 seconds gone on the clock.
His grub-kick near halfway was fielded by Tigers but squirmed free near the touchline and Urdapilleta dribbled it onwards before picking up to score. He added the conversion too for a 7-0 advantage.
Tigers recovered well, playing through a series of phases in attack and carrying up to the 22 where Charlie Thacker and Harry Wells made half-breaks before the home side forced a turnover and cleared upfield.
There was a break for skipper Bateman to receive treatment to a facial cut after the referee whistled for a knock-on when Thacker charged down a chip from Urdapilleta, but the prop was back on his feet as the visiting pack were awarded a penalty at the scrum.
Tigers again enjoyed some good possession but lost ball on the front foot and, when the hosts built through the forwards, they were rewarded with a penalty in front of the posts and Urdapilleta kicked to make it 10-0 with quarter of an hour played.
There was more of the same as the game five minutes later with Tigers again penalised in defence and the Castres No10 kicking the points.
A second Castres try came from a counter-attack, initiated by full-back Geoffrey Palis after Tigers had kicked upfield. When his kick evaded the cover, wing Batlle offloaded for Combezou to run in. The conversion made it 20-0 with 25 minutes played.
Bateman’s interception on halfway had the visiting supporters on their feet and Castres back-pedalling, but when Joe Ford kicked to the left corner, Charlie Thacker was unluckily penalised as he challenged Marc-Antoine Rallier on the tryline.
The visitors stayed in Castres territory, though, and a huge push from the forwards was brought down just short of the line. With the referee playing a penalty advantage, play switched to the right and George Worth was closed out a few metres short before the referee raised his arm again. This time Tigers were unable to set up a platform and Castres cleared.
There was a major talking point moments later when Sam Harrison ripped ball away from a maul and raced towards the tryline, only to be tackled just short. As Harrison hit the ground, the referee penalised Castres and Batlle was sin-binned. After consultation with the TMO, referee Brace took no further action and play restarted with Tigers kicking a penalty into the right corner.
Again Tigers set up a drive for the line, but the home defence swarmed all over Harrison to disrupt ball and eventually gained their own penalty just outside their 22.
Castres showed their clinical finishing again in the final minute of the half as they made good use of ball from Mathieu Babillot’s carry and, when they recycled on the left, No8 Alex Tulou offloaded for Combezou to score next to the right-hand post. Urdapilleta’s extras stretched the lead to 27 points.
The half ended with Tigers again pushing for the tryline from a penalty into the right-hand corner, only for the hosts to win turnover ball when Will Evans fund himself isolated in possession five metres from the line. Asd they recycled Urdapilleta chipped the ball into the crowd behind the posts to bring the half to a close.
Tigers started brightly in the second half, too, but lost a promising platform with a knock-on at the breakdown and then with a penalty in attack as Harry Thacker cleared at the side of a ruck after more good work from younger brother Charlie
Castres grabbed their bonus-point try in their opening attack of the half, keeping ball alive on the left with the Tigers defence working hard on their own line, and Batlle eventually darting over to score. Updarpilleta could not maintain his perfect kicking record as his conversion attempt from the touchline came back off the post, though his side led 32-0.
Bateman and Harry Thacker continued to carry prominently as Tigers looked for forward momentum and a breakthrough but another potentially threatening position was lost when a penalty into the right-hand corner ended with the referee blowing in Castres favour at the lineout.
Tatafu Polota-Nau, Ben Betts, Brendon O’Connor and Nick Malouf joined the action on 55 minutes and the Australian hooker was immediately in the action with a crunching hit on Urdapilleta. The French crowd did like the look of it, though Tigers already had a penalty award and kicked into the right-hand corner yet again.
The drive infield brought another penalty and almost a score. Ford tapped for the forwards and when play spread to the right Tom Brady dived over in the corner, only for play to come back for a forward pass.
Harry Simmons got on for his European debut on the hour, as Mafi joined the Castres pack.
The referee’s assistant brought his attention to potential foul play as Tigers prepared for a scrum on the right, with Castres lock Victor Moreaux the centre of attention. but no further action was taken.
Wells and Betts carried as Tigers continued to push for a breakthrough and the penalty count started to rack up against the home side’s defence but they escaped again when a crooked lineout throw gave the hosts a scrum five metres from their own line.
After getting out of their own territory, Castres thought they’d found another score when wing Kylian Jaminet broke clear on the right, only to have play brought back for a forward pass on the 10-metre line.
Michele Rizzo emerged for his seasonal debut, joining European debutant Betts and the experienced Polota-Nau in the front row, and Tigers penned their hosts back for long periods without finding a decisive break.
It was to prove costly when Castres, eho had scored just five second-half points up to that stage, released Batlle to grab his second try with just minutes of the game remaining. Diving in on the left. The conversion from Yohan le Bourhis made it 39-0 with 90 seconds remaining and any final chance of a breakthrough for Tigers evaporated when the kick-off flew straight out in the Castres half.
Thank you for your support
Thank you to all the Tigers fans for your support, particularly those who have made the trip to Castres.
Full time at Stade Pierre-Fabre
It's full-time in Castres, where the hosts have recorded a bonus-point win. A young Tigers team displayed real heart but have nothing to show for their efforts.
Replacement Le Bourhis lands the touchline conversion to complete the seven-point score.
Try for Castres
Castres have soaked up everything Tigers have thrown at them this half, and finish with a try of their own. There's a hint of a forward pass but no mistaking Batlle's finish at the corner.
Good defence from Brady
Urdapilleta spots Tigers shoot up in defence and slides a kick behind. Brady spots the danger and gets back to slide the ball into touch on the Leicester 22.
Maksymiw on for Euro debut
Mike Fitzgerald makes way for Joe Maksymiw, who makes his European debut. Le Bourhis is on for Castres for Tulou.
Bateman's evening comes to an end after an all-action performance. He is replaced by Michele Rizzo for his first appearance of the season.
Tigers are whistled for a not straight lineout, and the chance goes away.
Another penalty against Castres
Another promising Tigers attack is ended by a Castres defender not rolling. Referee Brace again chooses not to take further action. 5m lineout to come ...
No action taken
There appears to be a strike of the arm towards Valentino Mapapalangi but referee Brace is satisfied not to take any action.
Ref going to his TMO
The referee's attention has been brought to something by his touch judge. The TMO is now being consulted ...
Harry Simmons comes on for his European debut for Harrison. Castres bring on Moreaux, Mafi and Domenech
Tigers 'try' ruled out
Tigers thought they had scored as Brady dives in at the right corner, but it's ruled out for Thompstone's forward pass to set him away.
Tigers hammering away
Tigers get their drive going again from a penalty lineout. Again it's stopped just short, but Castres are pinged for offside ... Ford taps and goes ...
Tichit and Rallier off for the hosts, Firmin and Stroe on.
Betts, Polota-Nau, O'Connor and Malouf on for Tigers. Cilliers, H Thacker, Ryan and Smith off.
Another Tigers chance goes away
Brady runs a lovely line and puts Harrison through. He is tackled 5m short and Castres smother the ball to prevent quick release, but there's no penalty. Instead, Castres disrupt possession at the next phase and and hack clear.
Bonus point Castres
The home side have their bonus and it is Batlle with it. The winger makes the extra man on the outside and holds off Tom Brady to score.
Thacker pinged in attack
Another good position for the Tigers comes to nothing as Harry Thacker is whistled for taking out the defender past the ruck. But Ryan and Wells steal possession back at the resulting lineout.
Batlle back on
Tigers win an early penalty and kick into the Castres 22, where Harrison knocks on as he picks up at a ruck. Batlle, the Castres wing, is back on.
THE TEAMS ARE BACK OUT
Castres and Tigers are back out. Tigers will kick-off through Ford, attacking the end to our left.
Second half coming up
The rain has stopped at Stade Pierre-Fabre. Castres will be down to 14 men for the start of the second period as Batlle sees out the remainder of his sin-bin period.
Tigers again frustrated on half-time
Tigers again threaten the Castres line but again Leicester lose possession, this time Mathieu Babillot strips Evans 5m out. And that is the last action of the half.
Urdapilleta completes the seven-point score with the conversion.
Number two for Combezou
The Castres forwards make the hard yards for Combezou to finish from close range for his second try of the game.
It's a free-for-all as Tigers set up the maul, with Castres forwards coming in from all angles. But it is Tigers' hooker Harry Thacker who gets pinged for holding on in the tackle two phases later.
No further action
In the same attack, Will Evans is pulled back off the ball as he runs a supporting line. But the referee takes no further action.
Yellow for Castres winger
Sam Harrison makes a brilliant break from a maul. He is stopped on the line. Armand Batlle lies all over the ball to prevent it being recycled and he sees yellow.
Castres back-rower Yannick Caballero rises high to pick off the lineout ball, and Castres find touch on their 22.
Tigers lineout drive
Tigers drive the Castres pack 8m back behind their line, where they pull it down. No penalty says referee Brace. The penalty does come for offside moments later, and another as Tigers play the advantage. Ford to the corner.
Bateman intercepts in his own half and gets Tigers moving forward. Ford kicks deep for Charlie Thacker to chase, but he is pinged for a high tackle on the Castres defender on his line.
The Castres fly-half lands the conversion to give Castres a 20-0 lead.
Castres make the most of their turnover. Florian Vialelle picks up a chip ahead and finds Thomas Combezou inside, who runs behind the posts for a try.
Handling errors from the Tigers
Again Tigers get into a good position and again handling lets them down. This time Harrison's inside pass goes to ground and possession is turned over.
Bateman chats to the ref
Tigers falling foul of referee Brace on a number of occasions, as Urdipalleta extends the Castres lead with a second penalty. Bateman asks for clarification from the ref before the game restarts.
Castres extend their lead
Urdapilleta lands an easy penalty for Tigers going offside to move Castres 10-0 ahead.
Tigers under pressure
Tigers come under pressure after spilling the ball again in contact. Castres pile forward and win the offside penalty in front of the posts.
Penalty to the Tigers
Tigers looked under pressure at the scrum, but it is reset, and they win the penalty for Joe Ford to find touch on the Castres 10m line.
Bateman back into the action
Wolf whistles around the stadium as Bateman changes into a fresh shirt. He packs down for the first scrum of the game.
Treatment for the skipper
Charlie Thacker charges down in the midfield but referee Andrew Brace rules it as a knock on. Scrum to come on a very soft pitch, but not before Bateman gets some treatment for a cut.
Tigers settle into the game with a period of possession that takes them into the Castres 22. However, Ryan spills possession in contact and the hosts hack clear,
Urdapilleta lands a simple conversion for the seven-point score. Castres lead 7-0.
Try for the hosts
It's a great start for Castres, and Urdapilleta, who hacks through loose ball and scores next to the posts in the opening minute.
Castres to kick-off
Castres No10 Benjamin Urdapilleta kicks-off. It's fielded by Harry Wells, as Tigers attack the end to our right.
Countdown to kick-off
The warm-ups are over at Stade Pierre-Fabre. Kick-off is moments away
The Castres Olympique team
Castres Olympique: 15 Geoffrey Palis, 14 Kylian Jaminet, 13 Thomas Combezou, 12 Florian Vialelle, 11 Armand Batlle, 10 Benjamin Urdapilleta, 9 Ludovic Radosavljevic; 1 Antoine Tichit, 2 Marc-Antoine Rallier, 3 Damien Tussac, 4 Alexandre Bias, 5 Thibault Lassalle, 6 Yannick Caballero, 7 Mathieu Babillot (c), 8 Alex Tulou Replacements: 16 Kevin Firmin, 17 Tudor Stroe, 18 Daniel Kotze, 19 Victor Moreaux, 20 Steve Mafi, 21 Yohan Domenech, 22 Yohan Le Bourhis, 23 Julien Dumora
The Tigers team
Tigers: 15 George Worth, 14 Tom Brady, 13 Matt Smith, 12 Charlie Thacker, 11 Adam Thompstone, 10 Joe Ford, 9 Sam Harrison; 1 Greg Bateman (c), 2 Harry Thacker, 3 Pat Cilliers, 4 Harry Wells, 5 Mike Fitzgerald, 6 Dominic Ryan, 7 Will Evans, 8 Valentino Mapapalangi Replacements: 16 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 17 Michele Rizzo, 18 Ben Betts, 19 Joe Maksymiw, 20 Brendon O’Connor, 21 Harry Simmons, 22 Mathew Tait, 23 Nick Malouf
The confirmed teams for this evening. Tigers welcome back Dominic Ryan, Tom Brady and Pat Cilliers after injury and Greg Bateman captains the side for the first time.
The rain is coming down in Castres as the teams go through their warm-ups. It's a still evening in southern France with temperatures of around 7C
Welcome to Stade Pierre-Fabre
The 12,500-capacity Stade Pierre-Fabre is the stage for Castres Olympique against Tigers in Round 5 of Europe's Champions Cup