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Tigers get European campaign off to winning start

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Leicester Tigers began their European Rugby Champions Cup campaign with a 25-18 victory over Ulster Rugby at Welford Road on Saturday night.

Tigers scored three first-half tries through Owen Williams, Graham Kitchener and Freddie Burns to get their European season off to a flying start at a rocking Welford Road.
 
But they had to withstand an Ulster fightback in the second-half, the Irish side scoring two tries of their own through Tommy Bowe and Franco van der Merwe to comeback from 19-3 down at the break to claim a losing bonus point.
 
Tigers made one change from the team that started the win over Quins last week, with Marcos Ayerza coming into the front row to join Leonardo Ghiraldini and Fraser Balmain. Michele Rizzo moved to the bench.
 
There was a cracking atmosphere to greet the two teams in the first European Rugby Champions Cup game to be played at Welford Road.
 
And it was Ulster who were given the first opportunity to put points on the board. Tigers claimed a penalty as Ben Youngs appeared to be impeded at a ruck but it was the hosts who were whistled for going off their feet. However, Paddy Jackson was off target with his kick from distance.
 
Ulster settled into the game with a period of possession on the Leicester 22. They were unable to find a way through the Tigers defence through no less than 23 phases before Ayerza was ruled to have come in at the side. Jackson landed the kick from in front of the posts to give Ulster a 3-0 lead.
 
Blaine Scully leaped above the Ulster defence to claim the restart and set Tigers on the attack for the first time. Williams’ pass to the right looked to have been deliberately knocked on but play continued before Youngs’ chip over the defence was touched down in goal by Louis Ludik for a drop out.
 
Tigers put together a series of phases themselves in the Ulster 22, but when Youngs tried to force the play his pass was intercepted and Ulster cleared.
 
Tigers kept up the pressure with Julian Salvi breaking down the right and Manu Tuilagi testing Ludik’s defence on the opposite flank. Tuilagi took a blow in the tackle and was replaced by Miles Benjamin while Tigers opted for a five metre lineout after winning a penalty at the ruck. 
 
It was a decision that was rewarded with the game's first try. Kitchener secured the lineout ball to give Tigers an attacking platform, the forwards drove on before Williams crashed over under the posts in a pile of bodies. Referee Romain Poite was well placed to award the try, Williams' first for Tigers, after consulting his television match official. Burns’ conversion gave Tigers a 7-3 lead after 16 minutes.
 
Benjamin was tackled in the air and without the ball by Tommy Bowe as he tried to collect Paul Marshall’s clearance. Tigers were awarded the penalty but Poite took no further action.
 
Tigers won a penalty at the game’s first scrum as the Ulster front row went down but Burns pushed his kick wide. Tigers led 7-3 midway through the half.
 
They extended that lead to 12-3 with a second try on 28 minutes. Ulster were in control of the ball at a maul on their 22, but Youngs read Marshall’s pass, caught it at the second attempt and passed inside for Kitchener to score.
 
Craig Gilroy took out Benjamin in the air at the restart and received a yellow card as Ulster ended the half with 14 men.
 
And Tigers took advantage with a third try moments later. Crane's drive took Leicester to within eight metres and quick ball allowed Burns to step off his right foot and past a couple of scrambling defenders to score his first try for Tigers.
 
Williams took over the kicking duties and landed the conversion to give Tigers a 19-3 lead.
 
It was all Tigers at this stage and they were agonisingly close to a fourth try with half-time approaching. Kitchener, Fraser Balmain and Scully all went close to scoring, before Ghiraldini burrowed over. However, Youngs' foot had gone into touch as he spun the pass away from the final ruck and the score was ruled out.
 
Kitchener stole the lineout to keep Tigers on the attack but good work by the Ulster defence won back possession on their 22 to ease the pressure as half-time approached.
 
There were no changes at the break and Gilroy finished his 10 minutes in the sin bin after 90 seconds of the second half.
 
Tigers had half a chance when Kitchener charged down Jackson’s kick but Ghiraldini knocked on the bouncing ball. However, Tigers won a penalty at the scrum as Ulster went offside and Williams extended the lead to 22-3.
 
Full-back Ludik evaded Benjamin’s tackle to launch an Ulster counter-attack that took the visitors from their own 22 into that of the Tigers. But Youngs stopped the run and Gibson collected his offload to ease the danger.
 
But Tigers infringed at a maul on their 22 and Jackson’s penalty gave Ulster their first points since the fourth minute.
 
A sweeping move off a lineout on halfway gave Ulster their first try and brought them back into the game. Smart hands gave Bowe room down the right and a quick exchange of passes with Jared Payne allowed the British & Irish Lion to score behind the posts. Jackson added the extras to leave Tigers 22-13 ahead midway through the second half.
 
Tigers steadied themselves by keeping hold of possession in the Ulster half and worked a position for Williams to drop at goal but his kick was narrowly wide.
 
Excellent work by Scully, Balmain and Kitchener then forced a knock-on. Tigers won the penalty as the Ulster scrum wheeled and Williams landed his kick to give Tigers a 25-13 lead with 17 minutes left.
 
Ulster piled forward again, going through phase after phase before Jackson’s inside pass created a gap for Gilroy. He was stopped by Burns on the line but second row Franco van der Merwe followed up to dive over. Gibson somehow charged down Jackson’s conversion as Tigers held a 25-18 lead heading into the final 10 minutes.
 
Tigers kept Ulster pinned deep in their own half by opting for touch with a couple of penalties inside the visitors’ 22. While Tigers were unable to make the position count in their hunt for a bonus-point fourth try, they ate away at the clock.
 
And when Ulster did threaten in the final  moments Tigers held firm, their defence forcing a knock-on to bring the game to an end.

Match Details

HT ScoreHalf Time Score

LEI 19-3 ULS

FT ScoreFull Time Score

LEI 25-18 ULS

Attendance

19,943

Referee

Romain Poite

Match Stats

Leicester Tigers
Ulster Rugby
Possession
50%
50%
Territory
50%
50%
Penalties Conceded
7
9
Yellow Cards
0
1
Red Cards
0
0
Tackles Won
137/149 92%
110/126 87%
Scrums Won
3/4 75%
3/4 75%
Lineouts Won
16/16 0%
11/11 0%

Player Stats

Leicester Tigers
Ulster Rugby
Leicester Tigers
TCDP
15
14
13Manu Tuilagi
121T1C2P
11
101T1C
9Ben Youngs
1Marcos Ayerza
2
3Fraser Balmain
4
5Graham Kitchener1T
6Jamie Gibson
7Julian Salvi
8
16Harry Thacker
17Michele Rizzo
18Tiziano Pasquali
19Sebastian De Chaves
20Robert Barbieri
21David Mele
22
23Miles Benjamin
Leicester Tigers
Leicester Tigers
25

Full Time

Ulster Rugby
Ulster Rugby
18

Tigers Lineup

Starting XV

14
12
11
10
Marcos Ayerza
1
Marcos Ayerza
2
Fraser Balmain
3
Fraser Balmain
4
Jamie Gibson
6
Jamie Gibson
Julian Salvi
7
Julian Salvi
8

Subs

Tiziano Pasquali
18
Tiziano Pasquali
Sebastian De Chaves
19
Sebastian De Chaves
Robert Barbieri
20
Robert Barbieri
David Mele
21
David Mele
Miles Benjamin
23
Miles Benjamin

Opposition Lineup

Starting XV

15
Louis Ludik
14
Tommy Bowe
13
Jared Payne
12
Stuart McCloskey
11
Craig Gilroy
10
Paddy Jackson
9
Paul Marshall
1
Andrew Warwick
2
3
4
Lewis Stevenson
5
6
Robbie Diack
7
8

Subs

16
Rob Herring
17
Callum Black
18
19
20
Roger Wilson
21
Michael Heaney
22
Stuart Olding
23
posteamteam namepldwdlfadifftftatblbpts
2
Leicester Tigers
Leicester TigersLEI6303108126-1812151013
3
Ulster Rugby
Ulster RugbyULS6204116146-3016153112
Form Guide
Form
WDWDD
Last Match
Draw with Bayonne null-null
Past Meeting
Lost 13-14
Form
Last Match
Past Meeting
Form
WWLWL
Last Match
Lost to Toulouse 8-36
Past Meeting
Won 14-13

Matchday Live

Leicester Tigers25
Leicester Tigers
Ulster Rugby18
Ulster Rugby
Full Time