Leicester Tigers went down to a first defeat in their pre-season programme, losing 26-10 against Benetton Rugby in a hot and humid Treviso on Friday evening.
It was a valuable work-out for an extended Tigers squad, with 32 players given game time as the countdown continues to the new Gallagher Premiership season.
Tigers had taken an early lead through Adam Thompstone’s third-minute try, but Benetton Rugby, who had a host of Italy internationals playing in front of national head coach Conor O’Shea, had too much on the evening.
Treviso scored four tries, three in the first half, including a brace for hooker Hame Faiva while their fourth was a penalty try as Tigers illegally stopped the maul that had caused them problems through the evening.
Internationals Kyle Eastmond and David Denton were given their first run-out in Tigers colours after joining the club in the summer.
Campese Ma’afu, Ross McMillan and Sam Aspland-Robinson, who also joined Tigers this summer, were also included in the squad which was captained by second-rower Mike Fitzgerald.
Telusa Veainu, Sam Harrison and Mike Williams were among the senior players who gained their first run-out of the summer on Friday.
Tigers flew out of the blocks with a try inside three minutes. Tigers had the advantage of a penalty in the Treviso 22 and Harrison’s kick sat up nicely for Thompstone to outjump Iliesa Ratuva and score. Hardwick landed the touchline conversion to give Tigers a 7-0 lead.
Harrison was heavily involved in the early stages and it was his tap-tackle on Luca Morisi that forced the centre into a knock-on with the line beckoning.
Treviso threatened again moments later. Their locks combined in midfield to take Treviso into the Leicester 22. Tigers infringe at the breakdown and, with the advantage, Tommasso Allan kicked in behind but Hardwick was aware and dotted down in-goal.
But Treviso did score from the lineout. The set-piece had not functioned to this point but hooker Faiva got it right 5m out before joining in the maul to score from close range. Allan converted to level the scores.
Hardwick, who played for England Under-20s in the summer, shrugged off the whistles after pointing to the posts with a penalty on halfway. He landed his kick to put Tigers 10-7 ahead.
But as the first quarter came to an end Treviso claimed the lead for the first time. Scrum-half Tito Tebaldi wrong-footed Mathew Tait with a dart from a maul to dot down. Allan converted as play stopped briefly for both teams to take on drinks in the heat and humidity.
Treviso had the better of proceedings after play resumed, and they caught Tigers napping with Tebaldi’s quickly-taken penalty. It created the overlap on the left for Faiva to score his second try, which went unconverted.
Tigers ended the half with 14 men, Tommy Reffell, the young flanker, received a yellow card for an off-the-ball tackle on Thomas Iannone as the Treviso centre chased a kick into the Leicester in-goal area.
Treviso looked to hammer home the position from a 5m scrum, but Tigers stood firm before Telusa Veainu forced Ratuva into a knock-on to signal half-time.
Tigers faced a stern examination in the opening stages of the second half as Treviso piled on the pressure.
Veainu’s tackle produced another knock-on by Ratuva but Tigers were under pressure at the resulting scrum, conceding a penalty. They infringed again at the lineout, but Treviso could not capitalise on numbers out wide as Jonah Holmes shut the door.
It was all hands to the pump in defence, but Reffell eased the pressure by forcing Ratuva into touch by the corner flag.
Reffell then won a turnover penalty to allow Joe Ford to find touch and give Tigers a foothold in the Treviso half.
But it was Treviso who were next to score, and again it came from their lineout drive. Tigers appeared to have driven the maul into touch, but illegally ruled the referee, who awarded the home side the penalty try.
Holmes threatened to score a consolation try late on when he swooped on loose ball and hacked on. However, he was unable to pounce on the loose ball and Treviso found touch on their 22.
Rugby returns to Welford Road
Tigers complete their preparations for the new Gallagher Premiership season next Friday when London Irish are the visitors to Welford Road. Kick-off is at 7.45pm. Match tickets are available. See you there.
Tigers look to score a consolation try at the end, but Joe Ford's kick through is read by the Treviso defence whokick to touch to signal full-time.
Treviso extend their lead
Treviso cause Tigers problems again at a 5m lineout. Tigers look to have driven the maul into touch by the corner flag, but illegally says the referee and awards the penalty try.
Harry Simmons replaces Ben White at scrum-half for the final 15 minutes.
Back row replacements
David Denton comes off after 65 minutes in his first appearance for Tigers. Mike Williams is also replaced. On come Henri Lavin and Thom Smith
Second-half drinks break
Tigers have defended resolutely in the third quarter to prevent Treviso adding to their score. Play has stopped for drinks.
Joe Ford's neat inside ball finds Holmes on a lovely line. He is stopped by the last man and Treviso funnel back to prevent the offload.
A sloppy passage of play with both sides turning over possession, ends with a scrum to Treviso as the referee rules Tigers knock-on in making a tackle.
Reffell announces himself back in the game with some good breakdown work that wins the penalty.Tigers can't make headway though, and kick out on the full to give Treviso back possession on halfway.
Front row replacements
Tigers ring the changes in the front row. Ross MacMillan, Joe Heyes and Facuno Gigena are on. Ben White replaces Harrison at scrum-half.
Tigers are back up to 15 players with the return of Reffell from the sin bin with no further additions to the score.
Tigers strong in defence
Tigers stand up well in defence to repel Treviso, with Veainu halting Ratavu before Nasi Manu knocked on.
Evening Micky Rizzo
Great to see Michele Rizzo at Stadio di Monigo watching his former teams Tigers and Treviso. Who does he want to win? "Rugby will be the winner," he said!
Second half coming up
The teams are back out for the second half. Treviso will kick off with Tigers attacking from right to left.
Super support from the Tigers Family
Thank you to the Tigers fans who have travelled to Treviso to be part of this pre-season fixture. Cheers to you all
Tigers see off a period of heavy Treviso pressure on their line, with Telusa Veainu's tackle on Ratuva forcing the knock-on to signal half-time.
Tigers down to 14 men
Tigers lost Tommy Reffell to the sin bin as the clock ticked past 40 minutes, the flanker guilty of tackling Thomas Iannone without the ball as he hunted a kick into the Tigers in-goal area
Familiar faces on and off
Former Tiger Riccardo Brugnara enters the fray as his former Leicester team-mate Tiziano Pasquali leaves.
Allan mishits his conversion horribly wide, as Treviso hold a 19-10 lead.
Treviso extend their lead
Tiger are caught napping by Tebaldi with a quick penalty. It creates the overlap on the left for Faiva to score his second try.
Allan lands the conversion with the final kick of the first quarter to give Treviso a 14-10 lead. And with the heat and humidity in Treviso, this pre-season fixture has stopped for a drinks break.
Second Treviso try
Scrum-half Tito Tebaldi wrong-footed Mat Tait as he darted down the side of a maul and dived over for Treviso's second try to give the home side the lead for the first time.
Tigers lead again
The home fans don't like Hardwick going for the posts with a penalty close to halfway. But the youngster ignores the whistles to land a big kick and put Tigers three points ahead.
Tommaso Allan lands the conversion from the left to bring the scores level.
Treviso are on the board with a try from their hooker Hame Faiva. Their lineout had misfired on the first couple of occasions but Faiva got it right 5m out, joined the maul and finished from close in.
A tap tackle by Harrison prevents an instant reply for the hosts, as it forces the knock-on just short of the Tigers line. Sprightly start to the game by the Tigers scrum-half.
Hardwick, starting at fly-half, lands the touchline conversion for the seven-point score.
Early Tigers try
Tigers land the first punch with a smart try by Adam Thompstone. Sam Harrison made the most of James Voss's break with a kick in behind the sat up for Adam Thompstone to catch and score.
Tom Hardwick gets us going at Stadio di Monigo, with Tigers attacking from left to right as we type.
Here come the teams
Warm applause around the main stand at Stadio di Monigo as the Tigers take to the field, led by captain Mike FItzgerald. Benetton Rugby follow close behind
Both teams have finished their warm-ups, not that they need much in these temperatures. But we reckon the mosquito count has rocketed since the sun went down and the floodlights took over
A word from the gaffer
Matt O'Connor has spoken to LTTV ahead of kick-off. Hear what the head coach has to say.
Tigers team news
A reminder of the Tigers team ahead of kick-off in a few minutes
It is a barmy evening as the sun sets in Treviso. The floodlights are on, temperatures are still around 28C and both sets of players will have to contend with thousands of mosquitos
This is the venue for this evening's fixture, the Stadio di Monigo. It is a setting familiar to Tigers after a number of visits in the Heineken Champions Cup in the past decade
Welcome to Treviso
Welcome to Treviso in the Veneto region of northern Italy for this evening's pre-season fixture against Benetton Rugby