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Contrasting styles in European start

Alongside high-scoring home wins over Pau and Calvisano, there has been a real ‘old school’ feel to the Tigers’ two away wins in Europe this season.

In Round 2 a young team closed out an important win at the Arms Park in Cardiff where many of their illustrious predecessors had found tough resistance in the past.

Past players of a certain age still carry the bruises – both physical and metaphorical – from tours when Welsh ‘warriors and patriots’ turned up the warmth of the welcome a few notches whenever the English came into town.

The Blues were without some of their senior players, notably the ones who had just returned from World Cup duty, but the determination and sheer doggedness of the Tigers, plus a late try-saving – match-saving – tackle from teenager Sam Costelow ensured the points would be heading back over the border.

It was a genuine triumph of the spirit for that squad and one that Geordan and his staff hope will do them a world of good going forward.

A 20-13 victory in Calvisano last week didn’t look as heroic set against the Italian club’s struggle for points at this level, but in the conditions, with a much-changed team and on the back of a big win over the same opponents just a week earlier, it has its own value.

Tigers didn’t play their best rugby, or anywhere near it, but they scored three tries and took four points. The first score came after a minute’s play, the next about an hour later. Taking the positives, that shows a level of patience and composure to go alongside the belligerence in defence.

It was a good old ‘old school’ day too.

From its location outside of town, its isolated clubhouse, the roaring barbeque, busy bar and the single-sheet match programme, to watching players go through their warm-up on an adjacent pitch, it felt different to the bread-and-butter days of the rest of the season and no worse for it.

For The Tig it recalled an early trip to Treviso – the one when Heyneke Meyer was applauded across the field because he’d discarded his crutches required after he’d ruptured his Achilles – with a similar level of support as the crowd was dominated by the sights and sounds of Leicester.

Now the Blues return game could hold the key to the outcome of the pool and it will be an interesting encounter to kick off the new year in Europe.