Almost 20 years on, The Tig emotions were still in tatters watching the 2001 European Cup Final replayed footage on BT Sport last Sunday afternoon.
Easter Sunday, with the sun shining and nowhere to go, the perfect afternoon to put the paws up and watch, with the added alternative commentary from BT’s Nick Mullins and Austin Healey.
Healey was there to put the key moments of the game into context, reliving the experience from first-hand experience – and to criticise his TV colleague Ben Kay at any opportunity. No doubt Ben will have been working on a response for this weekend, even though the replayed ‘live’ games are the 2007 Premiership Final and the dramatic European Cup semi-final of 2009 when ‘The Leicester Lip’ had already retired.
Austin won the Man-of-the-Match award in Paris, starting in the 9 shirt and finishing at fly-half, but The Tig was also so impressed (again) by Neil Back at the coalface throughout that frantic 80 minutes in the heat of the Parc des Princes and of the hero of the hour, Leon Lloyd.
It was Bob Dwyer who had made the original call to push Leon into the limelight, at the expense of the legendary Rory Underwood, and he became a real favourite.
Thinking back, without even checking the footage, The Tig automatically thinks of Leon’s smiling face, the armguard and the second-best ‘shhhh’ at Welford Road (with respect to both him and Tudor Thomas). You think of the outside breaks, the tries and also of a tough nut in the backline. Lloydy was not a man for taking a backward step.
There are three tries for Tigers in the Paris final and Lloyd is key to all of them. For the opener, he scores in the corner after showing great anticipation, touch and acceleration to dot down from Geordan Murphy’s run on the right; for the second he makes a break from 22 to 22 which brings a penalty and a position for Backy to finish from close range, “the forgotten try” the flanker called it last week; then… then there’s the winning try.
Austin, playing on one knee and with the added inconvenience of Darren Garforth landing on the delicate one early in the second half, makes THAT break before drawing the defence and timing the pass to perfection. Lloyd arrives on his outside and shows his strength to finish just as the full-back makes a tackle around his shoulders. (Incidentally, if you watched, how many tackles in the whole game were that high?)
It was a crowning moment in Lloyd’s career and, of course, in Tigers history. And it was well worth watching again, even if the replayed footage brought flashbacks to the nerves and emotions of that famous day in the sun and The Tig still found it difficult to accept the day had been won until the final whsitle confirmed it, all of 19 years on from the original.
- The flashback Tigers fixtufes this Sunday on BT Sport 3 are the 2007 Premiership Final against Gloucester (4.00pm) and 2009 Heineken Cup semi-final against Cardiff Blues (5.30pm).