Leicester Tigers got off to the perfect start in their Fours Premiership campaign, recording a perfect record of four wins out of four over an intense weekend of competition.
The Premiership’s opening weekend at the Concord Stadium in Sheffield, has seen Tigers top the league thus far, with two tournaments remaining and everything still to play for.
Saturday June 3 was the first day of action and also saw the debut of French International, and the club's new signing, Sebastian Verdin, bolstering an already competitive side.
The team started incredibly strongly, recording a huge first win by a score of 64 - 32 against the Sea Hawks. They gave their opposition no chance, taking an early lead and continuing to dominate the game allowing valuable court time for newer stars like development player Lawrence Ball.
Next up was the West Coast Crash. The team from the North-West were going into this match with no Stuart Robinson MBE (a key figure for the GB Olympic winning team and Captain across several Invictus Games) however, the team were still able to field an eight point line-up full of function and experience.
Tigers needed experience on the court against such experienced opposition, going into the game with a line of just seven points that included new signing Verdin as well as recent GB Euro silver-medallists Nick Cummins, Kieran Flynn and Jack Smith.
A nip and tuck encounter, the game stayed tight up until half time where Team Manager Rob Tarr tweaked the offence and, in defence, the players found a way to pressure their inbound and exploit their superior height. A hard-fought game ended 57-44, Tigers second win of the day.
Sunday’s games saw the return of Paralympic gold medallist Jamie Stead OBE to the fold. Fresh off helping GB wheelchair rugby to a silver medal in Euro 2023, Stead’s return was extremely timely, with Tigers going into a crunch clash with London Storm.
The southerners featured an all-star side that included two Paralympic Gold Medallists in the forms of Aaron Phipps MBE, who also happens to be the first British disabled man to climb Mount Kilimanjaro and Jonathan Coggan MBE, best in class at the 2006 World Championships and considered by many as the best 0.5 in the world. Tigers responded in kind, fielding a quality team themselves; a full 8 point line-up featuring Verdin, Stead, Flynn and Smith.
London Storm had the ability and experience to space the court very well and, combined with the speed and intensity of Phipps, posed a difficult riddle for Tigers to solve. The game was high drama and stayed tight throughout Tigers only finding breathing room deep into the second half, managing to pull away and maintain their lead, the score eventually finishing 53 - 46, the closest scoreline thus far.
Buoyed by an excellent result, the team were brimming with confidence going into the final game of the day against Northern Alliance, which was expected to pose less trouble than the previous matchup. The team established themselves early, getting off to a strong start and holding the lead making use of the full squad, ending at a final score of 62 - 40.
When asked about the success' of the weekend, coach Darren Matthews said "Everyone played above their best and beyond. A debuting Seb Verdin was exceptional and allowed us to play with a high intensity. We were also able to use the whole bench and give valuable court time and experience to developing players. I want to personally give a big shout out to Jack Smith who absolutely deserves a mention for pushing his abilities to the max throughout both days of competition".
Tigers end the weekend on top of the league, but, with two tournaments still to be played, it’s still very much all to play for.