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Top scores are triumph of belief and ability

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Two Tigers scores made it on to the shortlist for Try of the Season in the Aviva Premiership and it is fascinating to see in how many ways they contrast.

One at home, one away; one by a forward, one by a back; one from a homegrown talent, one from overseas import; one solo effort, one team try. Both, though, were identified by judges as among the best half-dozen of the season.
The first, and the eventual winner at the glittering annual awards this week, was a score from halfway. In a local derby at Franklin’s Gardens. By a hooker.
Harry Thacker may use the rugby equivalent of Alan Shearer’s “The ball’s come over and I’ve hit it and it’s went in” as he play down the quality of the try – “I got it and ran… and scored” – but his modesty does a disservice to his abilities and his vision, which combined with Vereniki Goneva’s support play to provide the two-on-one chance to beat the last defender and thrill this section of the East Midlands.
It was a worthy winner of the annual award. And that is even before the added bonus of the derby factor.
The other nominated score, by Peter Betham, provided one of the highlights of the Welford Road season.
The touchdown starts with a lineout steal and involves four forwards before the backs apply the finishing power.
First, Dom Barrow stretches out a long arm to scoop ball away from Gloucester’s grasp on their own throw on the Tigers’ left wing, then Marcos Ayerza reacts instantly to the turnover and pops a neat but unorthodox pass to Greg Bateman. He, in turn, finds Thacker in midfield and the young hooker, by that stage playing at openside flanker, throws a big pass out to Manu Tuilagi. From there, Manu shows the best side of his game, combining power with the finesse of the offload for Betham’s supporting run and the Aussie international races clear to score in the right-hand corner.
Sweeping, swift and decisive, it is an advert for cohesion and execution. And how we loved it.
The contrasting styles are part of the beauty of the game. Not only the players, but tries too come in all shapes and sizes.