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Two sides of the European coin

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Scanning the Tigers' social media feed this week, The Tig noted the photo of Tom Youngs celebrating his match-winning score in Montpellier from a couple of seasons ago. The club shared the image as a way of sending best wishes to cyclist Mark Cavendish who was among the favourites to win the day's Tour de France stage which climaxed just outside the Montpellier stadium.

Cavendish himself favourited the post, but sadly punctured just a few kilometres from the finish and missed the opportunity to match the Tigers’ success at the Altrad Stadium.
It was unfortunate because the finale of that Tigers win would have done Cavendish proud – braving the physical contest and defiantly staying in the frame until delivering a devastating blow in the last seconds. In the Tigers’ case this came via a last-minute try from Vereniki Goneva which gave Ryan Lamb the chance to win the game with the last kick.
Victory was memorable because European Cup wins in France do not come very often.
The importance of home form in French competition is acknowledged throughout the game. Underdogs like nothing more than showing that their bite is as bad as their bark when the big boys come to town. It is a phenomenon recognised by Tigers favourite Boris Stankovich from his days with Albi where the minnows hoisted the drawbridge and the welcome mat as soon as their visitors were dropped off in the car park.
Joining Youngs in celebrating his try in that photo this week are Julian Salvi and Louis Deacon, who is hardly a man noted for showing emotion but a veteran of trips to the likes of Pau and Perpignan in his younger years where visiting teams knew they’d be in for a tough night even before they set foot on the pitch.
As well as drawing some smiles at the memory, its publication this week did draw a negative comment about the club having a poor record in France.
It was, after all, a first win on French soil for some time and it has not been repeated since. But, looking it up in the history books, Tigers have won a third of their European Cup fixtures against French clubs in France.
That got The Tig thinking about when the boot is on the other foot and how few times we've seen French sides win at Welford Road. For this there is no need for a record book because they stick in the mind – Toulouse by a single point back in the early days, Stade Francais in the closing stages of Deano’s glorious reign, and Biarritz in 2004/05. And that’s it.
Since that Biarritz defeat, we’ve seen Clermont (three times), Stade Francais (three times including two quarter-finals), former European Cup kings Toulouse (twice), Perpignan (twice) and the then-European champions Toulon come and go, all beaten at the home of the Tigers.
Even in seasons where we have been unable to get out of the pool, we’ve cheered Tigers to home wins over French opposition of the top bracket. It seems to be a feature that – Bourgoin in 2006/07 excepted – Tigers can only draw in-form teams from France. Stade, however disappointing their domestic record last season, were defending Top 14 champions, while Perpignan and Montpellier have rarely matched the heights of the years in which they came to Leicester.
It is a ‘poor record’ that surely any club would gladly trade.
In a group featuring Racing 92, Glasgow and Munster, it may well be that Tigers have to win in France again in the new season, even if the team that await are the defending French champions, European Champions Cup runners-up and led from fly-half by superstar Dan Carter who will presumably be fully rested and recharged with two fully functioning knees once again.
That is the level of the competition in the Champions Cup. And that is why any and every victory should be celebrated fully.