After an early wobble Leicester Tigers have got their season back on track thanks to back-to-back wins against Northampton & Gloucester.
Last Saturday Tigers defeated Gloucester 38-20 with two tries from Ollie Hassell-Collins, a pushover maul try from Julián Montoya & an opportunist effort from Solomone Kata to accompany 18 points from the boot of Handré Pollard. This meant Tigers retained the Slater Cup, named in honour of Ed Slater, the former captain of both clubs who was diagnosed with motor neurone disease in August 2022.
Tigers were fortunate to get the try bonus point on the final play following the ball squirting out the side of a defensive ruck, but had controlled the game over its course to well deserve their victory. Gloucester did draw within a point on 50 minutes, but Tigers struck back quickly and never looked in danger of losing their lead thereafter.
The last two weeks have seen Tigers get back to performing the basics of their game plan, with a better use of tactical kicking to control territory and a stiffer defence when the inevitable breaks do occur. After the defeat to Harlequins, head coach Dan McKellar bemoaned the lack of a breakdown turnover threat but that has been more than solved with the return of Tommy Reffell. The Welshman now leads the league in turnovers won despite missing 3 of the 7 games so far. He has been ably assisted by Jasper Wiese who has contributed with key turnovers of his own & Montoya, who is always a threat in defence.
The attack is still a work in progress, the two moves that saw Hassell-Collins’ scores were both sweetly executed but there were many examples of botched attacks too. Whether Tigers can create opportunities through swift handling rather than just brute force creating an overlap is still to be seen.
This Sunday we finish the opening stanza of league matches by welcoming Newcastle Falcons to Welford Road for the second time this season, the Geordies have already visited in the Premiership Cup. Newcastle are winless this season in the league & have only won two league games at Welford Road in 25 attempts. You wouldn’t fancy them to improve that record, particularly as Tigers will view their forwards as there for the taking. The Falcons have former Tigers fan favourite Matías Moroni in the centre, and he feeds dangerous outside backs with Adam Radwan, Matías Carreras & Iwan Stephens all capable of incredible individual finishes.
After the final whistle Tigers fans can stay around for a second match; the Women’s side host the first ever Leicestershire derby in any top-level sport, male or female, as the visitors are Loughborough Lightening. Both sides are yet to record their first win of the season, so this should a keenly fought battle for Bradgate Park bragging rights.
Words by Stuart Keene.
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