Rugby Union: Leicester are left in shock


According to the rulebook, there are 28 laws governing the game of Rugby Union - about 27 too many in the view of most self-respecting prop forwards. Now there is a 29th; known as the Tigers' Principle, it dictates that class players produce their worst performances in unison to ensure maximum embarrassment.

How else to explain a Heineken European Cup final upset of such staggering proportions? It was no particular surprise that Brive, dark horses from the outset of the competition in October, should have left Cardiff Arms Park with the silverware, nor especially startling that the winning margin was so comprehensive.

When French sides blow as hot as Alain Penaud's multi-faceted outfit did on Saturday, a 28-9 hiding is almost a let-off for the opposition. But the manner of their victory was something else again.

Intelligently primed by their coaches, Laurent Seigne and Pierre Montlaur, they took on the Tigers in their most obvious areas of strength and expertise and rendered them impotent. As a result, Martin Johnson spent an entirely unproductive afternoon at the front of the line-out and Dean Richards lost more ground than he gained in the dark depths of the driving mauls.

You had to see it to believe it. Add to that the fact that Austin Healey's hitherto faultless cover tackle game went AWOL - on anything like a normal day, the feisty little scrum-half would have denied both Sebastien Viars and Gerald Fabre their crucial corner-flag tries - and you are looking at one bad day at the office.

Johnson's unusually docile display will not have encouraged the Lions selectors, who have pencilled him in as a main man for this summer's series in South Africa. Grant Ross, born in New Zealand but redeveloped by the same firm that built the Arc de Triomphe, gave Leicester's kingpin ball- winner a rough ride from first minute to last and with the equally aggressive Eric Allegret reducing Matt Poole to a 6ft 6in, 19st non-entity, the Tigers' supply line was cut off at source.

Seigne admitted that he had worked overtime on the line-out phase - "you need to be a post-graduate to understand all the different calls," said Richard Crespy, the fast and effective French prop - and the Brive tactics left Bob Dwyer, the Tigers coach, some way short of amused.

"I am constantly reminded that one of the problems with my coaching technique is that I insist on playing within the laws," he said. "I keep on getting indications that it might not be an advantageous approach."

But Dwyer knows as well as anyone that one of the great arts of rugby is calculating exactly how much a referee will allow you to get away with.

Duncan Hall, the second Australian on Leicester's coaching panel, readily accepted that Brive got their sums right. "There was plenty going on at the line-out but we didn't have the sense to slow things down, widen the gaps and give the referee the opportunity to check it out. We weren't clever enough."

Besides, there was more to the Tigers' demise than a line-out misfire. Gregori Kacala and Loic van der Linden were so superior in all phases of the loose exchanges that not even a torrent of Leicester possession would have been a guarantee of progress.

Kacala's very passable impersonation of the Matterhorn on legs has sent a number of leading British clubs rifling through the bottom drawer in search of a new chequebook - Cardiff have already spoken to the shipyard- sized Pole from Gdansk - and the way he turned over Richards, John Wells and Neil Back at will on Saturday more than justified the interest.

And then there were the Brive backs, a thoroughbred band of bold, adventurous musketeers, their act sharpened not only by withering pace but by the confidence to use it. Penaud was majestic at outside-half, David Venditti a constant danger in midfield, Viars supreme as an attacking full-back.

Leicester, almost pedestrian by comparison, saw their hard-earned reputation as the best defensive side in Britain torn to ribbons as Sebastien Carrat, a 10.38 man over 100 metres, topped and tailed them with two sprinter's tries in the last quarter.

Having spotted Jean-Claude Skrela, the French national coach, in the stand, Montlaur could not resist a loaded comment. "I just hope he takes notice of what he saw out there," he snapped, and his sentiments won immediate support from the beaten Richards. "The game was close to Test standard and I honestly believe Brive would fare very well against some international sides," said the chastened Deano, for whom the physical wounds of battle were as nothing compared to the anguish of defeat.

"To be honest with you, this has come as a bit of a shock to us all," he admitted. "Some of the things that happened to us out there...well, we're just not used to them. We're going to have to regroup and come out fighting in the two competitions that are still there to be won."

It was, however, the Heineken that Leicester cared most deeply about. On Saturday, they came up against a wonderfully gifted and extraordinarily disciplined side who cared that little bit more.

Leicester: Penalties J Liley 3. Brive: Tries Carrat 2, Viars, Fabre; Conversion Lamaison; Penalty Lamaison; Drop goal Lamaison.

Leicester: J Liley; S Hackney, S Potter, W Greenwood, R Underwood (L Lloyd, 74); R Liley, A Healey; G Rowntree, R Cockerill, D Garforth, M Johnson, M Poole, J Wells, D Richards (capt; E Miller, 67), N Back.

Brive: S Viars; G Fabre, D Venditti, C Lamaison, S Carrat; A Penaud (capt; R Paillat, 71), P Carbonneau; D Casadei (E Bouti, 72), L Travers, R Crespy, E Allegret (A Rees, 67), G Ross, L van der Linden (Y Domi, 79), F Duboisset (T Labrousse, 59), G Kacala.

Referee: D Bevan (Wales).


Actress sees off speculation about her appearance in an amazing way

Arts and Entertainment
Serge Pizzorno of Kasabian and Noel Fielding backstage at the Teenage Cancer Trust concerts
musicKasabian and Noel Fielding attack 'boring' musicians
peopleLynda Bellingham's tragic final Loose Women appearance moves audience to tears
Arts and Entertainment
'Right Here' singer Jess Glynne is nominated for Best Newcomer at the MOBO Awards 2014
musicExclusive: Jess Glynne hits out at 'ridiculous' criticism of white artists nominated for Mobo Awards
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Separated at birth? Frank Sivero (left) claims The Simpsons based Mafia character Louie on his Goodfellas character
arts + entsFrank Sivero sues Simpsons studio over allegedly basing mobster character on Frank Carbone
Carl Bernstein (left) and Bob Woodward (right) with former 'Washington Post' executive editor Ben Bradlee

The Washington Post editor helped Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein bring down President Nixon


Stephanie first after her public appearance as a woman at Rad Fest 2014

Arts and Entertainment
Laura Wood, winner of the Montegrappa Scholastic Prize for New Children’s Writing

Children's bookseller wins The Independent's new author search

Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

IT Teacher

£22000 - £32000 per annum + TLR: Randstad Education Southampton: Our client is...

Database Administrator

£300 - £350 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: The role could involve w...

Science Teacher

£21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Qualified secondary s...

Deputy Head of Science

£22000 - £36000 per annum + MPR / UPR: Randstad Education Southampton: Our cli...

Day In a Page

Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
12 best children's shoes

Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London