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).

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
The teaser trailer has provoked more questions than answers
filmBut what is Bond's 'secret' that Moneypenny is talking about?
Johnny Depp is perhaps best known for his role as Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean
peopleBut how did he break it?
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Walker and Vin Diesel in Fast and Furious 5
Lewis Hamilton secured his second straight pole of the season
f1Vettel beats Rosberg into third after thunderstorm delays qualifying
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
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

Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist

£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A opportunity has arisen for a ...

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped commission: SThree: Does earning a 6 figu...

Recruitment Genius: SEO Executive

£18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss