Crane cranks up Leicester attack in readiness for Leinster battle

Leicester 62 Treviso 15
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The Independent Online

Leicester's qualification for a 10th Heineken Cup quarter-final in the last 14 years was never in doubt, but the Tigers must travel to play Leinster in Dublin after Perpignan registered a bonus-point win over Scarlets.

In that respect, drawing at home against the French club shortly before Christmas has cost Leicester dearly, although on this sort of form no club will relish facing Richard Cockerill's side, as Jordan Crane, whose hat-trick was the highlight of an utterly dominant forward display, pointed out.

"After the draw we thought it would end up this way, and were prepared for it," Crane said. "It won't be easy, but we know we are good enough to go anywhere and beat anyone. I don't think too many teams will have wanted to play us."

All went swimmingly for Treviso for the first five minutes, during which they took the lead through Kris Burton's drop goal.

Thereafter the home forwards got on top and stayed there; the only question thereafter was how many times the Tigers would cross the line.

What did concern Cockerill, however, is how many of his squad will be fit and available by the time the quarter-final comes around in early April. The issue of the salary cap – that applies in the UK, and does not apply in France – remains an active one. "We knew if we played anywhere like we know we can, we'd score the four tries we needed for a bonus-point win, we were running through them at will at the end, and we stuck to the task well. But we will have to play tough league games, there is the Six Nations, and we don't have the size of squad to rotate," said Cockerill.

"You look at the French sides this weekend, and they have the luxury of rotating their squads with some very good players. We can't do that, we just don't have the size and quality of squad the French have.

"I know I keep getting blamed for moaning about the salary cap issue, but it's not a complaint, it's a fact. We've played pretty much the same teams week-in, week-out to get to this point.

"But it's true that while you can have as a big a squad as you want, you can only have 15 blokes in the team. The strength of the bench, and the opportunity to rest guys, is the difficult bit. We're going to have five or six guys playing Test matches, and those guys won't be afforded a rest when they get back, they'll have to jump straight in and play Premiership and Heineken Cup games," Cockerill added.

Crane scored twice, and further tries from full-back Scott Hamilton and wing Alesana Tuilagi put Leicester 29-3 ahead at the break, and with two Treviso forwards already having been yellow-carded for spoiling acts born of desperation rather than malice, the prospect of an inevitable thrashing in the second half could not have been a pleasant one for the overmatched Italian side.

They had performed wonders in Italy in losing by only five points, but that was against a Tigers side without Crane, who duly completed his hat-trick before further scores by Thomas Waldrom, Hamilton, Manu Tuilagi and Steve Mafi completed the rout.

There was still time for a third Treviso yellow card when replacement Alberto Sgarbi, whose earlier juggling try had at teast taken the visitors' score into double figures, was cautioned as Leicester stand-off Flood completed a 17-point haul with the boot.

Leicester: Tries Crane (3), Hamilton (2), Waldrom, M Tuilagi, A Tuilagi, Mafi; Conversions Flood (7); Penalty Flood. Treviso: Tries Williams, Sgarbi; Conversion Burton; Drop goal Burton.

Leicester S Hamilton (J Staunton, 72); M Smith, M Tuilagi, A Allen, A Tuilagi (H Agulla, 51); T Flood, B Youngs (J Grindal, 74); D Cole (M Castrogiovanni, 74), G Chuter (R Hawkins, 51), M Ayerza (B Stankovich, 59), L Deacon (E Slater, 41), G Skivington, T Waldrom, C Newby, J Crane (S Mafi, 64).

Treviso B Williams; L Nitoglia (P Di Santo, 17-27), E Galon, G Garcia (A Sgarbi, 43), J Maddock; C Burton, F Semenzato; L Cittadini, L Ghiraldini (F Sbaraglini, 43), M Rizzo (I Fernandez Rouyet, 43), E Pavanello, C van Zyl (A Zanni, 43) B Vermaak, V Bernabo, P Derbyshire (A Pavanello 56).

Referee R Poite (France).

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