Croft laments Leicester's lack of cunning after European exit

Leinster 17 Leicester 10

Whatever it was that enabled Leicester to dominate European competition a decade ago, it was not playing to the letter of the law. That turn-of-the-century team waged the physical battle to its limits and had a few hard-eyed so-and-so's led by Martin Johnson capable of getting the rest of the job done with mental resourcefulness.

Unfortunately there are only so many Johnsons to go around in a generation, or even a lifetime, and everyone from the kids waving blue Leinster banners at the renovated Lansdowne Road to the Dublin taxi drivers ferrying sad-eyed Tigers supporters to the airport yesterday morning had seen it in this Heineken Cup quarter-final. Leinster beat Leicester at their own game.

Tom Croft, the Leicester flanker, did not concede the point absolutely – after all, it goes to the core of what it means to be a Leicester player – but he went some way towards it after Isa Nacewa's 49th-minute try and Jonathan Sexton's four penalties knocked the champions of 2001 and 2002 out. Leinster's Kevin McLaughlin was a menace to Leicester in the line-out, jogging the arm of Ed Slater as one of four lost Tigers throws led, after a few phases and a missed touch kick by Ben Youngs, to Nacewa, the Leinster full-back, who scored.

Though Leicester gradually got to grips with the scrummage it was jolting to find that – as when England were beaten in their Grand Slam bid on the same ground three weeks previously – the Irish felt it was an area to attack in the formative minutes of the match.

"In the first 15 or 20 minutes we weren't as physical as we should have been at the breakdown," Croft said. "Sometimes we were trying to be good and go straight through the gate whereas they [Leinster] may have taken things from the side. It's something we need to learn."

Croft also said "it felt like a pretty decent game to watch", which certainly would not have interested Johnson when he was on the wrong end of a big result, or even the right end. The cumulative effect of these two Dublin defeats – it could be argued, of course, the results might have been different at Welford Road or Twickenham – was to question the cuteness and cussedness of Croft and his England club-mates Youngs, Toby Flood, Louis Deacon and Dan Cole. Each of them, at least, has a few years left in them to work it out.

Leinster had leaders aplenty. Brian O'Driscoll, though barely able to lift an arm in the tackle due to various bangs – some of them inflicted by the hugely promising Manu Tuilagi – bobbed and weaved as ever. Richardt Strauss was a ball of energy, and Sean O'Brien's never-say-die lunge put Alesana Tuilagi off just enough for the Leicester wing to hit the touchline in-goal as he dived for what would have been a valuable try two minutes into the second half.

If the score had stood Leicester might have led 10-9. Instead Nacewa, benefiting from another undetected forward pass, weaved 40 metres through the Leicester backs and it was 14-3.

Scorers: Leinster: Try Nacewa; Pens Sexton 4.

Leicester: Try Hawkins; Con Flood; Pen Flood.

Leinster I Nacewa; S Horgan (F McFadden, 75), B O'Driscoll, G D'Arcy, L Fitzgerald; J Sexton, E Reddan (I Boss, 58); C Healy (H van der Merwe, 77), R Strauss, M Ross, L Cullen (capt), N Hines, K McLaughlin (D Ryan, 67), S O'Brien, J Heaslip.

Leicester S Hamilton; H Agulla (M Smith, 77), M Tuilagi, A Allen, A Tuilagi; T Flood, B Youngs; B Stankovich (D Cole, 75), G Chuter (R Hawkins, 75), D Cole (M Castrogiovanni, 51), L Deacon (E Slater, 28), S Mafi, T Croft, C Newby (capt), J Crane (T Waldrom, 61).

Referee N Owens (Wales).

BUY RUGBY WORLD CUP TICKETS

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific