Meyer is away but Tigers home in on the last eight

Leicester 52 Benetton Treviso 0
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The Independent Online

This was the Heineken Cup without Heyneke Meyer, the Leicester head coach who is still on compassionate leave at home in South Africa, but the Tigers did fine without him, yesterday at least. Their trip to face the Ospreys on Saturday will be a hugely different task, but Leicester will go to Swansea as marginal favourites to win Pool Three and with the chance of securing a home quarter-final.

What part, if any, Meyer will play in that or the rest of the season remains up in the air. The former Blue Bulls coach, who is at home in Pretoria with his wife and her terminally ill parents, is being given more time to decide whether he will come back.

"He [Meyer] is anxious to return," wrote Leicester's chief executive, Peter Wheeler, in the programme. Wheeler and his board were once bitten when they hired Marcelo Loffreda in 2007, only to sack the Argentinian after seven months, and they appear prepared to be twice shy over Meyer, Loffreda's successor last summer, as there is a three-week break after the Ospreys match before Leicester face Wasps in the Premiership. After six head coaches in as many seasons – Dean Richards, John Wells, Pat Howard, Loffreda, Meyer and Richard Cockerill twice as caretaker – further disruption would surely be unwelcome. The establishment of a new South African franchise in the Eastern Cape has not helped, as the rumour-mongers have identified a ready-made job should Meyer wish to stay put.

Cockerill spoke to Meyer on Friday and exchanged text messages yesterday morning, and the mobiles would have been glowing red-hot in a first half in which Tigers collected six tries. The bonus point was gained in the 26th minute when the lively scrum-half Ben Youngs sniped through a gap and Aaron Mauger followed up to score. The Kiwi wing Scott Hamilton had helped himself to the first two, and a penalty try against a splintered Treviso scrum told its own tale. Treviso's loosehead and captain, Franco Sbaraglini, limped off after 29 minutes. The poor bloke looked like he had been chewed up and spat out by Julian White and friends.

Matt Smith, the Leicester wing enjoying a fine debut senior season, and Mauger again went over, and Toby Flood converted six times, including Geordan Murphy's second-half opener after 48 minutes. With Flood there is something in his distribution and choice of options which gets the watcher on the edge of his seat; with nervousness as much as excitement.

Treviso's future could be in the Magners League: the Italian Federation are lobbying for either four clubs or two "superteams" to join the Celts, possibly next season. They want more Italian-qualified players at home and to raise standards. The sooner the better, on this evidence. Only Treviso's lime-green jerseys will linger in the memory and their injured England centre, Fraser Waters, was among a handful of absent front-liners. They were off the pace in every facet except the line-out.

Treviso brought on the Italy fly-half, Andrea Marcato, in the second half; he and Flood could be face to face at Twickenham on 7 February but Flood went off two minutes later after a mild back spasm. It was a match made for another England player, Tom Croft, to show his considerable pace and the flanker obliged with charge-downs, kick-chases, tackles and supporting runs. Johne Murphyreplaced his namesake Geordan and was next over from a playbook backs move in which Hamilton did a lot of the spadework. It was 52-0 after 55 minutes and it stayed that way.

There might have been other tries, of course. Youngs lost the ball in a tackle close to the line and had another effort chalked off; Johne Murphy hacked too far when chasing Jordan Crane's boot into the Treviso half. How Tigers' supporters chuckled; they could afford to. Down in French Catalonia, a goal-kickercalled Meyer was helping Perpignan to victory against the Ospreys. Funny old game.

Leicester: G Murphy (J Murphy, 53); M Smith,S Rabeni, A Mauger (capt; S Harrison, 57), SHamilton; T Flood (D Hougaard, 49), B Youngs; M Castrogiovanni, G Chuter (B Kayser, 46), J White (B Stankovich, 46), M Wentzel (M Corry, 70), B Kay, T Croft, J Crane, B Woods (B Deacon, 53).

Benetton Treviso: B Williams; A Vilk, M Horak (A Marcato, 47), M Neethling, E Galon; M Goosen (S Orlando, 79), T Botes (A Lucchese, 75); F Sbaraglini (capt; A Ceccato, 29), D Vidal, P Di Santo (R Barbieri, 52), A Pavanello (M Filippucci, 58),C van Zyl, M Gilbride, D Kingi, H Louw.

Referee: P Gauzere (France).

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