Leicester's faltering European journey came to an undistinguished end at a packed Welford Road last night, kicked out of the tournament by the boot of Diego Dominguez, and lacking the craft or guile to break down an implacable French defence.
Stade, who are hardly making waves in the French championship, bottled up the Leicester midfield so completely that the Tigers never got close to scoring a try to add to their two first-half touchdowns.
For Stade, whose work-rate was never less than exceptional, Patrick Tabacco and Christophe Moni won the battle of the back rows, while Brian Liebenberg and Stéphane Glas let nothing much past them.
Leicester did not make it any easier for themselves by starting without a recognised goal-kicker, and the Stade coach, Nick Mallett, recognised as much. "Without a top-class goal-kicker, it's very difficult to win matches like this," he said after his side advanced to the quarter-finals in April.
In the first half Leicester passed up a total of 13 points. Against a side containing the dead-eye Dominguez, this was bordering on suicide.
Dominguez banged over two early penalties and then converted David Auradou's try on the stroke of half-time. Leicester may have been ahead on tries, but - oh, dear - those missed chances. The first Tigers try was claimed after Steve Booth and Freddie Tuilagi swept 80 metres upfield for the scrum-half, Harry Ellis, to cross.
The second came from a remarkable piece of skill by Jaco van der Westhuyzen, whose chip ahead looked as if it would end in touch. But the South African plucked the ball out of the air to put Ollie Smith over for a sensational try.
By then, Leicester were on their third kicker. Booth failed with one conversion, Luke Myring missed the next, and Van der Westhuyzen fluffed a drop at goal, having also missed a penalty. So instead of turning round with a seven-point advantage, they were trailing 10-13. It was not to get any better.
Van der Westhuyzen struck a penalty, but Dominguez hit two more and when Ramiro Pez mis-hit his only chance, Leicester knew the game was up. And when Dominguez intercepted Henry Tuilagi's pass just before the final whistle for a stunning try, it was.
Leicester: Tries Ellis, Smith; Penalties Van der Westhuyzen. Stade Français: Tries Auradou, Dominguez; Conversions Dominguez 2; Penalties Dominguez 4.
Leicester: S Booth (L Myring, 20); O Smith, G Gelderbloom, L Lloyd, F Tuilagi; J van der Westhuyzen, H Ellis; G Rowntree, D West, D Morris, M Johnson, B Kay, W Johnson, N Back (capt), H Tuilagi (M Corry, 67).
Stade Français: I Corleto; J-M Hernandez, S Glas, B Liebenberg, D Dominguez; A Pichot, S Marconnet; M Blin, P de Villiers, A Marchois, D Auradou (capt), Marchois, C Moni, P Tabacco, P Rabadan.
Referee: A Rolland (Ireland).Reuse content