Fillol the enforcer as Stade opt for power play
Stade Français 12 Leicester 6
Sunday 30 October 2005
This was not as big a setback for Leicester, the pride of England, as it was for the Hein-eken Cup, which is supposed to be the flagship of European rugby. It was like a throwback to the bad old days, four penalties to two and tries rarer than the teeth of a cockerel diagnosed with avian flu.
Stade, beaten finalists last season to Toulouse, were tackled to distraction last weekend when they opened with a shocking defeat to the Ospreys in Swansea. Even then they managed to score a try. Here they couldn't be bothered with such niceties. They shoved the ball under the jerseys of their formidable pack and relied on the boot of their scrum-half Jerome Fillol to kick them into the winner's enclosure. Whether they can stay there is another matter.
This was not entirely a lost cause for Leicester, even though they never looked like the side who had lifted the Heineken Cup on two occasions, once in Paris against none other than Stade in a 64-point thriller. This rematch was quite the reverse. Despite coming off second best in a mauling, galling apology of a game, the Tigers went home with a bonus point which keeps them at the top of their group.
Stade were at their most bloody-minded and that, almost inevitably, resulted in the vanquished declaring: "J'accuse!" Pointing the finger, which is probably not the right thing to say under the circumstances, was the Tigers, Lions and England flanker Lewis Moody. In the first half he was on the receiving end of a head-butt from Dimitri Szarzewski, and in the second took a poke in the eye. If Leicester want to cite a case for gouging, the repercussions for Stade could be serious. "That sort of thing drives me loopy," said Moody, who had to replace a contact lens, if not an iris.
Pat Howard, the Leicester coach, said that the referee, Donal Courtney, "wasn't up to it". Neither were Leicester.
The Tigers could accuse Stade of being one-dimensional but they would be found guilty of exactly the same charge. "Our target was to get nine points from our first two matches," Martin Corry, the Leicester captain, said, "so in that regard we failed. We set very high standards for ourselves and every time we fall below them it hurts like hell."
Looking at the video of this will be a painful experience. For some strange reason Stade prefer to have Fillol at scrum-half instead of Agustin Pichot. Fillol's passing was reminiscent of a Barnes Wallis bomb and his kicking was even worse. Presented with his first kick at goal after 10 seconds he made a complete balls of it, and 10 minutes later, with an even easier shot, he made an even bigger balls of it. Stade used to have a goal-kicker by the name of Diego Dominguez and he never missed, from whatever distance.
But then the Stade forwards proceeded to present Fillol with so many opportunities that he had to succeed, if only by the law of averages.
Leicester were already groggy - Ollie Smith had been taken out off the ball and Harry Ellis positively crunched after delivering a pass - when Fillol kicked the first of his penalties. Andy Goode made it 3-3 before the end of a desperate first half after Leo Cullen was smashed out of a line-out. Ellis, his confidence shot to pieces, was replaced in the second half and the Tigers, their line-out in disarray, sent on the Lion Ben Kay for James Hamilton. That didn't work either.
No sooner had Kay appeared than Leicester lost a line-out, presenting Stade with the chance to attack. The result was Daryl Gibson being laid out when attempting to stem the Stade front row and another penalty for Fillol, who went on to fill his boots. Goode got one back, Kay got a yellow card for impeding French possession, and in the death throes Leicester could have stolen it but for the full-back Geordan Murphy's chip being read by his opposite number, Olivier Sarramea.
Asked what he thought of this match, Andy Robinson, the England coach, could not find a suitable word. Instead, he laughed his head off. Thank goodness it wasn't raining.
Stade Français: O Sarramea; L Borges, G Messina, B Liebenberg, M Bergamasco; A Penaud, J Fillol; R Roncero, D Szarzewski, P de Villiers (capt), A Marchois (P Rabadan, 79), M James, S Parisse, S Sowerby, R Martin.
Leicester: G Murphy; A Tuilagi, O Smith, D Gibson (D Hipkiss, 58), T Varndell; A Goode, H Ellis (A Healey, 61); A Moreno, G Chuter, D Morris, J Hamilton (B Kay, 52), L Cullen, L Moody, M Corry (capt), S Jennings (W Johnson, 75).
Referee: D Courtney (Ireland).
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