Leicester 32 Bristol 14: Loffreda's Tigers all shook up over play-off hopes
When a post-match ale at Welford Road is accompanied by the Leicester Tigers' resident Elvis impersonator – complete with black wig, spangly flares and portable hi-fi – it is impossible to ignore a punning song title or two. So, Marcelo Loffreda, the Tigers' head coach, after a mixed set of results in your first season at the club are you surrounded by "Suspicious Minds", or would you prefer "A Little Less Conversation" and a little more action?
Leicester's directors are not standing still. Peter Wheeler, the chief executive, was sporting a healthy tan after a trip not to Las Vegas but to Australia. In the past such mid-season jaunts have unearthed new players and coaches, and Leicester are thought to be seeking a new backs coach. Wheeler returned on Saturday morning, just in time to see the Tigers put five tries past Bristol, who had given five players the rest of the season off.
Leicester are desperate to extend their campaign. To have a chance of retaining their Premiership title in the play-offs they are likely to need to beat Newcastle away and Harlequins at home and have results go favourably elsewhere. "World Cup years can be difficult," said Peter Tom, the Leicester chairman, recalling no doubt Leicester's sixth and fifth-placed finishes in 2003 and 2004, the seasons before and after England's triumph in Australia, though they were champions in 1999-2000 after the previous global gathering. "For the coach, it is not just about handling the team, but handling the players who are not in the team."
Tom received dozens of complaining emails and letters from fans after the previous week's EDF Energy Cup final defeat by the Ospreys at Twickenham. And he had bad news on the fly-half front. "Juan Martin Hernandez has another year on his contract at Stade Français and I think he will stay there," Tom said, implying that an agreement for the Argentina No 10 to join his compatriot, Loffreda, had been revised. However Craig Newby, the Highlanders captain and a former All Black flanker, is reportedly on his way.
It was never ideal for Loffreda to arrive last November, post-World Cup. His Pumas prospered in France with a kicking fly-half and a territorial game but it has not translated easily to the Tigers' European, Anglo-Welsh and domestic schedule.
"Marcelo has his style of play that he likes and we're trying to fit into that and get the right players on the field," said Geordan Murphy, the full-back. "Every new coach at Leicester has found it difficult, and Marcelo was thrown in at the deep end. I see us getting better when every one is fit."
Leicester: Tries Mauger, Herring, Varndell, penalty, Goode; Conversions Goode 2; Penalty Goode. Bristol: Tries Perry, Beveridge; Conversions Barnes 2.
Leicester: G Murphy (I Humphreys, 63); T Varndell, D Hipkiss, A Mauger (A Erinle, 59), A Tuilagi; A Goode, H Ellis (F Murphy, 72); M Castrogiovanni (M Ayerza, 68), M Davies (B Kayser, 73), J White, M Corry (capt), B Kay (R Blaze, 70), T Croft, J Crane, B Herring (B Deacon, 66).
Bristol: L Arscott; L Robinson, N Brew, L Eves, D Lemi; E Barnes (J Strange, 70), S Perry (capt; G Beveridge, 70); A Clarke (R Hogan, 70), S Linklater, P Bracken, M Sambucetti, S Hohneck (N Budgett, 59), I Grieve (R Prosser, 63), D Ward-Smith, A Blowers (A To'oala, 53).
Referee: D Richards (Berkshire).
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