After what might be viewed as a dummy start to the season while 13 players were otherwise engaged in the World Cup, this was the first sighting of the Tigers proper, and an impressive one it was too. Cardiff Blues had plenty of possession but not enough ideas of what to do with it and Leicester, the EDF Energy Cup holders, replaced their opponents at the top of Group B with five tries to two, all in the second half.
There are still a couple of pieces to be added to Tigers' jigsaw: Marcelo Loffreda arrives tomorrow as the new head coach and England's Harry Ellis and George Chuter are out injured. But they have a useful platform now from which to launch in to the Heineken Cup against Leinster away next Saturday and Edinburgh the weekend after.
Frankly it was difficult to look at either Andy Goode at fly-half for Leicester or his full-back, Geordan Murphy, without laughing. The pair have taken charity fund-raising efforts for the wheelchair-bound former Tigers prop Matt Hampson – "Grow a Mo for Hambo" – literally on the chin with a pledge to grow facial hair throughout November. Murphy resembled an extra from a spaghetti western while Goode's artfully clipped look belonged more in a movie you might find on the top shelf in Amsterdam.
But where it counted, Goode and company were deadly serious. A penalty apiece by Blues' full-back Ben Blair and Goode had the scores level at 3-3 after 15 minutes. In between, Goode's no-look pass sent Martin Corry on a useful break but Ben Kay was whistled up for obstruction.
Blues might claim that had a few passes stuck they would have had a try or two before half-time. Tigers might counter that their defence, with the outstanding Corry leading the way, did the necessary. With less ball, Tigers' backs looked more threatening.
A couple of passes between Goode and Alex Tuilagi, then on to Tom Varndell, both looked forward but they took Leicester to the Blues 22 and a ruck penalty allowed Goode to make it 6-3.
Blues' fears that the scrum was a weak link in the previous week's 32-15 defeat of Sale appeared unfounded. With the hooker Gareth Williams in the sin-bin just before the interval – for playing the ball on the ground – the seven-man pack stood firm in the first scrum of the second half.
Cardiff's defensive dam burst twice, however, with Tigers extending their lead from 9-6 – Goode had kicked a penalty to punish Williams' offence – out to 21-6 with tries in the 44th and 48th minutes. Geordan Murphy's counter-attack on the left swept across the field until Goode's chip to the corner sat up nicely on the bounce for Varndell, who stepped inside Jamie Roberts and held off Tom James to score. Then the television match official Geoff Warren gave the thumbs-up to John Murphy, who latched on to another dab from Goode's right boot deep into the in-goal. There was doubt over whether Murphy a half-time substitute for Tuilagi, had scored, but it was given.
Goode limped off, flexing his right knee, soon after and the Blues, belatedly, made their pressure count with a burst by the prop John Yapp followed by captain Xavier Rush burrowing over from recycled possession. Blair's conversion cut Leicester's lead to eight points.
It did not last. From a Tigers line-out, a simple move in midfield with Goode's replacement, Paul Burke, crabbing across, sent Dan Hipkiss through on a straight angle, between Dai Flanagan and Rhys Williams in the now-rejigged Cardiff backline. Burke converted and did so again when Murphy got his second try from a fumble by Tom Shanklin.
When Gareth Thomas went off injured with eight minutes left, Blues had exhausted their bench and had to finish with 14 men. Their scrum fell apart on their line – Rush stuck a desperate foot in and referee Nigel Owens awarded a penalty try. The sight of a Welshman with the whistle trotting to the posts was Blues' confirmation – Blair's closing try and conversion notwithstanding – that this was emphatically not their day.
Leicester: G Murphy; T Varndell, D Hipkiss, S Rabeni, A Tuilagi (J Murphy, 40); A Goode (P Burke, 53), F Murphy (C Laussucq, 67); M Ayerza, B Kayser (M Davies, 64), J White (M Castrogiovanni, 50), L Deacon, B Kay (J Hamilton, 67), M Corry (capt), J Crane, L Moody (L Abraham, 70).
Cardiff Blues: B Blair; J Roberts, T Shanklin, G Thomas, T James (R Williams, 59); N Robinson (D Flanagan, 31), R Rees (J Spice, 49); J Yapp, G Williams (R Thomas, 70), T Filise (G Powell, 70), B Davies (R Sidoli, 57), P Tito, M Molitika (R Thomas, 41-49; S Morgan, 57), X Rush (capt), M Williams.
Referee: N Owens (Wales).Reuse content