Stade play hardball to tame Tigers as Big Ben turns back the clock

Stade Français 12 Leicester 6
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Healey was a second-half replacement for Harry Ellis who got hammered after delivering a pass and was never the same player again. He could not wait to get rid of it and barely looked at the recipient. Ellis is in the England squad, along with Matt Dawson and Peter Richards, but he is not looking good.

In the badlands of the Midlands in the new year Leicester will give as good as they got here where Stade Français played hardball and nothing but. After losing to a huge defensive action against the Ospreys in Swansea last weekend, Stade, beaten finalists to Toulouse in the Heineken Cup at Murrayfield last season, did what they had to do. They won a macho encounter by four penalties to two and 20,000 spectators, the vast majority waving blue flags, reacted as if they had lifted the Cup itself. The pink jerseys of last week had been replaced by a more traditional colour.

Lewis Moody, the Tigers' Lions and England flanker, gave as good as he got and he got plenty. In between several lectures, he was on the receiving end of a head-butt in the first half and a poke in the eye in the second. His contact lens needed rearranging.

Leicester have a couple of days in which to decide whether to cite one or two French miscreants, but, probably, they will not.

The Tigers' Australian coach, Pat Howard, does not agree with the system and as such the club is a cite-free zone. Even so, Howard could get into a spot of bother for declaring after this dire encounter that the Irish referee, Donal Courtney, "wasn't up to it." If that is so, he was not alone. There were about 30 players who were nowhere near up to speed.

If there was a touch of irony, and this game lacked almost everything else, it arrived when Ben Kay was told to leap around like a salmon in the second half because the Leicester lineout, usually as reliable as the Alliance and Leicester, was falling apart at the seams.

It was not just the fault of Big Ben that, in this one-dimensional, cynical encounter, it looked as if the clock was being turned back. No sooner had Ben appeared than he lost a lineout and then picked up a yellow card. Old habits die hard. The sin-bin was a second home for Martin Johnson, Kay's ex-partner.

Stade have a huge budget, but their taste is questionable. The scrum-half Jerome Fillol kicked four penalties and was named man of the match. Whoever arrived at that decision needs new contact lenses.

Stade Français: Penalties Fillol 4. Leicester: Penalties Goode 2.

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).