It was no secret, however, that the French had taken a dim view of the conditions the day before the match and had shown little enthusiasm for playing the game. There is no doubt, too, that they were more discomfited by the perishingly cold temperature than were Leicester. There could have been no complaint, though, about the state of the pitch.
The Frenchmen's state of mind and their unwillingness to commit themselves totally to victory was in stark contrast to their opponents who, if not the liberated cavaliers of last week's victory over Harlequins, have added substantially to their repertoire in the past month.
The conditions alone dictated that the back to basics strategy was a sound one, particularly as Toulouse were unlikely to relish the grinding scrummaging and mauling which has become the trademark of this remorselessly efficient Leicester pack. But, yesterday, no opportunity was lost as the backs capitalised on the work of their forwards. Rob Liley and Will Greenwood, in tandem with the tireless Neil Back, played leading roles.
It was the combination of Greenwood and Back which split open the Toulouse defence for Leicester's second try and which, with better finishing, would have brought another try later in the game. On this occasion, however, after Liley and Greenwood had broken down the first line of the Toulouse defence and with Stuart Potter screaming up in support, Back couldn't quite get his pass away.
This is the kind of game, of course, in which Back flourishes and, after a spell in the wilderness, it is good to see his marvellous talents being given full expression. It was joyous to watch Leicester turn so quickly from defence to attack, this in spite of the fact that their defenders must have been salivating at the prospect of getting in amongst the opposition's fragile midfield. They were certainly given ample opportunities to make their imprint on the Toulouse back division. Christophe Deylaud, the Toulouse fly-half, is, on his day, the most exciting player in France. Yesterday he was unquestionably the most execrable in England. Quite apart from a bizarre goal-kicking technique in which he starts his run-up from in front of the ball and can therefore have not the slightest idea what the end result will be, his passing, kicking and handling were no better. Not that he was the lone villain.
It was from Thomas Castaignede's wild pass, thrown behind his winger David Berty, that Steve Hackney picked up the ball 70 yards out and sprinted upfield unopposed to score Leicester's first try after just seven minutes. Up until this point the Frenchman had competed rather well, with Sylvain Dispagne providing some excellent line-out possession. On this occasion they had forced a line-out inside the Leicester 22 and won the ball. Who could blame the forwards if their heads and hearts dropped when they saw such profligate waste of their hard work?
Leicester's next try was a gem, with Greenwood ripping the ball from a colleague breaking upfield and, when the cover eventually reached him, lobbing a beautifully flighted pass infield to Back - who was perfectly positioned in support to run in the try. Fourteen points ahead in 18 minutes and with Toulouse already displaying suicidal tendencies by running the ball from impossible positions, the result even at this stage was never in doubt, only the margin.
It was understandable that Toulouse should want to keep the ball as far away as possible from Leicester's tight-forwards and in particular from Martin Johnson. But there is no hiding place from a player of this quality. It was from his soaring leap in the line-out that Darren Garforth was rolled over the Toulouse line at the heart of a maul. Later in the second half, when the Frenchmen had lost everything including their pride, it was the irresistible power of the Leicester scrummage which forced a penalty try when Toulouse came up offside.
Leicester's fifth and final try was another triumph of teamwork. Potter reclaimed a ball which had appeared to be lost, enabling Greenwood to chip ahead and send Austin Healey in to score. It was a compelling display by Leicester who, regardless of opposition, must now be favourites to win the Cup in Cardiff in three weeks time.
Leicester: J Liley; S Hackney (R Underwood, 74), M Greenwood, S Potter, L Lloyd; R Liley, A Healey; D Garforth, R Cockerill, G Rowntree, M Johnson, M Poole, J Wells, D Richards (capt), N Back.
Toulouse: S Ougier; E N'Tamack (capt), M Marfaing, T Castaignede, D Berty; C Deylaud, J Cazalbou; C Califano, P Soula (P Lasserre, 71), J-L Jordana, H Miorin, F Belot, D Lacroix, S Dispagne, R Sonnes (H Manent, 56).
Referee: J Fleming (Sco)Reuse content