Tigers keep Italians at bay

By Paul Trow
Sunday 12 January 2003 01:00

Leicester, the holders for the last two years, have almost certainly secured a home quarter-final berth in this season's Heineken Cup after withstanding a spirited fightback by Calvisano yesterday.

Tigers, who now have an unassailable lead in Pool One, went ahead after only two minutes when their hooker George Chuter pounced on a tap-down over the try line from a Calvisano line-out. Tim Stimpson added the conversion but missed a simple chance in front of the posts eight minutes later when the Leicester scrum-half Harry Ellis started and finished a counter-attack involving Josh Kronfeld and Martin Corry.

Shortly after the Kiwi fly-half Gerard Fraser had opened the home side's account with a penalty during a rare visit to the Tigers' half, the former rugby league wing Steve Booth extended the visitors' lead when he was released by the Ireland back Geordan Murphy.

Leicester looked to be out of sight when Stimpson powered over from eight metres and converted, and the Italians' second row Luca Mastrodomenico was sent to the sin bin for handling in a ruck.

The Italians made a rash of substitutions at half-time, and the introduction of experienced international wing Paolo Vaccari triggered their impressive revival. Despite an early second-half try from Ellis, Vaccari touched down twice during a period of 19 unanswered points which also saw No 8 Chean Roux go over.

Tigers' cause was not helped when Ellis received a yellow card on the hour for a blatant shoulder charge, but then the England captain Martin Johnson was brought on in an attempt to steady the ship. With two minutes left on the clock, another replacement, prop Franck Tournaire, was on hand to drive over following a Johnson line-out take. Stimpson converted to complete a 40-22 victory and seal Leicester's place in the last eight.

Toulouse also look set for a home quarter-final draw after their 10-try, 70-18 demolition of clueless Newport in Pool Five. The Welsh visitors were outclassed as their French hosts ran in four first-half tries and a further six after the interval.

The home scrum-half Jean-Baptiste Elissalde scored 25 points by landing all 10 conversions as well as scoring a try of his own.

Improbably, Newport took the lead when Jason Strange kicked a penalty. But Toulouse stormed back in the sub-zero temperatures with try doubles from Xavier Garbajosa, Yann Delaigue and Yannick Jauzion. Emile Ntamack, who repeatedly showed he is still one of the game's slickest runners despite being only a few months short of his 33rd birthday, Jean Bouilhou and Vincent Clerc also breached Newport's defences. The visitors' only consolation were late tries from No 8 Andy Powell and scrum-half Ofisa Tonu'u.

On a day which saw numerous postponements, Caerphilly saw off Overmach Parma 41-28 in the first leg of their Parker Pen Shield quarter-final, but Ebbw Vale's home meeting with Pau was put back 24 hours to this afternoon.

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