Inside the Tigers’ Den - Returning players star in epic win

Miles Benjamin of Leicester Tigers races through to score the first of his two tries against Montpellier in the Heineken Cup. Tiger Images

Miles Benjamin of Leicester Tigers races through to score the first of his two tries against Montpellier in the Heineken Cup. Tiger Images

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Leicester Tigers’ director of rugby Richard Cockerill hailed his side’s first quarter performance “as good as they have been all season” and it is hard to disagree with him.

Leicester ran out 41-32 winners over Montpellier in an enthralling encounter at Welford Road, which saw each side claim a four try bonus point.

Leicester Tigers back Niki Goneva in full flow against Montpellier in the Heineken Cup. Tiger Images

Leicester Tigers back Niki Goneva in full flow against Montpellier in the Heineken Cup. Tiger Images

A blockbusting opening quarter helped Leicester on the way to the import home victory in Pool 5 of the Heineken Cup.

Cockerill said: “During that purple patch in the first half, it was as good as we have played all season because we were accurate and took our opportunities.

“Even with the absentees we have got, we were at least a match for them.

“We wanted to play. We took our first three opportunities well and then we had three or four more opportunities which we didn’t take. It was more open than I would have liked it to be.”

After months of injury turmoil Leicester’s returning backs made their mark early, with Niki Goneva opening the try scoring on his first appearance for a month and Miles Benjamin scoring two tries in as many minutes.

Leicester’s backline, which has been meandering and uninventive for much of the season, was in full flight yesterday (Sunday) with the duo of Goneva and Benjamin at the heart of things.

Cockerill and his club captain Flood, who notched up 21 points with the boot, were full of praise for Benjamin’s performance.

Flood said: “I thought he was outstanding today, he scored one try pretty much off his own back, we saw a bit of space down there, but his ability to cut a line and score and then to get on the end and finish like he did.

“It shows you what a talent we have had in our back room for the last 18 months.

“For me, he’s got every attribute you want. He’s in incredible shape, he’s one of the fastest players I’ve ever played with and he understands the game really well.

With the return fixture next Sunday an area of concern for Cockerill will be the defensive lapses which allowed Montpellier to score four breakaway tries.

The visitors crossed the line through Mamuka Gorgodze, Timoci Nagusa and Pierre Berard who scored twice and but a try from Jamie Gibson and the boot of Flood and replacement Ryan Lamb, could have stolen the result.

With Ulster winning 48-0 against Benetton Treviso on Saturday, Leicester remain in second place in Pool 5 p but well and truly alive in the fight for the top spot and certainly for best runners’ up position.

With the winners of the six groups and then the next two sides with the most points qualifying for the quarter finals Leicester are in good standing at the half way mark of the pool stages, and should qualifying finish today would go through as the seventh best side.

In other news

The future of Tigers’ club captain Toby Flood is still very much up in the air with talk of the England fly-half considering offers from France and Japan in a potential big money move. Flood, 28, is out of contract at the end of the season and has been linked with a move to European champions Toulon, with the French Top 14 side’s current English club captain Jonny Wilkinson nearing retirement.

New contact negotiations with Leicester have reportedly started and Flood has said he would never Leicester for another English club.

But the fly-half, who joined from Newcastle Falcons in 2008, has not made his mind up about where his future lies.