Inside the Tigers’ Den - Tornado spoils cup fun

Leicester Tigers centre Manu Tuilagi. Photo: Tiger Images

Leicester Tigers centre Manu Tuilagi. Photo: Tiger Images

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Batten down the hatches, save the women and the children first.

There were unbelievable scenes at The Stoop on Saturday when “tornado” like winds stopped Tigers’ match against Harlequins nine minutes short of full time with the scores at 20-6.

The match was quite rightly abandoned with the stadium in a state of disrepair but the decision by referee Gwyn Morris and the The LV= Cup Organising Committee does have real ramifications on the competition with one round left to play.

This Leicester team have proven time and again that they are never out of a match and while it looked unlikely they would have come back to win they were certainly chasing a losing bonus point.

Just weeks ago Tigers director of rugby Richard Cockerill said there is a reason we play for 80 minutes and not 79, after his side came back to score in the dying seconds for the second time this season.

Tigers chief executive Simon Cohen said: “It was entirely the right decision to abandon the game.

“The organising committee were put in a difficult situation. Any replay would have to be played before the Round Four matches and, as our Round Four fixture is on Friday evening, it would be impossible to play again without seriously compromising player welfare.

“Tigers have on many occasions come back at the end of games to get something, whether it be a win, a draw or a bonus point. It is extremely unfortunate that the team was deprived of that opportunity in this case through no fault of its own.”

The bonus point would have put them joint top of Pool Two, a position occupied by Sale Sharks who have ten points.

Leicester sit in third, behind Exeter on the same points. In the ludicrous competition where you don’t play teams from your own group, all three teams in Pool Two have two wins a piece.

If Tigers want to progress to the semi-finals they will almost certainly need to secure a bonus point win against Bath at Welford Road under the lights on Friday night.

However if Leicester fail to qualify for the next stages of the LV= Cup they should not point their finger at the referee or the organising committee.

In truth the game was out of sight at the time it was stopped after another Ryan Lamb howler.

Lamb slaughtered Leicester’s chances of getting something from the game when he throw a predictable looping pass which was plucked out of the air and ran in by Tom Guest in the 51st minute. .

Sadly for Lamb the fly-half proved once again why he watches so many of the big matches from the replacements bench or even the stands with young Welsh fly half Owen Williams getting the nod over the former Northampton man this season.

The LV=Cup is the least of Leicester’s priorities but a proud club like Leicester want to go deep in everything they play in.

A bonus from the game was the imposing performance of Leicester’s newest recruit, Argentine international flanker Pablo Matera.

The 20-year-old, who already has 11 caps for his country, is an exciting raw talent.

The 6ft 4in forward has only played three games for Leicester but on Saturday’s evidence he appears to be another sub-continent ball carrying beast which Tigers could mould into a player of real class if given the chance.

Matera could well get a run of games with Leicester losing their England contingent for much of the next three months with the Six Nations starting on Saturday.

Leicester’s Ben and Tom Youngs, Dan Cole and Ed Slator joined up with the England squad last week.

However Ed Slater and Ben Youngs have been released from the match-day 23 to face France.

Leicester will also be without winger Adam Thompstone for their clash against Bath tomorrow.

Thompstone, 26, has been called up to the England Saxons squad preparing to face Scotland ‘A’.

The winger, who was Tigers’ top try scorers last season, effectively replaces his team mate Miles Benjamin who, along with Mat Tait and Jamie Gibson where ruled off of playing for the Saxons at the weekend with injury.

Benjamin is out with a knee problem but received some good news last week when he was named on the long list for the ERC European Player of the Year 2014 after his impressive showings in the Heineken Cup this season.

While Leicester’s injury list remains long the squad could soon be boosted by the return of Manu Tuilagi.

The Samoan-born wrecking ball centre is expected to be back from a chest injury, which required surgery, at the end of February.

Tuilagi has been sorely missed in Tigers’ midfield and has made just one appearance for his club this season.

Tuilagi is one of the true world beaters in the Tigers squad, with the ability to turn the game in a second.

His return, along with the expected returns of British and Irish Lions Tom Croft and Geoff Parling, shortly after could give Leicester the vital boost required to get them over the finishing line again.