There’s always chit chat about a home advantage, but I hadn’t seen one that was more apparent â€¦ until Saturday.
For instance, when your set piece has gone out the window and your structure of play is wobbling like a jelly and when all youâ€™re relying on are the errors of the opposition â€“ well without being too harsh â€“ this describes Leicesterâ€™s form, on Saturday, against the Coventry-bound Wasps.
The home side were trailing on and off until the last few minutes of the game. A successful penalty kick by Owen Williams, clinched the 18-16 win. It was definitely the 16th man who made the impact and Tigers, be thankful for your supporters, all 21,907 of them who turned up because if this were an away fixture, it would have been a very…different…story.
â€œI’m pretty disappointed we played so poorly to be honest, it’s a game we could’ve lostâ€ said Richard Cockerill.
It was an odd atmosphere at Welford Road; you could hear a pin drop, maybe that was reflective of the pressure on this East Midlands side to deliver, given where they were in the Premiership table before the game. That said, these two sides will have more than their fair share of rivalry in the coming months, with the Wasps moving to the Rioch Stadium, down the road in Coventry. Could the game have felt more intense? I doubt it; it was level pegging most of the way.
Wasps had managed to cross the white-wash in the first half an hour but to Dai Young’s dismay, the try was disallowed – it still baffled him after the game. The boot of Owen Williams had slotted two between the uprights and Andy Goode had reciprocated on one occasion but the game was a little lifeless to say the least. Only when Tigers pushed into the Wasps 22 did the supporters start to bubble like hot lava in a cauldron but they didn’t find any points going spare and Wasps were definitely not going to offer them out!
Even when Leicester’s Miles Benjamin crossed in the corner to the excitement of his team mates, the clocked stopped and on review, it was clear Benjamin lost control of the ball as he attempted to dot down over the line. I thought it was hilarious when Wasps captain Chris Bell signalled with hand movements to referee Luke Pearce to refer to the TMO and as the try was disallowed, the resounding disappointment of whining Tigers fans was clear.
If that wasn’t enough dramarama, a failed drop goal attempt by Williams saw the ball ricochet off Goode to the crowds concern and after what felt like the 100th phase on the attack; Leicester just couldn’t manage to break a solid, meaty and tough Wasps defence. Only a successful late penalty booted by Williams became the pre-half time consolation prize.
Back out and it was Wasps that had the spring in their step. They looked charged and on the pounce â€“ so just what were we in for? A charge down by Alapati Leiua off the restart, no more than 30 seconds into the game saw him dot down, to a startled and rather confused crowd, who were still eating their half-time pies. Alarm bells must have been ringing in Richard Cockerill’s head. Goode converted and Wasps took the lead.
It took the Tigers all of 22 minutes to steal it back from the powerful boot of Williams … yet again. But the Wasps meant business, bringing on the cavalry with a quarter to go – Nathan Hughes, James Cannon and Ashley Johnson took to the pitch â€“ the three musketeers, could they save the day? But the visitors were penalised for the second time in all of four minutes and Williams made it two from two, 14-10.
Goode did come back to slot one over with a little over ten minutes to play but the Wasps just needed to slow the ball down. The visitors were in the driving seat for at least 80% of this second half but Goode seemed frantic. Wasps just needed to maintain their structure and keep their cool…and they did.
Wasps took the lead for the second time with five minutes left to play and it was my MOTM, Goode who delivered, notching up another 3 points. But only a minute later, Chris Bell gave away a silly penalty for obstructing Joe Simpson and Williams turned it around, 18-16 with two minutes left to play.
Full Time: Leicester Tigers 18-16 Wasps
The Wasps fell at the final hurdle with their ill-discipline; a real shame for a reformed side that looked very threatening as their defence held out for the full 80. They say if you can’t go through them go round them but even that didn’t work for the tormented Tigers. Dai Young spoke of his frustration after the game but his boys have now set their standards high again after a bumpy week;
â€œWe gave away three silly penalties really, that cost us in the end, that’s a disappointing factor…on a positive side, I certainly felt that the performance last week was unacceptable, down in Exeter…I felt we had a response today, I thought the players went out and gave everythingâ€
As for Cockers he’ll no doubt be thinking – a winâ€™s a win but his teamsâ€™ performance was shaky and shambolic! The key word I would use to describe their performance would be poor … defending, line speed and decision making. This’ll have to be rectified pretty quickly as they head into Europe next week.
By Rhiannon Chandler-Day
You can see more from Rhiannon at: http://rhiannonsrugbyunionblog.blogspot.co.uk