Last night, at the end of a long and arduous day, I flopped onto my sofa with a large gin & tonic and a takeaway pizza, switched to BT Sports channel 2 on my cable box and settled in to watch the Leicester Tigers versus Harlequins Premiership clash at Welford Road.
For a fan, hope springs eternal of course. The Tigers had lost three on the bounce and Quins (only three wins in five matches this term) had a genuine opportunity to take advantage of the Midlanders’ dip in form – caused largely by injures, it must be admitted.
It would be a gross exaggeration to suggest that Quins has the hex on Tigers but – in contrast to the days when they ruled the Premiership roost – no longer do we approach clashes against them burdened with an inferiority complex. Last season, for example, our record against Tigers was played 3, won 3.
There’s heartening talk of a crisis surrounding Leicester at the moment. Sadly, it was not exhibited last night.
Tigers came out with intent and played the conditions – wet underfoot, occasional torrential rain … a combination always tough under floodlights – perfectly.
There was plenty of aerial ping-pong and, of the two teams, they executed the obvious default plan [play the game in the right areas, i.e. basically in the opposition half!] better than their visitors.
Tigers scored a well-taken try (let’s ignore the possible forward pass in the move) within about three minutes, thereby establishing a lead margin that they never relinquished.
In the end they won 22-16, a score line that slightly flatters Quins – who gave every impression, despite making all the right noises in advance about fancying their chances, of having undeservedly achieved their evening’s limited ambition by gaining a losing bonus point for being within 7 points of the winners’ total.
For Tigers, Manu Tuilagi made a welcome return from a three-week groin injury.
Happy to take crumbs as small mercies, the moment of the match for me was an amazing sprint and then tackle into touch of Tigers’ Vereniki Goneva by Quins centre Matt Hopper, after the giant Fijian had seemingly been put free in acres of space for a straightforward run-in try in the corner.
In all honesty – despite my commitment to post a report upon proceedings for the Rust – with the way things were going all too apparent by half-time, it was all I could do to stop myself switching the television off and going to bed.
That’s yet another 40 minutes of my life I shall never get back.