Tigers’ inspiring spirit carries them through
AS THE bombshell news about Ben Youngs’ withdrawal from the Lions and the misery engulfing his family became evident, one could only wonder at the indomnitable spirit of these Tigers.
Ben played his usual structured game, Tom scored a try and Leicester moved into the Premiership play-offs on the back of Freddie Burns’ 23 points from a faultless kicking performance.
Leicester now face a semi-final at Wasps where they will be hoping to improve on their last two play-off efforts when they were beaten 47-10 by Bath in 2015 and 44-17 by Saracens in 2016.
If Tigers are to progress to the final, they are likely to have to rely on another impressive performance from Burns for their backs offered previous little in this encounter and were outscored by three tries to one despite having a totally dominant scrum and the better line-out.
Leicester’s head coach, Matt O’Connor said: “Freddie’s game management was brilliant.
“He’s a tremendous Tiger and I’m disappointed at not having the opportunity to work with him as he’s still got a lot of growth left in him.”
Burns will be at Bath next season but he has been instrumental in Leicester’s late season revival, in stark contrast to departing players at other clubs. Leicester-bound George Ford has been relegated to the bench by Bath and Exeter’s new recruit, Matt Kvesic, has been frozen out by Gloucester.
Worcester improved as the season progressed but still finished 11th and can be thankful that bottom club Bristol were so poor. The early season injuries to Ben Te’o and Francois Hougaard were hammer blows but Gary Gold transformed the club when he was appointed in February.
Before the South African’s arrival, Warriors were staring relegation in the face with some strange selections and spineless performances at Exeter and Gloucester but have regrouped with great spirit emphasised by the efforts of Hougaard and 38-yearold skipper Donncha O’Callaghan.
Both players were at the forefront of Worcester’s efforts on the day and had Warriors not made simple errors and missed three vital kicks, they could easily have been victorious.
Phil Dowson, led the Warriors out for his 262nd Premiership appearance before taking up a coaching position with Northampton and he saw his side dominate the opening ten minutes but lack of accuracy allowed Tigers to keep their line intact.
Two penalties from Burns to one from Ryan Mills were the only scores of the opening quarter before both sides opened their try scoring account.
First Tom Youngs finished off a line-out drive for Leicester before the hosts responded with a flowing movement, which culminated in a try for Chris Pennell.
Burns and Mills exchanged penalties to give Tigers a 16-13 interval lead but within two minutes of the restart, Worcester went in front when Mat Tait was unable to collect an up and under and Bryce Heem collected the loose ball to run 30 metre to score.
A drop goal and two more penalties from Burns put Leicester back in charge before Wynand Olivier landed a splendid solo try to set up an exciting finish but Burns had the final say with his sixth penalty.
No go zone: Worcester’s tryscorer Chris Pennell is tackled by Brendon O’Connor and Jack Roberts
The long haul: Freddie Burns takes aim