May strikes yet again to give Tigers

The Sunday Telegraph - Sport - - Sport | Rugby Union - By Gavin Mairs

And so Le­ices­ter Tigers’ march up the table con­tin­ues. Hav­ing lost their open­ing two rounds, Matt O’Con­nor’s side start Oc­to­ber fifth in the Pre­mier­ship, with this vic­tory over cham­pi­ons Ex­eter the most sub­stan­tial of a re­vival that stretches to three suc­ces­sive wins.

Jonny May, the Eng­land wing, was once again the toast of Welford Road, scor­ing the de­ci­sive try – his fifth in as many games since his sum­mer move from Glouces­ter – with a sen­sa­tional 20-me­tre fin­ish from a sim­i­larly out­stand­ing pass by Ben Youngs.

It was one of two “killer mo­ments” in the game, ac­cord­ing to Rob Bax­ter, the Ex­eter Chiefs di­rec­tor of rugby, who felt the over­rid­ing fac­tor in his side’s de­feat was Le­ices­ter’s ruth­less­ness.

The other white-heat mo­ment had come in the first half, after Ex­eter had dom­i­nated the first quar­ter. Le­ices­ter counter-at­tacked when the ball was spilt on their line and after Ju­lian Salvi had been sent to the sin-bin for a dan­ger­ous tackle, Nick Malouf fin­ished in a sim­i­lar fash­ion to May off a laser-ac­cu­rate pass by Matt Toomua. Yet ul­ti­mately Le­ices­ter’s vic­tory was founded on their huge de­fen­sive ef­fort, spear­headed by the mag­nif­i­cent No8 Sione Kala­ma­foni, who de­servedly took the man-of-the-match award with a stun­ning re­turn of 17 car­ries and 17 tack­les.

“Sione has been bril­liant all season,” said O’Con­nor. “The num­bers that he is log­ging and the min­utes he has played have been enor­mous for us and he has made a real difference in that back row. His lead­er­ship is fan­tas­tic and he doesn’t make er­rors. He is a class act.

“I thought com­mit­ment was at the heart of our vic­tory, we dug in. It was a re­ally big team ef­fort. They are the cham­pi­ons of Eng­land and top of the league, so you have to charge your­self against those guys.

“Un­for­tu­nately, for a number of rea­sons we haven’t been com­pet­ing and beat­ing those guys con­sis­tently and to- day was a good per­for­mance and the four points is mas­sive.”

Both sides had been forced to reshuf­fle their line-ups be­cause of late in­jury prob­lems to two play­ers, Jack Now­ell and El­lis Genge, who had been with Eng­land dur­ing their three-day camp in Ox­ford last week.

Now­ell, who was in­jured dur­ing Eng­land’s con­tro­ver­sial camp in Brighton last year, suf­fered a dead leg while Genge, who had been in­volved in a heavy rugby ses­sion on Tues­day, suf­fered a back spasm in the warm-up.

Le­ices­ter had also lost Lo­govi’i Mulipola with a neck in­jury, forc­ing a com­plete reshuf­fle of their front row, and it was a scrum penalty in the final minute for Ex­eter, when both Harry Wells and Mike Wil­liams were off for Head In­jury As­sess­ments (HIAs), that Gareth Steen­son was able to earn a los­ing bonus point with his sec­ond penalty. O’Con­nor was left frus­trated that as there was only one doc­tor able to re­view the two HIAs, Wells was un­able to re­turn to the pitch for the final scrum.

Bax­ter, though, had plenty of frus­tra­tions him­self. Malouf was twice lucky not to have been shown a yel­low card, one for a trip on Olly Wood­burn and then for a tackle in the air on Phil Doll­man.

Le­ices­ter’s 10-3 lead at half-time was re­mark­able given the dom­i­nant start Ex­eter had made. Such was Ex­eter’s tour de force that Le­ices­ter were forced to make 50 tack­les in the first 15 min­utes alone. And yet all the cham­pi­ons had to show for their en­deav­our was a penalty by Steen­son, de­spite forc­ing sev­eral clear-cut chances.

And Ex­eter only had them­selves to blame for fail­ing to cap­i­talise on their man ad­van­tage after Telusa Veainu had been shown a yel­low card for knock­ing

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