Humbled Tigers finish bottom of their pile
IN THE deadest of dead rubbers, Leicester showed how much the mighty have fallen as the twice winners of the European Cup crashed to another ignominious defeat to leave them rooted to the bottom of Pool 4.
The Tigers had chosen to rest most of their superstars and their replacements fell well short of what was required to match rejuvenated Scarlets in any facet of the game.
Tigers’ head coach, Geordan Murphy, said: “We’ve been on a tough run in the Premiership and we needed to steady the ship there so we had no option but to rest certain players.
“I’m really disappointed as they won most of the collisions and they were more up for it than us.
“Scarlets are a quality side, who play a nice style of rugby, but we didn’t have much ball and it wasn’t until the last 10-15 minutes that we managed to look potent.”
They only looked potent because Scarlets had already declared at 33-0 and taken off most of the night’s star performers.
Two-try Rob Evans, livewire scrum-half, Gareth Davies, and powerhouse centre, Kieron Fonotia had departed to allow Tigers to gain a touch of respectability against a side that were themselves well below strength.
Scarlets had eight back five players missing through injury, which forced hooker Ken Owens to play in the back row and they were also missing Rhys Patchell and Jonathan Davies from their back division. The first quarter was featureless and scoreless with the game being constantly disrupted by a succession of scrums and free kicks.
Hence the crowd became increasingly restless with the lack of action caused by the fussiness of French referee Mathieu Raynal who was forced to issue a warning to both front rows for repeated infringements.
Leicester skipper Matt Toomua’s break was the only highlight of that opening period but the visitors couldn’t capitalise as a pass from Jonah Holmes went astray with the try-line beckoning.
The game improved greatly in the second quarter as Scarlets raised the ante to dominate and were rewarded with two tries.
First from a line-out on the visitors 22, Ryan Elias was alert to regather a loose line-out and make a telling burst before David Bulbring and Davies made darts for the line with Rob Evans on hand to drive over.
Ten minutes later a couple of forceful runs from Fonotia put the opposition defence on the back foot to allow Davies to send Owens over, with a simple conversion from Dan Jones giving his side a deserved 12-0 half-time lead.
Within ten minutes of the restart, the game was up for Tigers as by then they had conceded two further tries. Rob Evans finished off a driving lineout for his second before Fonotia carved the defence apart to give Johnny McNicholl an easy run-in.
Mike Williams was binned for a no arms tackle before Steff Evans scored Scarlets’ fifth with late tries for Will Evans and Mike Fitzgerald mere consolation.
Whole-hearted: Ken Owens dives over to score Scarlets’ second try