Wednesday 21 March 2018

Tigers hit back to make quarters

Treviso 19 Leicester 34

Tigers wing Miles Benjamin scoring the opening try
Tigers wing Miles Benjamin scoring the opening try

Leicester booked their place in the last eight of the Heineken Cup at Benetton Treviso yesterday. The Aviva Premiership champions were made to work hard for a fourth straight win in Pool 5 but they turned a 13-8 half-time deficit into a bonus-point success at the Stadio di Monigo.

Leicester now entertain Ulster at Welford Road on Saturday, with the likely prize of a home quarter-final for the winners.

A brace of Miles Benjamin tries were accompanied by an early effort from Julian Salvi and a penalty score, with Owen Williams adding a penalty and David Mele kicking three penalties and a conversion to set up the mouth-watering clash with pool leaders Ulster.

Matt Berquist contributed 14 points for Treviso, with prop Lorenzo Cittadini claiming their solitary first-half try.

Berquist's first successful kick in the Heineken Cup handed the home side a 3-0 lead with five minutes played but Leicester were celebrating the opening try not long after.

Captain Toby Flood's decision to kick for touch rather than goal paid immediate dividends as Salvi powered over after Jamie Gibson's safe take was followed by a huge drive from the Tigers pack.

Treviso hit back as prop Cittadini made light work of Benjamin's tackle to dive over from a metre out. Berquist added the extras and suddenly Leicester were on the back foot with 20 minutes played. The New Zealander slotted a second penalty from long range with 25 minutes played.

Less than a week after they pulled back a 10-point deficit to secure a last-gasp draw with Bath on home soil, Leicester scored three second-half tries in Italy having trailed 13-8 at the break.

Treviso then led 19-13 with half an hour remaining at the Stadio di Monigo but the Tigers hit back to set up a huge clash with Ulster at Welford Road a week on Sunday.

"We got what we set out to achieve from the game and that was maximum points," said full-back Mathew Tait. "At half-time we were in a bit of a hole but it's a mark of this team that we've been in that position a few times this year and we've managed to dig ourselves out of it.

"That's testament to the group. We've got some really experienced guys in there and players who put us in the right parts of the field, certainly in the second half. If we had been on our game from the start we wouldn't have been in that position, though. By our own standards, the first half wasn't really good enough.

"We knew that Treviso are a very physical team and they would make it difficult but we need to have a look at ourselves because our standards will have to be a lot higher against Ulster. The last 30 minutes were a better reflection of how we wanted to play."

Tait added: "That was a massive win. If we didn't win here, it would have made next week largely irrelevant. Taking maximum points sets us up for next week and that's how we want it. It's in our own hands.

"Ulster are playing very well at the moment but it's a winner-takes-all game at Welford Road and it should be a cracking game. We know what's riding on it and we know how tough it's going to be. But that's why you come to the big clubs - you want to play in great competitions and great matches."

Scorers -- Treviso: L Cittadini try, M Berquist con, 4 pens. Leicester: M Benjamin 2 tries, J Salvi try, Penalty try, D Mele con, 3 pens, O Williams pen

Referee: Romain Poite (FFR)

Irish Independent

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