Champions Cup: Injury-hit Leicester Tigers go three from three with stunning victory at Clermont Auvergne

 Credit: Alamy
Credit: Alamy

Leicester Tigers overcame their recent issues to secure a 44-29 triumph over Clermont Auvergne at the Stade Marcel-Michelin for their third successive win in this year’s Champions Cup.

The Midlanders have struggled since the departure of coaches Steve Borthwick and Kevin Sinfield to England, but this was the ideal response.

Richard Wigglesworth’s men have also had their injury troubles but this makeshift outfit were outstanding and crossed the whitewash five times via Matt Scott (twice), Harry Simmons, Dan Kelly and James Cronin.

Handre Pollard kicked four conversions and two penalties before Jimmy Gopperth struck a three-pointer of his own and then added the extras to Cronin’s late try as the Tigers sealed their place in the Champions Cup knockout stages.

Auvergne did get a bonus-point as Bautista Delguy, Etienne Fourcade, Anthony Belleau and Paul Jedrasiak went over, but it was a poor evening for the Frenchmen.

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Having shipped 85 points in total in their last two away games, there were fears that the Tigers were in for another long 80 minutes at the imposing Stade Marcel-Michelin, but they were impressive on Friday.

Clermont, who themselves have struggled this season, certainly helped the visitors with a slack display, especially defensively.

The French outfit were breached far too easily, while they made a number of errors, and one such mistake early on enabled Leicester to move in front as Belleau’s pass was easily intercepted by Scott.

Pollard converted and then added a penalty before Auvergne got on the board via Delguy’s brilliant try, which was started by a superb Alivereti Raka break.

However, the Tigers were much the better side in the opening 35 minutes and touched down twice more for a 24-7 advantage.

Firstly, Simmons produced a stunning finish with a step off either foot, which left Raka trailing in his wake, before Kelly was on hand to finish off after a driving maul had marched them towards the line.

To the hosts’ credit, they hit back through Fourcade’s close range effort and then closed the gap further when Belleau touched down at the start of the second period, but Leicester regained control soon after.

They put together a neat set-piece move, with nice work from Pollard and Freddie Steward allowing Scott to score, but Auvergne once again rued their defensive deficiencies.

From the hosts’ perspective, they were at least causing problems for the away side with ball in hand, and another fine move resulted in Jedrasiak crossing the whitewash.

Clermont were still very much in contention and were on the front foot going into the final quarter, but the Tigers were resilient. Belleau did kick a penalty to get them to within range going into the last 10 minutes, but Gopperth’s three-pointer and Cronin’s try ended the game as a contest.

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