Leicester Tigers 30 - 20 Cardiff Blues
Sun 12 January 15:15 Welford Road Att: 16,538 Ref: George Clancy European Challenge Cup

Leicester Tigers 30 Cardiff Blues 20

Sun 12 Jan 2020 17:00 Leicester Tigers 30 Cardiff Blues 20

Cardiff Blues were unable to claim a historic victory despite the perfect start against Leicester Tigers as injuries took their toll at Welford Road.

An early try from Josh Adams, his fifth since joining the region, had given the visitors the early impetus in the East Midlands.

That was maintained as Ben Thomas crossed for a second, helping his side to a 14-10 half-time lead.

A try from Jordan Olowofela gave the Tigers the lead for the first time early in the second-half and with loss of Matthew Morgan and Harri Millard to injuries, and George Ford controlling affairs expertly, the home side took control of the encounter.

A pair of Ford drop goals kept Leicester out of reach as any realistic European Challenge Cup hopes came to a premature end .

Cardiff Blues had the first opportunity to strike after Filo Paulo charged down Ben White at an early ruck. The giant lock did well to claim the rebound but the Blues were unable to make the opportunity count as Leicester’s defence held strong in the face of sustained pressure.

The Blues were fired up for the occasion with Josh Adams running the ball back from his own 22 and feeding Lloyd Williams who bounced off the tackle of England fly-half George Ford.

And minutes later they claimed the opening try with a stunning strike play from inside their own half. Shane Lewis-Hughes won clean ball in the middle of the line out and they went straight on the attack.

Ben Thomas took the ball at first receiver and played the ball out the back to Jason Tovey, who released Jason Harries on an arcing run. The wing tore into the Leicester half, beating one man before offloading to Matthew Morgan, who drew Telusa Veainu to give red hot Adams a sniff and the World Cup top try-scoring needed no second invitation.

Tovey expertly converted from the left touchline to give his side an early 7-0 lead.

It did not take long for the Tigers to claw their way back with Tom Youngs capitalising on a lost line out to break through. He found Greg Batetman in support but he lost possession as Lloyd Williams made the try saving tackle. 

The Blues managed to clear but Leicester struck from the line out as Ford made an initial break and Harry Wells stampeded through with Sam Lewis put clear, despite it appear as though Jason Tovey was taken out off the ball.

Ford slotted the simple conversion to level the scores. The Blues, who appeared dangerous every time the ball was moved to the back, had the opportunity to take the lead shortly after the hour mark but instead opted to kick to touch.

They demonstrated great patience in the build up following strong carries from the likes of Navidi, Harries and particularly Corey Domachowsk. The opportunity eventually came as possession was moved to the right touchline, Lee-Lo powered between two defenders towards the whitewash but with the corner flag beckoning he offloaded inside and Thomas collected to touch down.

Tovey was again on target to give his side a 14-7 lead but that was cut to a four point advantage as Ford struck with a minute of the half remaining.

Leicester took the lead for the first time four minutes into the second half thanks to Jordan Olowofela. Ford had expertly kicked a penalty to the five metre line and while the Blues did well to hold the Tigers pac at bay the ball was swiftly spread left to Olowofela as defensive numbers ran out.

Ford converted to give the hosts a 17-14 lead but they coughed up possession from the restart and the door was ajar for the Blues. Two phases later the ball was collected by Morgan, who did exceptionally well to bamboozle the Tigers defence and cross the whitewash for what appeared a sensational individual try.

However, to the surprise of the Welford Road crowd George Clancy called for TMO, despite not looking at the earlier Tovey incident, and replays demonstrating Morgan was unable to ground the ball as he was tackled by two men.

That was to be the diminutive full-back’s last involvement as he was helped from the pitch following the heavy collision.

Cardiff Blues were awarded a penalty from the ensuing scrum and Tovey levelled the scores but the hosts were soon back in the lead with their third try.

They spotted space on the right as Cardiff Blues ran out of numbers and Olowofela broke clear and with support either side there was little Adams could do as he popped inside to White for an easy run in.

Ford was again on target to make it 24-17 and the Blues were soon dealt a further blow as a scintillating Tigers break was just held out but at the expense of Harri Millard.

With just two backs on the bench and Millard a replacement for Morgan, the Blues were forced to call Tomos Williams into action with Lloyd Williams shifted to the wing.

Ford kept the scoreboard ticking with an ugly drop goal shortly after the hour mark but Cardiff Blues would relieved it was not more as they weathered a sustained period of pressure.

Tovey hit back for Wales’ Capital Region but there was still plenty of work to do with 10 minutes remaining and a seven point deficit.

And any hope of a memorable comeback was dashed as Ford slotted a second drop-goal to make it 30-20 and put his side out of reach.