Steve Borthwick leads Leicester to the quarter-finals with Leinster | Champions Cup

From the opening whistle to the final, supporters of the Leicester home have slammed the show. Sure it was scrappy, sure the two teams had coughed up a lot of opportunities, and sure enough, this wasn’t exactly rugby at its most organized. But it was fun. And judging by the volume of the crowd, and the number of “ooohs” and “aaahs” they emitted, they were having fun under the blue sky of the East Midlands.

On that, they differed with Leicester coach Steve Borthwick, who, as Ellis Genge revealed, gave his team a “bollocking”. This was the antithesis of Borthwick-ball which is characterized by a ruthlessness in the red zone, a discipline at set-piece and an efficiency at breaking. To pay off their debts, they were commanding defense as white waves crashed routinely on green and red rocks.

“Halfway through there were things we needed to do better,” Borthwick said, understandably emphasizing the outcome rather than the visualization. “At the start of the season, who would have thought that the Leicester Tigers would be quarter-finalists in the European Champions Cup? You might think there would be no chance of that.”

George Ford was optimistic in his assessment of Leicester’s style earlier this week, perhaps reflecting a feeling on the pitch that they don’t receive the love they feel they deserve. If the critics are among the Leicester fans, they are sure to hope that their team will be back for the quarter-finals at home against Leinster next month.

They started this on foot, spending the opening six minutes defending on their own 22. When they got the ball, a slick move left and right saw them maraud into Clermont territory and win a penalty. Ford counted it on touch and that well-drilled line carried it. Several dominating phases after Hanro Liebenberg flashed through a tackle and stretched to score.

Clermont has been attacking desperately with 18-year-old scrum-mid Baptiste Jauneau a steady presence. But Leicester’s defense was immense, believing their comfort on the scoreboard, which prompted Camille Lopez to take three points when given the option.

The remaining 25 minutes of the first half were full of intent, but lacked precision when it mattered. Jauneau came on as he carried the ball into the testing area. Chris Ashton struggled as he ran to pick up Jack van Poortvliet’s kick. Yohan Beheregaray fumbled Jauneau’s low pass with nothing but space in front of him. Therefore, the score remained 7-3 in favor of Leicester.

Borthwick is not the only one to divulge the contents of his locker-room rants, but his intentions were clarified when he replaced young Nic Dolly and van Poortvliet with Charlie Clare and Ben Youngs. A scrum penalty was later disallowed by Ford.

Alivereti Raka is signed by three Leicester defenders. Photo: Ryan Byrne / Inpho / Shutterstock

Although the correlation is not equal to causation, these substitutions have seen Leicester regain their accuracy. Ford ignited a left-footed motion that was ended by a Matt Scott in a hot step.

Clermont was enthusiastic but uninspired with the ball in hand, but they made the line in the corner through Alivereti Raka. This only pulled the tiger’s tail. Premiership officials cleared the field and forced a yellow card for Etienne Fourcade near the line. Tommy Reffell was caught napping as Daniel Bibi Biziwu lifted a ball over him following a free kick, but the ball hit the bar, rebounding into the keeper’s arms.

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He was 14 against 13 when Ollie Chessum was shown red for a high tackle on Samuel Ezeala. Leicester took advantage of the extra space to score a stunner from distance. Youngs broke a scrum on his own 22, dummied, passed to the Harry Potter ball which in turn installed Freddie Steward.

Fritz Lee made a wonderful line-up to score an impressive point of his own, but the game, and the tie, which ended with a common score of 56-27, had long been established.

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