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Match Report: Leicester Tigers 41 Stade Francais 13

Manu Tuilagi’s early try set the tone as Leicester Tigers flew through Stade Francais and into the European Champions Cup semi-finals for the first time since 2009.

Tigers were always going to be a formidable match at Welford Road – they had only lost one of their last 31 Champions Cup matches – but Stade gifted Tuilagi a try within two minutes.

Niki Goneva and Freddie Burns followed over before the first half was out and, in truth, the Frenchmen never looked like coming back from there.

Julien Depuy hit back early in the second half but Goneva soon completed his try-double, while Mike Fitzgerald and Telusa Veainu added the scorers before the game was out.

It means Leicester now face either Dan Carter’s Racing 92 or defending champions Toulon in the semi-finals.

Tigers could not have dreamed for a better start as Burns caught Djibril Camara sleeping after his well-worked grubber and played in Tuilagi from touch for the easiest of scores.

With Burns’ conversion, just like that Stade Francais were seven points down, though they managed to gain some sort of foothold from the scrum.

It yielded the first penalty of the match and after Stade kicked up to Leicester’s 22, another penalty was won and Morne Steyn’s kick whistled just the right side of the post.

The Frenchmen continued their superiority at the scrum – though one error nearly allowed Burns to break away – but inaccuracies littered their cavalier play.

The effervescent Burns then restored Leicester’s lead to seven while Steyn failed to respond from the tee.

And while Steyn clawed back some of the initiative back when Tigers were pinged while counter-rucking midway through the half, Welford Road were at full roar before long.

Ben Youngs spotted an opportunity up the blindside and after Peter Betham’s flat pass found Goneva, the Fijian flyer showed a neat step to find his way over the whitewash.

He ran around the posts to hand Burns a simple conversion, and within a minute Leicester were cheering again.

This time Burns – fully deserving of a try – intercepted a loose Steyn pass and a ran a full 50 minutes before converting his own score and putting Tigers 24-6 up.

Stade closed out the half knocking on Leicester’s door but, when Steyn opted for the corner, some fine backs-to-the-wall defence ensured the hosts took their sizable margin into the break.

The visitors could not afford to concede the next try and they started the half promisingly enough, former Tiger Julien Dupuy quickest to react after a five-metre scrum before racing over.

But an incisive piece of work from Youngs dampened that optimism shortly afterwards – the England scrum-half released Goneva to race 40 metres for his second try of the game.

Burns added the conversion, though unfortunately he was not to finish the match on his own terms after limping off for Owen Williams later on in the half.

The game started to get scrappy and it worked in Leicester’s favour, as their lead could have increased if Williams’ penalty had not thumped back off the post.

Then, after  Veainu nearly burst through, Tigers found their fifth try as Mike Fitzgerald finished a counter-attack on the left expertly started by captain Mat Tait.

The icing on the cake came through Veainu, polishing things off in the right-hand corner for his tenth try in 22 appearances.
  
Leicester: Tait; Veainu, Betham, Tuilagi, Goneva; Burns, Youngs; Ayerza, Thacker, Cole; Barrow, Kitchener; Fitzgerald, O’Connor, McCaffrey
Replacements: Bateman, Mulipola, Balmain, de Chaves, Croft, Kitto, Williams, Thompstone

Stade: Camara; Vuidarvuwalu, Doumayrou, Danty, Sinzelle; Steyn, Dupuy; Zhvania, Bonfils, Slimani; Pyle, Flanquarter; Ross, Lakafia, Parisse
Replacements: Burden, Priso, Alo Emile, Gabrillagues, Alberts, Tomas, Plisson, Bonneval

Leicester
Tries: Tuilagi, Goneva 2, Burns, Fitzgerald, Veainu
Conversions: Burns 4
Penalties: Burns

Stade Francais
Tries: Dupuy
Conversions: Stein
Penalties: Steyn 2

 

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