Leicester 23-19 Clermont Auvergne

By James StandleyBBC Sport
Manu Tuilagi's try helped Leicester secure a vital win
Manu Tuilagi's try helped Leicester secure a vital win at Welford Road

Leicester overcame a nine-point half-time deficit to keep their Heineken Cup hopes alive with a gripping win over Pool Four rivals Clermont Auvergne.

A brace of drop-goals and a converted Sitiveni Sivivatu try helped Clermont into a 16-7 half-time lead, Leicester replying through Manu Tuilagi.

A Toby Flood penalty and a converted Julian Salvi try gave Tigers the lead.

And although a Morgan Parra kick put Clermont back in front, two Flood penalties sent Leicester second.

However, Clermont left with a losing bonus point and their big win in the Massif Central last weekend means that although they are currently third, their better head-to-head record may prove crucial when it comes to making the knock-out stages.

Any one of Leicester, Ulster or Clermont can still progress as group winners when the tournament resumes next month, with the Tigers travelling to Belfast before concluding the group at home to Italian strugglers Aironi.

After their heavy defeat in France, the Tigers once again found themselves on the back foot in the first half at Welford Road, as their much-vaunted pack was outplayed by the visiting eight.

Leicester made a shocking start when Ben Youngs fired a pass at half-back partner Flood when he was not looking, giving the visitors the chance to take the lead through an early David Skrela drop-goal.

When Flood immediately missed a very kickable penalty and then spurned the chance to even attempt a marginally longer effort soon after, it completed a miserable opening five minutes for the England fly-half.

Parra added a second drop-goal just before the 15-minute mark but the Tigers hit back with a cracking try as Manu Tuilagi scissored with Flood and scored under the posts.

His path to the line was eased by the defender Parra, appearing to be impeded by Horacia Agulla, but the Tigers were happy to ride their luck and Flood added the conversion.

But Parra soon edged the French side back in front and they scored a superb try of their own just before half-time.

Wesley Fofana counter-attacked after Leicester knocked on, and crisp passing enabled Wales full-back Lee Byrne to send former All Blacks winger Sivivatu over out wide.

Parra landed the tricky conversion to make it 16-9 and the Tigers were right up against it at half-time, but they were a different side after the break.

Their pack finally began to generate quick ball and Flood, who had a much better second half, trimmed the gap before Youngs sniped from the base of the breakdown.

The scrum-half dummied through the Clermont backline and drew the last defender before sending Salvi striding over for the try.

Flood converted to put the Tigers in front, but a see-saw game once again swung back the visitors' way as Parra restored their lead, only for Flood to reply in kind just after the hour mark to give Leicester a lead they would not relinquish.

Flood added a late penalty which gave the Tigers slightly more breathing space and ensured their Heineken Cup hopes remain very much alive.

Leicester: Murphy; Agulla, Smith, M Tuilagi, A Tuilagi; Flood, B Youngs; Stankovich, Chuter, Castrogiovanni, Deacon, Skivington, Croft, Salvi, Waldrom.

Replacements: Hamilton for Agulla (47), Cole for Castrogiovanni (48).

Not Used: Hawkins, White, Mafi, Woods, Harrison, Twelvetrees.

Clermont Auvergne: Byrne; Sivivatu, King, Fofana, Malzieu; Skrela, Parra; Faure, Paulo, Ric, Cudmore, White, Vosloo, Lapandry, Bonnaire.

Replacements: Williams for King (60), James for Skrela (28), Debaty for Faure (47), Kayser for Paulo (55), Hines for White (23).

Not Used: Murimurivalu, Vermeulen, Senio.

Att: 20,020

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