The omens weren’t great.
August 31 2018
Driving down the M1 with a Leicester supporting friend in torrential rain to face a team that looked worryingly strong on paper, with one that looked like it was worked out in an emergency on the back of a fag packet. Pre-season friendlies are often fairly disjointed affairs and this was no exception. Certainly some positives to take away, but ultimately we were unable to cope with the threat of Leicester’s all-star back line. The pack was largely competitive, which hopefully bodes well for the coming season.
Leicester’s first try started on half way. Hearn missed a tackle in midfield, Theo unsuccessfully went for an intercept and they were in behind with May rounding off the score after some slick passing. Their second was a close range Denton try close to the posts, that looked suspiciously like he dropped it, but no TMO and the try was given. Ford and Tonks had slotted a penalty apiece by then, making the score 17 – 3 with half an hour played.
Theo went off at this point a few minutes after receiving treatment, with O’Hagan coming on at 15 and Tonks moving to 12.
Leicester’s third was another long range effort. Eastmond with the crucial break in midfield, before beating O’Hagan and offloading to Ben Youngs. It was McNally with the rare missed tackle here, before turning and chasing him down over 40 yards or so. Their final try of the half came after a rampaging run from Tuilagi, beating three or four players and the move eventually being finished off by Spencer in the corner following a Ford cross field kick. That was pretty much it as far as the result went with the half finishing 29 – 3.
There were just two change made at half time, with Stephenson and McKibbin coming on (for McLean and Hearn from memory). Certainly the first time I’ve seen us play with three 9s on the pitch.
Tigers slotted another penalty from in front early in the half. Not sure what they would have learnt from not going for the corner, but it provided welcome respite from them crossing our try line. We could probably feel fairly hard done by around this point as Spencer went in late with no arms on O’Hagan after the latter had made a break and kicked through. Always hard to tell with no replays, but it looked pretty bad from where I was stood and the Leicester fans around me agreed that he was lucky. The ref and touch judges either didn’t see it, or felt he had just stood his ground, but there were plenty of conversations between LI players whilst O’Hagan received treatment. He was able to carry on though and it’s only pre-season, so no real harm done in the end.
The game changed with Myler and Campbell entering the fray on 52 minutes. Suddenly had a lot more direction behind (although still little in the way of strike runners). Our first try came soon after with Porecki running in under the posts after a lovely delay on the pass from Meehan in midfield. Nice touch from Meehan, although the game as a whole did nothing to persuade me that he is anything other than an emergency option at ten when the season begins properly.
On 60 minutes we changed our entire pack, other than McNally (who had a strong game). Twomey the reserve forward who had to bide his time until the closing stages. Leicester hit back after a grubber through that bounced off several players before a flat offload to Holmes, who seems to always score against us. Next try went to us after Stephenson refused to be put down close to the Leicester line and was ably assisted by Campbell who bundled him over leaving the score 39 - 17.
The final try of the game was a lovely run in midfield from Olowofela, beating several LI players. We should have finished with a try, but after sustained pressure in the corner and repeated maul infringements by Leicester resulting in the going down to 13 men, we fluffed the lineout. Final score was 46 – 17.
Despite the scoreline, we were actually pretty strong up front throughout and our mauling game was encouraging (one effort in the second half trundled thirty yards or so). I’d like to think the back line for Ealing will look a little different to the one fielded here.
If you do not already have an account Click here to Register.