Tigers thrive on a Goode scrap

HEINEKEN CUP hero Andy Goode has revealed a secret of treble-chasing Leicester’s success – fighting in training.

Tigers’ renowned mental toughness once again shone through as they reached their fourth European final with victory over Llanelli Scarlets at the Walkers Stadium on Saturday.

Fly-half Goode epitomised the Leicester attitude, producing a match-winning performance 12 months after he hit a career low on the same ground when Tigers crashed out of Europe against Premiership strugglers Bath.

Goode’s most notable contribution in that game was to ignore a three-on-one overlap during the dying seconds which arguably cost his team a semi-final appointment with Biarritz.

A year on though, and the England international is a pivotal figure in Leicester’s bid for an unprecedented trophy hat-trick.

Goode said: “That Bath game hurt – it was a low point in my career. Everyone expected us to win quite comfortably. I didn’t perform well, and neither did we as a team, but you have got to pick yourself up, get back on the horse and believe in your ability.

“I went to Dubai the next day and got away from rugby, which probably helped me.”

Goode’s response was to amass 23 points against the Scarlets.

Leicester could have folded when Llanelli wiped out a 13-point deficit to lead 17-16, but Tigers regained an initiative within two minutes of falling behind through Goode’s Carlos Spencer-type banana kick that was gathered by Irish flanker Shane Jennings who raced away and scored.

Goode added: “There is a terrific mental attitude at Leicester. We fight a lot among ourselves in contact training sessions, which I think is a good sign. I remember when I moved to Saracens, I had a little fracas and everyone stood back and said ‘what the hell are you doing? It’s not the done thing here.’

“At Leicester, we fight among ourselves every week and then walk off the pitch and get on well. I think you need that edge, you need that hard mentality.”

Goode’s four penalties, three conversions and a try equalled the Heineken Cup semi-final individual points scoring record, which emphatically answered the challenge thrown down to him by Leicester head coach Pat Howard.

Howard said: “I put a lot of responsibility on Goode. I said to him ‘you have got to step up today.’ I said it publicly in front of the team, and he did.

“He deserves a lot of accolades. I put him under pressure, and I will continue to do that as the year goes on. I stuck him on the bench last week (for the EDF Energy Cup final), and he wasn’t happy with that.

“We have got some good competition for the number 10 shirt. We want someone to stand up and put a big performance in, and Goode gave me a nine out of 10 performance.”

Llanelli had been unbeaten through the tournament and skipper Simon Easterby admitted: “We probably exceeded everyone’s expectations this year. Munster have shown it takes a long time to win this cup. It is not an easy thing to win, and when we do, it will be a lot sweeter.”

Leicester scorers — Tries: Goode, S. Jennings, L. Deacon. Cons: Goode 3. Pens: Goode 4.

Llanelli scorers — Tries: M. Jones, Rees. Cons: S. Jones 2. Pens: S. Jones.

LEICESTER: G. Murphy, Varndell, Hipkiss, Gibson, A. Tuilagi, Goode, Ellis, Moreno, Chuter, White, L. Deacon, Kay, Moody, S. Jennings, Corry.

Replacements: Rabeni for Varndell (67), Vesty for Gibson (40), Holford for Moreno (64), Cullen for Kay (61), B. Deacon for S. Jennings (78).

SCARLETS: B. Davies, James, King, G. Evans, M. Jones, S. Jones, Peel, I. Thomas, Rees, Manu, Cooper, MacLeod, Easterby, G. Thomas, Popham.

Replacements: Afeaki for Cooper (71), N. Thomas for Popham (71). Not Used: Owen, J. Davies, L. Davies, C. Thomas, Watkins.

Referee: Alain Rolland (Ireland).

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