Calvisano 10 Leicester 62
Leicester completed a predictable rout of Italian whipping boys Calvisano to finish second in Pool One but they must wait until tomorrow to discover if their Heineken Cup dream is still alive.
The Tigers’ fate was taken out of their hands by the dramatic events of last weekend but their bonus-points victory at the Campo Comunale di Rovato combined with Biarritz’s 18-15 triumph over Wasps has kept them in the hunt.
Leicester fans will be sweating on the results from Pool Five tomorrow and given today’s try fest they have a good chance of joining Northampton in the quarter-finals as one of the two best runners-up.
Martin Johnson and co travelled to Brescia knowing they had to beat Calvisano, claim a bonus point and score as many tries in the process – and they managed all three in freezing conditions.
The Campo Comunale was the setting for last night’s abandoned match between Worcester and Leonessa and the heavy fog arrived once again early this morning - but it could not halt the Tigers’ 10-try procession.
Geordan Murphy, Alesana Tuilagi, Andy Goode and George Chuter all claimed braces while Julian White and Harry Ellis crossed for one apiece with Goode’s boot accounting for the rest of the points.
Leicester boss John Wells made a host of changes following the Biarritz defeat with Neil Back named on the bench, Lewis Moody switching to openside and Louis Deacon starting at number eight.
England forwards Ben Kay and Graham Rowntree were back while Ollie Smith, Sam Vesty and Tuilagi were drafted into the threequarters with injuries the need to rest players biting into the club’s resources.
It was a strong Tigers line-up and Calvisano’s vigorous start suggested it needed to be with a powerful burst down the right flank from number eight Edoardo Candiago catching the eye.
Leicester were allowed to escape by Calvisano’s poor discipline and this also cost the Italians in their own half but Martin Johnson refused to take the points on offer, instead going for touch.
Little headway was made from the ensuing lineouts but Leicester fans did not have to wait long for their team to open the scoring through Ellis who broke from the back of a ruck, chipped full-back Massimo Ravazzolo and touched down.
It was a piece of magic from the little half-back but his individual skill was matched by a brilliant team try two minutes later which saw play switch from right to left before swift hands sent winger Alesana Tuilagi charging in at the corner.
Calvisano were in no mood to fold at this stage of the match despite Leicester’s onslaught and they hit the Tigers with a 10-point flurry courtesy of a Ludovico Nitoglia try and Gerard Fraser’s boot.
A surging run from full-back Ravazzolo did the initial damage in the build-up to the try and once he had danced through the visitors’ midfield he offloaded to Nitoglia who sped home.
Leicester’s response was emphatic with Chuter being driven over by his forwards in the 34th minute after helping to set up the score with some accurate throwing at the line-out.
Tuilagi’s second try shortly after secured the coveted bonus point and then good work from Ellis was completed by Geordan Murphy in first half injury time as the Tigers scented blood.
Chuter bagged his second in a carbon copy of the first while the television match official was required to give a verdict on Leicester’s seventh but Goode was adjudged to have made contact with his deft kick ahead.
Goode – who had slotted five of the previous conversions – was drop kicking the extras now as the Tigers, realising the number of tries scored could prove crucial in the qualification reckoning, opted for a quick restart.
It soon paid dividends with Murphy claiming his brace in the 67th minute - Calvisano’s defence had fallen to pieces – and a heartbeat later Goode made use of the space before him to add another try.
A couple of fights broke out late in the match and referee Rob Dickson took action by sending Moody and Milton Ngaumo to the sin-bin, but there was still time for White to round off a good day for Leicester.