Ulster 41 Leicester 7: Tigers crash out after Euro thrashing
When the Ravenhill crowd delivered
their second mocking rendition of Swing Low Sweet Chariot, it
signified utter humiliation for Leicester – for so long English rugby's
standard-bearers in Europe.
This was the Tigers' worst defeat in
15 seasons of Heineken Cup rugby; 15 seasons when they have been among
the champions and prime contenders so often. The Midlands club have
never suffered quite like this before.
Try time: Ulster's Craig Gilroy celebrates
Their previous biggest margin of defeat was at the same ground in 2003, when Martin Johnson and Co lost 33-0 and it was the largest points total they have ever conceded – one more than the 40 Clermont Auvergne recorded two seasons ago.
At least on that occasion they put up a valiant fight, scoring 30 points of their own. This time they were simply unable to compete.
Leicester trailed by 11 points at half-time but in the final 17 minutes they conceded as many points. Richard Cockerill's team are not mathematically out of this competition, but the reality is that they have no hope of progressing to the quarter-finals and it is highly likely their demise will be sealed by results elsewhere this weekend.
'Clermont will win with a bonus point tomorrow and we'll be third in our pool so we're done,' said Cockerill. 'We struggled to get a foothold on the game tonight, Ulster controlled the ball, took their chances well and deserved to win. We didn't have dominance in any part of that game.
On the charge: Ulster's Darren Cave
'Maybe playing four games in 18 days caught up with us and with key guys missing it was hard for us to compete but I don't want to make excuses.'
The Tigers were hampered by the absence of three England players – Toby Flood, Manu Tuilagi and Louis Deacon, and it showed. But Ulster had plenty of Test pedigree as highlighted by the exploits of Ireland wing Andrew Trimble, who touched down twice, and former Springboks scrum-half Ruan Pienaar, who kicked five penalties and three conversions.
Stefan Terblanche, the South African full back, set up the first try by counterattacking from his own 22.
Strong running by Trimble and Dan Tuohy took Ulster deep into the Leicester half and Trimble struck in the corner from close range after a Pedrie Wannenburg pass.
Hold up: Andrew Trimble of Ulster is tackled by Geordan Murphy of Leicester
After Pienaar's first penalty, Leicester hit back with a fine try of their own. Having held steady at a scrum on the right, Billy Twelvetrees burst forward and from the ruck, Ben Youngs arced left and his long pass gave Geordan Murphy a clear run-in. Twelvetrees converted.
But that was the start and end of the revival. Pienaar landed another penalty and just before the break, Ulster surged clear when Wannenburg and Pienaar combined from a scrum to send Trimble over again in the same corner. After half-time there were three more Pienaar penalties and the Tigers' resistance unravelled as Ben Youngs sparked a scuffle by losing his temper and Dan Cole was sin-binned only moments after coming on.
With 10 minutes left, Ulster worked an overlap and Craig Gilroy streaked away to touch down. Then, as 'Swing Low' rang out, Paul Marshall ran through a huge gap to score. Leicester's defence was in ruins, as was their spirit. Pienaar made it 41-7 to confirm the Tigers' capitulation.