Impressive Leicester score bonus-point win
December 6, 2008
Toby Flood contributed 15 points to Leicester's score in the first-half
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England fly-half Toby Flood scored 23 points as Leicester cemented their position on top of Heineken Cup Pool Three with a bonus-point victory over Perpignan. Flood touched down the first of four Leicester tries before centre Aaron Mauger, number eight Jordan Crane and winger Matt Smith built on a ferocious forward display to secure maximum points at Welford Road.
Dan Carter, reputedly earning an average of £30,000 a game on his six-month sabbatical, was absent from the Perpignan side after spending the week on promotional duties in Italy. Perpignan missed him. The Catalans came into this pivotal encounter without any of their three front-line fly-halves - Nicholas Laharrague and Steve Meyer were both injured - and scrum-half David Mele in the 10 jersey
Perpignan, who lie third in the French Top 14, kept themselves in touch however, with a breakaway try from centre Maxime Mermoz and an opportunist effort from flanker Ovidiu Tonita.
Flood crossed after 18 minutes, dancing through the Perpignan defence from 10 metres out and dotting down with ease. He added the extras for a deserved 13-0 lead before Perpignan fly-half David Mele landed a pair of penalties to bring the French side back into it.
Just before half-time a long Perpignan line-out on their 22 found its way into the arms of centre Mermoz, who stepped inside the Leicester defence and raced 80m to score. With the scores level, a lightning break from Dan Hipkiss set up Mauger to collect the ball from the base of a ruck and dart over to restore Leicester's lead.
Flood slotted another penalty after half-time, before Leicester failed to deal with Nicolas Durand's grubber kick into the corner and flanker Tonita pounced to score a try confirmed by the television official. Mele then atoned for some earlier penalty misses by landing a brilliant touchline conversion.
But the Tigers scrum, and a hard-nosed Julian White in particular, had been in destructive mood all night and Perpignan's resistance was broken when Leicester drove them 10 yards back over their own line for Crane to score.
Smith sealed the bonus point with a jinking break down the touchline, tying Perpignan's less-than-impressive full-back Philip Burger in knots before crossing in the corner, completing a third straight Heineken Cup win for the Tigers and leave Perpignan staring down the barrel.
Perpignan's forwards had the last say in forcing a penalty try out of a retreating Leicester eight, the first time they had gone backwards all night, and hinted at a tough trip for the Tigers next weekend.
Tigers' fly-half Flood was quick to praise the efforts of his forwards after sending his side to victory. "That pack was phenomenal. They have so much talent and so much want and desire to be successful," he said. "Julian [White] has done everything you possibly can do as a player and yet there he is at the forefront of our pack and pushing them over from 10 metres. Playing behind that pack and the atmosphere and drive it gives the team is unbelievable. "And then you have Lewis Moody who just runs around like it is his last game and without a care in the world. You would never believe he has kids and a family!"
Flood returned to Tigers duty after five tough weeks with England, which ended in a 32-6 defeat to New Zealand but he insisted his confidence had not been dented. "It is fantastic to be back," he said. "The one pleasure of playing for England is that you are representing your country but when you come back to the club you step out of the limelight and you can get back to what you were doing before you went off with England. You almost slot straight back in.
"You have to have confidence if you play 10 or 12 because you need to control the game. My confidence was never really affected by what happened last week."
Flood finished second best to Dan Carter at Twickenham and is set to lock horns with the All Blacks fly-half in next weekend's return tie against Perpignan in France. He said: "He is a world class player - but you can't play the player, you have to play the team. You can't let it affect you. One player will make a big difference but you can still find holes in them."
Leicester Tigers: G Murphy, S Hamilton, D Hipkiss, A Mauger, M Smith, T Flood, H Ellis, M Ayerza, B Kayser, J White, M Corry [capt], B Kay, T Croft, L Moody, J Crane
Perpignan: P Burger, A Plante, C Manas, M Mermoz, J Candelon, D Mele, N Durand, S Chobet, G Guirado, N Mas [capt], R Alvarez Kairelis, N Hines, O Tonita, J Perez, D Chouly
Man of the Match: L Moody (Leicester Tigers)
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)