Tigers stun South Africa
November 6, 2009
South Africa's Jean Deysel is tackled by Leicester's Craig Hammond and Geoff Parling
© Getty Images
Leicester notched a stunning 22-17 victory over South Africa in an enthralling clash at Welford Road.
A try from winger Lucas Amorosino and 17 points from the boot of scrum-half Ben Youngs propelled the Premiership giants to one of the greatest upsets in tour history to humble the world champions. A try from winger Jongi Nokwe had given the Springboks an early advantage but they were unable to prevent an inspired Tigers side claiming a famous win.
Leicester marked the first-ever visit of a South Africa side to their 117-year-old stadium with an official unveiling of a new £14million 10,000-seater Caterpillar Stand before kick-off, which swells capacity to 24,000. On the field, the Tigers were at less than full strength. Tom Croft, Lewis Moody, Jordan Crane, Dan Hipkiss and Louis Deacon were all on England duty, with a further seven players sidelined through injury. The England lock Ben Kay was also pulled from the Tigers XV at the last moment for unspecified reasons.
South Africa named five uncapped players in their XV, as they prepare for Tests against France, Italy and Ireland. Only Odwa Ndungane remained from the team that beat New Zealand in the final Tri-Nations match in September.
After Youngs missed the chance to put Leicester in front, Ruan Pienaar kicked the first points from dead in front. Within 10 minutes the Springboks had the first try of their tour. An apparent obstruction from an up-and-under went unnoticed, and Pienaar gathered to send a perfectly weighted grubber kick which fell into the hands of Jongi Nokwe. Pienaar missed the conversion.
Youngs kicked a penalty to cut the deficit to five, but a second score appeared inevitable when full-back Earl Rose beat two opponents and kicked into open space until Johne Murphy rushed back to mop up.
South Africa were robbed of their captain midway through the first half, when Chiliboy Ralepelle hobbled off. Then the match turned after 27 minutes on an uncharacteristic moment of carelessness from the Springboks, seized upon by two of Leicester's young starlets.
Teenage centre Manu Tuilagi, the latest member of his family to gain exposure at the top level, was allowed to run through unchallenged, and off-loaded with Amorosino in support. The Argentinian speedster still had much to do from just inside the 22, but he jinked past two tacklers to go in under the posts. Youngs converted from in front to open up a two-point lead at 10-8.
The infringements racked up for a frustrated South Africa, allowing Youngs to kick two further penalties, the first a fine goal from dead on halfway. Pienaar repaired some damage with three points to end the half, but Leicester still held a useful lead at 16-11.
That was restored to eight points two minutes after the restart when Youngs profited from South African hands in at the ruck to kick a fourth penalty. Leicester's harrying had South Africa struggling to perform the basics - the Tigers stole a lineout deep in their own territory, and twice turned over Springbok ball within three minutes.
There was a notable debut handed out in the 55th minute, when the celebrated former Australia winger Lote Tuqiri came on for his first Leicester start. After Youngs found the posts again from the 10-metre line, Pienaar had to kick from very wide out to bring the deficit back to eight.
But Leicester had the lions' share of possession throughout, and were only denied another scoring opportunity when referee Stuart Dickinson gave the benefit of the doubt to Ndungane, who fumbled the ball when clearing up.
Pienaar had nerves jangling when he reduced the gap to five from in front of the posts, setting up a five minute period of intense South African pressure. But the ball spilled loose and Tuqiri's first major contribution was to scramble it to touch and end the game.