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Pollard saves Tigers' blushes

MATCH REPORT: Two-time World Cup-winning Springbok flyhalf Handré Pollard produced a match-saving performance, as his Leicester Tigers team held out against a willing and very young Stormers side.

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Tigers managed a bonus-point 35-26 win over Pollard’s compatriots in a Champions Cup Round One outing at Welford Road on Sunday, but as he admitted in his post-match debrief: “It was a bumpy ride.”

Right until the 80th minute, the visitors had a chance of an upset in the wet conditions and heavy underfoot in Leicester.

However, Pollard’s 20 points – including a crucial second-half try – proved the difference. He also kicked three conversions and three penalties – missing just one kick.

The unheralded Stormers left Welford Road with most of their young players’ reputations as future stars enhanced.

* To recap all the drama, CLICK HERE!

Six minutes into the game World Cup-winning Springbok Handré Pollard opened Leicester’s account, after Nama Xaba was penalised at a ruck.

Five minutes later Jurie Matthee levelled the scores as Cameron Henderson was penalised at a line-out.

Solomone Kata scored the opening try – another two-time World Cup-winning Springbok Jasper Wiese charging ahead off the back of a powerful scrum and putting the centre over. Pollard made it 10-3 after 15 minutes.

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The Stormers started working their way into the game and just shortly of the half-hour mark No.8 Keke Morabe barged over from the back of a powerful Stormers scrum. Matthee levelled the scores with the conversion.

As the first half moved on, the brutal physicality of the Stormers saw Tigers lose centre Matt Scott to a shoulder injury and wing Josh Bassett being treated for an ankle injury.

On the stroke of half-time Paul de Wet kicked ahead a ball that squirted out a scrum, following up and offloading to Courtnall Skosan for the try. Matthee added the conversion to see the Stormers take a surprises 17-10 lead into the half-time break.

Early in the second half, the Stormers were penalised at a tackle and Pollard narrowed the gap to 13-17.

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Tigers had upped the ante after the break and seven minutes into the half Solomone Kata finished off a move that involved a stolen Stormers line-out and some sublime Tigers hands. Pollard made it 20-17 with the conversion.

Matthee again levelled up the scores with a sweetly-struck dropgoal, forcing Tigers to go to their replacement bench for some energy.

Just short of the hour mark Pollard slotted a penalty for a three-point lead, but Matthee slotted his second penalty to make it 23-all going into the final quarter.

However, the game changed dramatically in the 64th minute when replacement Lee-Marvin Mazibuko was yellow-carded for charging with his shoulder into the head of Tigers Bok Jasper Wiese – who went for a head injury assessment.

Almost immediately Tigers went ahead again, Pollard finishing off a move that involved some powerful forward charges. He added the conversion to his first Champions Cup try – 30-23, with 15 minutes left on the clock.

Matthee kept the Stormers within striking distance with his third penalty, but on the stroke of full-time Josh Bassett scored the bonus-point try – which was set up by a sublime Pollard pass.

Pollard was wide of the mark with the conversion, but at 35-26, it was job done – a full house of five points for the home team.

Man of the match: The Stormers were given no chance but players like Jurie Matthee (on debut), Paul de Wet, Keke Morabe, Nama Xaba, Connor Evans, Hendré Stassen and old man Brok Harris enhanced their reputations. Our award goes to one of the few Tigers players to walk away with an unblemished reputation – flyhalf Handre Pollard. He produced a flyhalf masterclass in managing a game when your team is not playing well and he scored the most crucial of the game’s tries.

The scorers

For Leicester Tigers
Tries: Kata 2, Pollard
Cons: Pollard 3
Pens: Pollard 3

For the Stormers
Tries: Morabe, Skosan
Cons: Matthee 2
Pens: Matthee 3
DG: Matthee

Yellow card: Lee-Marvin Mazibuko (Stormers, 64 – foul play, shoulder to the head)

Teams

Leicester Tigers: 15 Freddie Steward, 14 Josh Bassett, 13 Matt Scott, 12 Solomone Kata, 11 Ollie Hassell-Collins, 10 Handré Pollard, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Jasper Wiese, 7 Tommy Reffell, 6 Hanro Liebenberg, 5 Cameron Henderson, 4 Ollie Chessum, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Julián Montoya (captain), 1 Francois van Wyk.
Replacements: 16 Archie Vanes, 17 James Cronin, 18 Joe Heyes, 19 Harry Wells, 20 Kyle Hatherell, 21 Tom Whiteley, 22 Jamie Shillcock, 23 Dan Kelly.

Stormers: 15 Clayton Blommetjies, 14 Courtnall Skosan, 13 Suleiman Hartzenberg, 12 Jean-Luc du Plessis, 11 Ben Loader, 10 Jurie Matthee, 9 Paul de Wet, 8 Keke Morabe, 7 Willie Engelbrecht, 6 Nama Xaba, 5 Connor Evans, 4 Hendré Stassen, 3 Brok Harris (captain), 2 Scarra Ntubeni, 1 Sti Sithole.
Replacements: 16: JJ Kotze, 17 Kwenzo Blose, 18 Lee-Marvin Mazibuko, 19 Dylan Sjoblom, 20 Junior Pokomela, 21 Marcel Theunissen, 22 Stefan Ungerer, 23 Cornel Smit.

Referee: Tual Trainini (France)
Assistant referees: Adrien Marbot (France), Evan Urruzmendi (France)
TMO: Cédric Marchat (France)

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