• Tuesday, 25 June 2024
Heineken Champions Cup: Leicester Tigers' second-half comeback thwarts Connacht in 29-23 win

Heineken Champions Cup: Leicester Tigers' second-half comeback thwarts Connacht in 29-23 win

Leicester Tigers trailed 17-12 at half-time to Connacht in the Champions Cup, but Freddie Steward and Hosea Saumaki both crossed after the break to set the home side on course for making it 13 wins from 13 games in all competitions so far this season

Second-half tries from Freddie Steward and Hosea Saumaki helped Leicester Tigers fight back to defeat Connacht 29-23 in the Heineken Champions Cup.

Jack Carty's try and conversion on the stroke of half-time put Connacht into a five-point lead at the break in Sunday's Pool B encounter as the Irish side threatened an upset.

But wing pair Steward and Saumaki capitalised on the foundations laid by the Tigers' pack at the scrum to turn the tables, while Finlay Bealham was in the sin-bin and preserve the hosts' unbeaten start to the season.

Leicester's other tries came from Nic Dolly and Bryce Hegarty, who kicked two conversions and a penalty, while Freddie Burns added a conversion. Connacht captain Carty, meanwhile, scored 18 of their points including two penalties, two conversions and a drop goal, and wing John Porch was also on the scoresheet with their first try.

The opening exchanges were scrappy and it was no surprise that the first points came via a penalty with Carty succeeding with a 45-metre kick. Connacht then produced the first potent attack of the game with Bundee Aki carving a hole in the defence but they blew their chance of the opening try when Tiernan O'Halloran passed the ball behind Alex Wootton with the line in sight.

Tigers made them pay for their profligacy by taking the lead with an 18th-minute try when a pass from Ben Youngs provided Dolly with an easy run-in.

However, Burns missed the touchline conversion and was also off-target with a 45-metre penalty attempt so the home side held a 5-3 lead at the end of an evenly-contested first quarter.

John Porch raced away for Connacht's first try of the match
John Porch raced away for Connacht's first try of the match

The momentum was temporarily with Leicester and they soon increased their advantage. A strong run from Matt Scott secured the hosts a platform in the Irish 22 and from there the ball was recycled for Hegarty to be sent in under the posts for his first try for the club.

Almost immediately, Connacht responded with their first try. A well-timed pass for Aki sent Porch into space for the wing to run elusively and avoid the cover defence to score.

Carty converted before the outside-half ran from inside his own half to capitalise on poor Leicester handling to score with another conversion, giving his side a 17-12 interval lead.

Six minutes after the restart, a deliberate knock-on from Youngs gifted Carty a further three points before Tigers made the surprising decision to replace Burns with Guy Porter and move Hegarty from full-back to fly-half.

Leicester's Ben Youngs tackles Connacht full-back Tiernan O'Halloran
Leicester's Ben Youngs tackles Connacht full-back Tiernan O'Halloran

They also changed the whole of the front row and it paid immediate dividends as their scrum won a number of penalties in quick succession with Connacht prop Bealham yellow carded for collapsing.

Leicester capitalised with Steward, one of England's stars of the Autumn Nations Series, crashing over and Hegarty's conversion left the hosts just one point adrift going into the final quarter.

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