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Watch: Leicester produce early try of the year contender

By Ned Lester
(Photo by Thierry Zoccolan/AFP via Getty Images)

We may be just two weeks into 2023 but Stade Marcel-Michelin in France has already hosted a game-of-the-year candidate, with the visiting Leicester hanging on to claim a dramatic Heineken Champions Cup win over Clermont.

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World Cup Handre Pollard put in a well-polished performance in the Tigers jersey and the 44-29 win was just what the English side were after following two heavy Gallagher Premiership defeats on the road at Sale and Newcastle.

Fresh from claiming the Premiership’s try of the month for December, the Tigers pulled off a remarkably well-executed back play to secure the bonus point.

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The first highlight try of the game belonged to centre Matt Scott, who read the Clermont move like a book when intercepting a pass on halfway and running it in under the posts to give Leicester the lead just three minutes into the game.

Next, it was Harry Simmons’ turn, the winger receiving the ball with Alex Newsome just a few feet away and charging with pace. An explosive left-foot step dispatched the Clermont full-back before a similarly evasive step off the right turned Alivereti Raka inside and left the wide channel open for Simmons to burst down.

But the real masterpiece came just three minutes into the second half. With Leicester leading 27-19, the next score would determine the nature of the second 40 minutes. Would Clermont be chasing the game or would Leicester find themselves with just a one-point lead to show for their early heroics?

A Leicester lineout 30 meters out from the Clermont line looked shaped for a driving maul but barely a second after the ball was dragged down, an advantage was called and Ben Youngs sprang into action.  The veteran No9 darted off the back of the maul as a decoy runner ran square to the Clermont line. Youngs found Pollard running infield who in turn found Freddie Steward with a no-look ball inside him.

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Steward cantered through a gap in the Clermont line and Scott timed his support line to perfection, receiving the ball just as cover found Steward. Scott touched the ball down under the posts and Leicester celebrated a beautiful Champions Cup try.

Clermont weren’t without their own moments of magic as a Raka break in centrefield led to Etienne Fourcade touching down courtesy of an exceptional Irae Simone offload. The 19-year-old Clermont scrum-half Baptiste Jauneau also took home the star of the match after a stellar performance that will have local fans excited for the future.

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B.J. Spratt 4 hours ago
All Blacks vs England takeaways: Richie Who? Time for Cortez

You Poms and Paddies are really nice guys. New Zealand V Ireland - 37 Tests - N.Z. 31 Wins - Ireland 5 Wins - 1 draw. New Zealand V England - 45 Tests - N.Z. 35 Wins -England 8 Wins - 2 draws. Combined - You have beaten the All Blacks 13 Times in 82 attempts over 119 years. The Stats over 100 years + would say, especially England with 6 Times the player pool than New Zealand, you have “a limitation of context” regarding developing your coaches to teach your players how to WIN. So how can England with a 6 times the player numbers have a 17% winning strike rate against New Zealand? and be 8 -0 in Test Series over 100 years. The answer is simple. Your perception of the game. How do you fix it? You need to play in New Zealand for a couple of seasons in your teens, 18 -20 or send coaches over here. Martin Johnstone played 2 seasons here under the mentorship of Colin Meads. When he came here he had rugby shorts with pockets and a handkerchief in one pocket. He played for NZ Under 21 against Wallaby John Eales. He became the toughest player in the game and the best ever English Captain and Captained the Lions twice. Legend! Maybe if he hadn’t come to New Zealand, he may still had those rugby shorts with pockets. Recently Rogan O’Gara spent time at the Crusaders. What a great coach. “Our “mindset is different” and that’s how we have beaten you for 100 years + How the hell he isn’t Coaching Ireland, France, England, Wales, or Scotland I will never know? England has 131,000 Senior rugby Players. Ireland has 21,000 Senior Players. New Zealand has 27,000 Senior Players.

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