Belfast Telegraph

Leicester Tigers are given a kicking

Billy Weir

ENGLEBERT Humperdinck, Gary Lineker, Kasabian, Willie Thorne, Biddy Baxter, Peter Shilton, Mark Selby, Una Stubbs, Gok Wan, Showaddywaddy, Leicester Tigers – your boys took one helluva beating ...

Often the sporting event, especially when Sky is involved, doesn't come close to meeting the hype, but on Saturday evening that went out the window as Ulster travelled to Welford Road to take on Leicester Tigers.

Of course this didn't stop them from trying as we zoomed in on presenter James Gemmell – no relation to Archie (and I know it's spelt differently) and former Leicester hero Will Greenwood with a camera seemingly mounted on board a tiny Tiger Moth. I warn you now, there may be more Tiger-related japes to follow.

Kiwi Gemmell, as the plane zoomed past his lug, told us it was 'a straight shoot-out in Pool Five, it's winner takes all' before lurching into a bit of Play Your Cards Right with 'Ulster hold all the cards at the minute' but remember you get nothing for a pair, not in this game.

Behind the scenes, interviewer Graham Simmons had cornered Ulster coach Mark Anscombe asking how 'he could shake the tiger off your tail' and Gemmell's fellow Kiwi turned to Esso for a response.

"There's no point leaving the tank half empty or half full is you like," but of course the WWF have long since banned the use of big cats in the petrochemical industry.

Earning his stripes (see, I told you there would be more puns) at the other end of the pitch was a familiar face in the shape of Tyrone Howe (another classic show from the eighties) who was next to come under attack from the wee plane.

When he got back to the safety of the studio he revealed that Ulster's training had been 'very snappy', just as well with all those Tigers about, while Greenwood warned that Leicester's game plan was to 'get sides into the corner and slowly batter them' but it was more of a good kicking if we're being honest.

It was Toby Flood against Ruan Pienaar for the opening exchanges, the latter sending over a massive kick in a reverential hush at one of rugby's shrines with co-commentator Stuart Barnes simply reduced to a 'that's splendid.' No mention of being over the moon or Leicester coach Richard Cockerill being as sick as a parrot or, indeed, a tiger.

This anti-football theme was being carried on by referee Nigel Owens, whose chat with Anthony Allen was overheard on ref cam with the Welsh whistle blower suggesting that 'you could always go to the football stadium across the road if you're going to answer back.' This was never going to happen, there's no knowing the carnage that would ensue if a tiger ended up among all those foxes.

And on it went, Leicester edging ahead, Ulster pegging them back, the Tigers scoring a try before the break and Pienaar charging like a rhino, or tiger, to block Flood's clearance and pounce on the ball like a large striped animal jumping on a bowl of Frosties.

Barnes was in his element, waxing lyrical about Pienaar, re-christening him the 'Prince of Natal' and commenting that Ulster had been 'tactically so adroit' in holding on for the win when a simple the 'boys done good' would have sufficed.

Over to Simmons to rub salt in Cockerill's wounds, suggesting that his side had been corralled 'like watching a sheep dog rounding up sheep' but unlike lambs, there was no silence of the Tigers with the coach warning that the sides' paths could meet again.

That would be a sequel to look forward, with Keanu Reeves pencilled in to play Pienaar as Greenwood suggested he was 'like something from the Matrix – he sees things' but in the background loud Ulster voices continued to cheer.

It turns out it wasn't from the fans, but the builders at Ravenhill who are now on double time to get the ground ready for the visit of Saracens in the quarter-final.

It should be quite a game and I await Sky's coverage to begin with Mark McCall banging dustbin lids on the streets as tanks roll through the leafy suburbs of east Belfast.

Belfast Telegraph

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