Leicester Tigers open European campaign with big win over Stade Francais
Leicester Tigers got their European Rugby Champions Cup campaign off to a flying start with a four-try demolition of French champions Stade Francais.
The Tigers fought back from 8-0 down to get a bonus point 33-20 win in front of a 20,286 crowd at Welford Road.
Leicester completely dominated the match, their tries coming from Vereniki Goneva, Matt Smith, Brendon O'Connor and Ben Youngs, while Owen Williams kicked 10 points.
Although on the defensive for most of the contest, Stade scored three tries through Julien Thomas, Paul Williams and, near the end, Julien Arias.
Leicester suffered a blow before a ball was kicked, losing England and Lions flanker Tom Croft with a back spasm.
It meant a reshuffle, with Mike Williams moving into the back row and Dominic Barrow coming off the bench to play lock.
Leicester were, however, boosted by the return from World Cup duty of Argentina prop Marcos Ayerza and England scrum-half Ben Youngs, and gave a debut to flanker O'Connor, who signed from the Waratahs.
Leicester made virtually all the running in a scrappy first half and turned round 12-8 up after fighting back, scoring two tries to one.
They dominated Stade Francais at scrum time but unforced errors cost them potential scoring opportunities.
Centre Peter Betham did get over the line in the 15th minute but the TMO ruled out the try for obstruction by Ayerza on Stade centre Williams.
Stade lost former Tigers scrum-half Julien Dupuy with a leg injury moments later but it was his replacement Thomas who silenced the crowd with a try out of the blue in the 22nd minute.
Stade had already shown their ambition when winger Arias countered from his own line, and he started a brilliant move, involving Hugo Bonneval and Herman Meyer Bosman, before Thomas scampered over for a try which Morne Steyn failed to convert.
The South Africa fly-half made amends six minutes later when he kicked a monster penalty from just inside his own half.
Leicester, however, then found their scoring touch, grabbing two tries in the last seven minutes.
Winger Goneva was put over by Lachlan McCaffrey after Leicester turned the ball over, with Williams adding the conversion.
And then, on the verge of half-time, Goneva provided the scoring pass for Leicester veteran centre Smith after the Tigers had laid siege to the Stade line.
Williams missed the conversion but Leicester made it 17-8 in the first minute of the second half after another error by Stade's Italy No8 Sergio Parisse.
The Stade captain dropped a clearance and O'Connor galloped over from halfway, the TMO adjudicating that Tigers winger Adam Thompstone had not obstructed Paul Williams.
Owen Williams missed the conversion before Stade winger Jeremy Sinzelle had an interception try disallowed for an earlier knock-on.
Williams made it 20-8 with a 47th-minute penalty but Stade hit back with a brilliant try by Paul Williams, converted by Steyn, in the 52th minute after great work by Parisse.
A 55th-minute solo try by Youngs, converted by Williams, earned Leicester a bonus point and Williams put the Tigers 16 points ahead with a 72nd-minute penalty.
Arias scored a 75th-minute try for Stade, the TMO awarding it after much deliberation. Replacement Seremaia Bai kicked a last-minute penalty for Leicester.