Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 2 October 2014

Shoot-out for Leicester, but Crane is a history maker

Cardiff 26 Leicester 26 (Leicester win 7-6 on penalties)

Jordan Crane booted Leicester to a history-making Heineken Cup semi-final victory over Cardiff Blues and then admitted: "I am in no hurry to take another kick."

Number eight Crane was Leicester's unlikely hero at the end of a Millennium Stadium showdown that ended in unprecedented fashion.

With the teams locked at 26-26 after extra-time, it came down to a penalty competition to decide who would face Leinster at Murrayfield on May 23.

And it was Crane who came up trumps, giving Leicester a 7-6 verdict on penalties after Blues' flanker Martyn Williams' miss handed him his match-winning opportunity.

Blues' wing Tom James missed a chance just moments earlier to win the shoot-out 5-3, but he failed to hold his nerve and Leicester secured a place in their fifth Heineken final and stay on course for a third European and domestic double.

Reflecting on the late drama, Crane (pictured) said: "I actually enjoyed it. I've taken a few kicks in training, although I have to say I am in no hurry to take another kick."

Leicester skipper Geordan Murphy added: "It is a nasty, horrible way to lose and I feel really sorry for the Cardiff boys.

"It is not much of a way to win either and we will have to play much better to beat Leinster in the final."

Murphy revealed that when James lined-up his kick he had called the Leicester players into a huddle to congratulate them on their efforts, almost as if he was anticipating a defeat.

I told the players I was incredibly proud of them whatever happened with that next kick," he said.

"I think we would have felt hard done by if we’d lost the game and we were still in the huddle when James missed."

Leicester looked to have the game won when they led 26-12 with only six minutes of normal time left.

Tries by Murphy and Scott Hamilton, plus 16 points from the boot of scrum-half Julien Dupuy put Leicester in charge as the Blues could only reply through two penalties a piece by fullback Ben Blair and wing Leigh Halfpenny, but the home side finished brilliantly as Wales' centre Jamie Roberts and James conjured tries, with Blair converting both from the touchline.

While Leicester celebrated, the Blues were predictably inconsolable.

Head coach David Young said: "The game finishing like that was a new experience for most rugby watchers, but we knew the rules and although it is not a great way to go out, it is part and parcel of professional sport.”

The game is believed to be the first time in major rugby that a top-flight knock-out game has been decided on penalties.

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