Tigers stay alive in Europe
Two-time champions win but Clermont claim late bonus point
Last Updated: 20/12/09 4:59pm
Staying alive: Toby Flood
Leicester have kept themselves alive in this season's Heineken Cup after scoring a 20-15 victory against Pool Three rivals Clermont Auvergne.
Spectators at a chilly Welford Road witnessed a bruising match, which certainly did not lack passion but nevertheless proved a cagey affair with both sets of forwards by-and-large on top.
Leicester overcame the early departure of Martin Castrogiovanni to go one try to the good through Anthony Allen in the first half, although honours appeared even in terms of possession.
The home side tried to assert themselves more in the second period but they could not pull clear until Scott Hamilton scored their second late in the match.
Even so, Clermont fly-half Brock James still had time to kick a penalty and earn his side a crucial losing bonus-point - the two now level on 12 points, four behind leaders Ospreys.
Both sides sought to impose themselves but neither really succeeded in the opening minutes, with play being centred in the middle third of the pitch as defences dominated.
With Flood pulling the strings, the Tigers probed for a way through and could have scored when Lote Tuqiri made a break on the right flank in the 13th minute - the winger being bundled to the ground.
A penalty resulted nevertheless and with James having missed one for the visitors in the second minute, Flood made no mistake with a simple chance.
Tuqiri had to race back to put Jamie Cudmore off his stride as he charged on to a through ball played to the left-hand corner in the 18th minute - the Clermont second rower needing treatment after colliding with an advertising hoarding.
They continued to press with Julien Malzieu's run setting up James, who levelled the scores with a drop goal midway through the opening period.
Flood soon kicked Leicester ahead once more, though Anthony Floch could not restore parity when James ceded responsibility for a penalty after 24 minutes.
James could after Flood's kick to restart went straight out of play, but the Tigers made the breakthrough on the half hour - their try coming in some style.
Captain Louis Deacon expertly won a lineout in the Clermont half and Ben Youngs then took over, the young scrum-half jinking this way and that as he broke clear before passing for Allen to finish off under the posts.
Flood converted for 13-6, with James unable to pull the gap back when faced with a long range effort soon after.
He played the percentages and went for the posts when Leicester conceded a penalty deep in their own half just shy of half time - the three points eventually awarded after the intervention of the video referee.
Flood was found wanting with a penalty gained after Clermont collapsed the scrum in the 43rd minute and another kicked to the corner three minutes later resulted in Leicester themselves penalised for not releasing.
Clermont could have gone ahead moments later had James' crossfield kick to the right flank found the galloping Aurelien Rougerie but that break was respite for the visitors - Leicester were by now dominating territory.
But they were not scoring and having weathered one storm, the French side looked to apply pressure themselves, with Floch having a drop-goal attempt charged down.
On the front foot
The hour-mark found Leicester on the front foot once more, with Dan Hipkiss accepting Flood's pass and breaking through on the left flank, the move albeit breaking down when Hamilton was well tackled by Rougerie.
With Mario Ledesma weighing in with a route one approach, Clermont gained sufficient territory after 65 minutes for James to kick a second drop goal and pull them back to within a point.
The Tigers were hanging on by the skin of their teeth as the game entered its final 10 minutes and a sign that nerves were beginning to fray came when Flood sliced a clearance.
However, James could not deal with it, presenting Hamilton the chance to break - the full-back sprinting clear to the right-hand corner to touch down, with flood converting.
Clermont were nothing if not dogged though and James kicked another penalty two minutes later - an important score given the state of play in the group.