Tigers struggle past Treviso
Lead changes hands eight times before late Tuilagi try
Last Updated: 09/10/10 3:51pm
Tuilagi: late try
Leicester Tigers were pushed all the way by Benetton Treviso in their Heineken Cup Pool Five opener on Saturday, eventually winning 34-29.
The English champions predicted a strong challenge from their Italian counterparts and that's exactly what they got - the lead exchanging hands eight times before Alesana Tuilagi's try settled matters three minutes from time.
Matt Smith, Craig Newby, Martin Castrogiovanni and Ben Youngs had all touched down for the Tigers beforehand, with the impressive Tommaso Benvenuti scoring twice for the Magners League newcomers.
Benvenuti's contribution was complemented by that of Treviso fly-half Chris Burton, whose opposite number Billy Twelvetrees struggled with the boot rather having been called up as a late replacement for Toby Flood.
Leicester also suffered a further blow when Dan Hipkiss injured himself in the warm-up, with Horacio Agulla also coming off the bench to start.
The Tigers fans' were clearly enjoying the sunshine in northeastern Italy and had even more reason to smile just two minutes into the match when Smith scored their first try.
The centre picked up Twelvetrees' pass before jinking his way on the inside through the Treviso defensive line and accelerating clear before crossing.
Twelvetrees could not convert and Leicester also failed to add points in the eighth minute when, after Youngs' quick tap, Geordan Murphy tried to break clear before the move broke down.
They were punished just moments later when Paul Derbyshire offloaded to Benvenuti and the 19-year-old outside centre ran clear of two challenges to score by the posts.
Burton converted for a two-point Treviso lead but with Twelvetrees putting the visitors back ahead with a penalty after 13 minutes, the home number 10 then hit the right-hand post with another attempted three-pointer.
After Twelvetrees set them up by selling the Treviso line two dummies, Leicester scored their second midway through the first half - Newby eventually touching down in the corner after Murphy had again gone close.
Twelvetrees missed the extras again and also hooked a regulation penalty wide in the 33rd minute - Burton then doing the same having found the target eight minutes earlier.
He levelled the scores four minutes before half time with a well-taken drop goal but Treviso hardly did themselves any favours when Robert Barbieri was sin-binned.
They were back ahead courtesy of a Burton penalty two minutes into the second half, but the Tigers put together a number of phases from the re-start and it came as little surprise when Castrogiovanni eventually crashed over.
Twelvetrees this time converted for 16-20 but the lead changed hands again four minutes later when Benvenuti repeated his earlier trick.
Burton converted but the pattern continued four minutes before the hour when Youngs sprinted out from behind the Leicester scrum and darted over for his first European try, converted by Twelvetrees.
Could Leicester keep their lead this time? Not if Burton and Benvenuti had anything to do with it: the former kicking a penalty in the 62nd minute before the youngster converted a drop-goal that edged them two points clear.
Indeed, with 10 minutes to go, it was starting to look as though the Tigers would not be able to find a way back.
However, after being pinned inside their own half, the breakthrough finally came in the 77th minute when Tuilagi raced through for the bonus-point try, converted by Twelvetrees.