Leicester Tigers 35-26 Stormers: Handre Pollard stars in Investec Champions Cup win

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Handre Pollard scored his first Investec Champions Cup try to seal the win

Investec Champions Cup: Leicester Tigers v Stormers

Tries: Kata 2, Pollard, Bassett; Pens: Pollard 3; Cons: Pollard 3;

Tries: Morabe, Skosan; Pens: Matthee 3; Cons: Matthee 2; Drop-goal: Matthee

Handre Pollard scored 20 points as Leicester came from behind to edge South African side Stormers in their Investec Champions Cup opener.

Pollard needed to be at his accurate best after a shadow Stormers side took a shock 17-10 half-time lead.

Solomone Kata put Leicester ahead but Keke Morabe and Courtnall Skosan crossed to put the visitors in front.

Kata, Pollard and Josh Bassett then scored after the break to secure the bonus-point win for the hosts.

Stormers left a raft of first-team players at home but played superbly in the first 40 minutes to deservedly lead.

But 10 unanswered points in the first 10 minutes of the second half turned the game in Leicester’s favour before Pollard’s try while the visitors were down to 14.

Another penalty from Stormers debutant Jurie Matthee – who was immaculate from the tee – cut the lead to four points but the South Africans could not break through at the end, with Bassett going in at the corner in the final seconds to secure a vital bonus point.

With a stacked Pool D handing Leicester trips to Stade Francais and La Rochelle next before they finish the group against four-time winners Leinster, an opening win was essential.

Head coach Dan McKellar had some strong words to say at half-time after a scrappy first-half performance, but was pleased with his team’s response in tricky, windy conditions.

McKellar said: “It’s not about yelling and screaming, it’s about understanding we needed to shift in and around attitude and enthusiasm and effort areas.

“Someone’s going to drop a ball every now and then or throw a bad pass, I can live with that, but I can’t live with being out-enthused.

“We got some set-piece dominance, we kicked better, it was tough conditions out there.

“I know everyone wants to see us throwing the ball around and I thought again there were some good moments of really good passages and skill and good play, but we just executed our game plan.

“We managed to put them under pressure with our kicking game, through our defence and through our set-piece.

“At this time of the year, that’s what’s going to win games.”

Pollard famously kicked South Africa to World Cup glory last month and Leicester needed his quality and composure again to bring up this victory.

Opposite number Matthee was flawless on his debut, adding a superb long-range drop goal in the second half, as Stormers made light of their second string selection to push Leicester all the way.

Last year’s Cape Town-based quarter-finalists chose to leave World Cup winners Manie Libbok and Damian Willemse at home and save them a 12,000 mile round trip before playing La Rochelle next Saturday.

But their second-string XV were excellent throughout, forcing handling errors from Leicester and finishing their chances clinically.

Morabe’s try came from Leicester’s number eight Jasper Wiese dropping the ball, while Skosan’s score came from scrum-half Paul de Wet stealing the ball from a scrum.

A late yellow card shown to replacement Lee-Marvin Mazibuko proved decisive as Pollard crossed moments later, but Stormers were still pushing for a try of their own in the closing seconds before Bassett’s score sealed the win for Leicester.

Line-ups

Leicester: Steward, Bassett, Scott, Kata, Hassell-Collins; Pollard, Youngs; Van Wyk, Montoya, Cole, Chessum, Henderson, Liebenberg, Reffell, Wiese

Replacements: Vanes, Cronin, Heyes, Wells, Hatherell, Whiteley, Shillcock, Kelly

Stormers: Blommetjies, Skosan, Hartzenberg, Du Plessis, Loader; Matthee, De Wet; Sithole, Ntubeni, Harris, Stassen, Evans, Xaba, Engelbrecht, Morabe

Replacements: Kotze, Blose, Mazibuko, Sjoblom, Pokomela, Theunissen, Ungerer, Smit

Reference

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