4 June 2008
The Tigers team and the visitors’ Maori Haka received a warm welcome in the Classic All Blacks’ first-ever fixture in the UK in front of a crowd of 8,184.
The visitors ran in seven tries, but the Tigers produced four of their own as Frank Murphy and Matt Cornwell provided inspiration in the backline and the forwards stuck to the task well against experienced opposition.
The Classic All Blacks got the scoreboard rolling after just two minutes when lock Troy Flavell dived over after a powerful l maul. Flavell went for a second try from an identical position after 12 minutes but this time met stern resistance from prop Dan Cole and the visitors lost possession at the next phase right on Tigers’ try-line.
Wing Jack Cobden, beaten by the bounce of the ball from a clever Murphy kick earlier, forced Isa Nacewa into an error in his own 22 but the attack came to a halt with a knock-on.
Carl Hayman was the next to feel the force of the Tigers tackling, Manu Tuilagi dropping the Newcastle prop. Within seconds, Gregor Gillanders felled openside Josh Blackie as Tigers held out under pressure.
Carlos Spencer, who was involved in the Classics’ best attacks with his usual array of tricks, created the second try after 25 minutes, releasing flanker Josh Blackie to run in from 20 metres. Spencer’s conversion made it 0-12.
Lome Faatau supplied a third try, running 70 metres after George Chuter had stopped Spencer in his tracks inside his own 22. But the Glasgow winger missed his drop-kick conversion from in line with the left-hand post.
Second row Gillanders got Tigers off the mark moments later, picking up loose ball and running into the left-hand corner. Billy Twelvetrees converted despite an unpredictable, gusty wind.
Murphy and Ben Youngs then made quick breaks from deep inside their own territory, with former Tigers vice-captain Daryl Gibson bringing one dangerous attack to a halt as he caught Twelvetrees.
The visitors made the most of the escape as Faatau offloaded for Slade McFarland to score and then Filo Tita Tia showed his strength to push over in the right-hand corner for the tourists’ fifth try. Forwards McFarland and Tia Tia were each invited to convert their own scores, though both were unsuccessful.
A quick penalty from Murphy allowed pressure to swing the other way, but the tourists’ defence stayed solid as Gillanders was held up over the line.
But less than a minute later, similar pressure came to fruition as Murphy, Cornwell and Youngs combined for Dan Hemingway to reach out and score. Twelvetrees added the conversion to make it 14-27.
Skipper Marshall touched down a sixth time for the Classics, converted by Roger Randle, to make it 34-14 entering the last quarter of an hour.
Replacement wing Will Hurrell then got on the end of a break from Murphy and Cornwell to outpace the covering defence and score in the left-hand corner, but the Classics were not on the back foot for long as Randle scythed through the Tigers defence to grab a try which lock Flavell gratefully converted from in front of the posts to make it 19-41.
The home crowd, though, had more to cheer entering the final five minutes as a strong driving maul was pulled down on the Classics’ try-line and referee Ashley Rowden awarded a penalty try. Frank Murphy converted to bring the scoring to a close.