Peerless Handre Pollard guides Leicester through the storm

Handre Pollard scores a try - Peerless Handre Pollard guides Leicester through the storm
Handre Pollard scored 20 of Leicester's points as they saw off the challenge of the Stormers - PA/Mike Egerton

Leicester Tigers 35 Stormers 26

Handre Pollard ensured Leicester defied a battling and determined Stormers side to get their Champions Cup campaign off to a winning start at Welford Road.

Pollard could be excused for still floating on cloud nine following his latest World Cup exploits but the South African is clearly highly driven and motivated to help Tigers savour some special success themselves. That is judging by his influential 20-point player-of-the-match performance here.

He was on top form to ensure he and his Leicester team-mates enjoyed last night’s Christmas party considerably more than if they had fallen foul of tough South African opponents. Indeed, he would have deserved an extra glass or two on the back of steering the shaky Tigers ship out of trouble at times in this contest when they looked miles away from becoming potential European champions.

Dan McKellar, the head coach, was purring. “That’s the stamp of the man,” he said. “He’s world class and in rare form at the moment.”

Stormers may have been under-strength, but they fought gamely and led 17-10 at the break before Leicester came on strong in the second half.

Pollard revealed their second-half improvement had come via a stern ticking off from an animated McKellar at the break. He admitted: “The feeling is more of relief than anything because Stormers put us under real pressure. We had some tough words at half-time. Dan is usually a chilled guy, but to see him heat up was pretty intense.

“It was a better second half and we have the five points. It proved a hard afternoon but Stormers are a good side and showed it.”

Solomone Kata’s early try should have given Tigers the foundation for further assaults on the Stormers line, but instead it was the visitors who hit back impressively to lead.

Solomone Kata
Solomone Kata twice crossed the whitewash for the hosts - PA/Mike Egerton

They struck first via No 8 Keke Morabe after camping on the Tigers line. Then a loose Leicester scrum led to scrum-half Paul de Wet kicking through, diving on the ball and feeding wing Courtnall Skosan for a fine try.

The hosts were soon in front within eight minutes of the second half as Pollard kicked a penalty and centre Kata crossed for his ­second try.

Stormers refused to lie down and Jurie Matthee and Pollard exchanged kicking blows before a huge turning point in which Stormers went down to 14 men, with replacement Lee-Marvin Mazibuko sent to the sin-bin for a dangerous hit on Jasper Wiese.

Pollard then showed his eye for a try but Mathee’s kicking kept Stormers in the game until a fierce Tigers scrum denied them the chance of winning the contest.

They lost out on a losing bonus point as Leicester swept downfield, their risk of going for a fourth try paying off thanks to Josh Bassett crossing right at the death.

Of coming away empty-handed, Stormers coach John Dobson said: “We had a real mix of young and old players out there who stuck around and fought all the way. It just feels like a punch in the guts not to get a point at the end.”

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