Leicester edge thrilling Euro semi - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Leicester edge thrilling Euro semi

04/05/2009 12:55:07 PM Comments (0)

After extra time failed to separate the sides, the two-time European champions Leicester beat Cardiff 7-6 in a dramatic place-kicking contest to book their place in the European Cup final after an extraordinary climax at the Millennium Stadium.

Leicester forward Jordan Crane hit the decisive kick after Cardiff hero Martyn Williams had missed from in front of the posts on a ground where he'd enjoyed some of his greatest triumphs.

Cardiff overturned a 14-point deficit in the final six minutes of regulation time to ensure the match was all square at 26-26 after 80 minutes.

Twenty minutes of extra-time then failed to separate the sides, meaning a place-kicking contest from 22 metres out was needed to decide who would face the Irish province Leinster in the May 23 final at Murrayfield.

Leicester's Johne Murphy missed the fourth of the Tigers's five attempts after both sides had used their regular and recognised back-up goalkickers in what is still a rare way to decide the outcome of a major rugby union match.

But Tom James, whose late try had helped bring Cardiff level during the match proper, then saw his effort to win the match for the Blues pulled well wide of the posts.

Scott Hamilton tied things up at 4-4 and the game went into 'sudden death'.

Tom Shanklin and Richie Rees, the latter only just, kept Cardiff in the match but Williams, a brilliant back-row forward, was way off-target.

Leicester led 26-12 going into the final 20 minutes.

But cynical infringements by the Leicester duo Craig Newby and Geordan Murphy were punished with yellow cards by Irish Test referee Alain Rolland.

These saw the Tigers reduced to 13 men at one stage and the English giants played most of the last quarter a man down.

Cardiff capitalised with tries inside the final six minutes from centre Jamie Roberts and wing James both of which were nervelessly converted from the touchline by the former New Zealand full-back Ben Blair.

Hamilton's early try and eight points from the boot of French scrum-half Julien Dupuy gave the Tigers a narrow lead following a lively opening period but two penalties apiece from Blair and Wales rising star Leigh Halfpenny kept the Blues in touch.

Geordan Murphy's try extended Leicester's advantage early in the second half and three more Dupuy penalties took them to the brink of victory on the ground where they beat Munster in the 2002 final before Cardiff fought back.

Leinster reached their first European Cup final after defeating title-holders and Irish rivals Munster 25-6 in Saturday's first semi-final at Dublin's Croke Park.

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