Leicester’s attempt to return to the summit of European rugby looks like an awfully high climb after defeat at Ulster on Friday night.
Tigers’ European adventure opened with a bang but ended in disappointment.
The thrilling, end-to-end game, had everything we have come to expect from the Heineken Cup when two of Europe’s heavyweights come to blows.
But the contest was essentially ruined as a spectacle by a yellow card issued to Tigers’ Jordan Crane for tripping which tipped a perfectly balanced match irreversibly in favour of Ulster.
The silver lining in Leicester’s 22-16 defeat to Ulster Rugby was a valuable losing bonus point which could prove vital at the end of the group stages.
However, Leicester should feel disappointed they didn’t come away from the sold-out Ravenhill with at least four points after dominating proceedings for much of the encounter.
The visitors breached the line first through prop Logovi’i Mupilopa’s try, but had the score cancelled out by winger Tommy Bowe’s superb taking of a high ball.
Toby Flood kicked eight points for the Tigers with a conversion and two penalties, but Ulster’s Paddy Jackson knocked over 17 points to give his side the lead. Nine of which were scored while Tigers number eight Crane was in the sin-bin.
Leicester’s replacement fly-half Owen Williams added a late penalty to secure the losing bonus point.
If disputes over the future of the tournament continue to progress in the direction they are the 2013/14 Heineken Cup looks to be the last.
Leicester have competed in the final of the competition on five occasions, famously wining the cup back-to-back in 2001-02. However for a club of Leicester’s esteem it has been far too long a wait for a repeat performance having lost out to Leinster in 2009.
After the opening weekend, which saw Aviva Premiership clubs struggle, any victory for an English club appears unlikely at this stage.
Next up for Tigers is Benetton Treviso, who visit Welford Road on Friday, kick off at 8pm.
In other news
Tigers have signed one of the most exciting new talents to come out of Argentina as an injury replacement for Tom Croft.
Flanker Pablo Matera will join up with the club on Tuesday after competing in The Rugby Championship for the Pumas this summer.
The 20-year-old has made a real impression on the international scene since making his debut against Chile in May and has been a target for a number of top European clubs.
He is likely to make his debut for Tigers in a couple of weeks time as he is ineligible to play in the opening rounds of the Heineken Cup.
The 16-stone Matera, who has a physical style of play, has signed until the end of the season however Richard Cockerill and the Leicester management have one eye on keeping at the club for the long-term.
Leicester opted for Matera over Australian and former Wasps flanker Jonathan Poff, who has been at Tigers’ training ground Oval Park on trial.
The club said they wanted to invest in youth and raw potential.