Inside the Tigers’ Den - Odogwu steals the show against Argentina
As pre-season games go it doesn’t get much better than 13 tries and 80 points.
Leicester Tigers were beaten 55-34 on Saturday by Argentina as the club marked prop Marcos Ayerza’s testimonial.
The front rower is the first southern hemisphere player, plying his trade in the northern hemisphere, to have a testimonial game and if they are all as good as the weekend’s offering its about time we have some more.
Leicester were never going to win on Saturday - the two sides are in completely different places at the moment.
It was Tigers’ first outing of the season, by which standards they did very well, whereas a battle hardened Argentina, fresh off the back of competing in the Rugby Championship, where they beat South Africa, were playing their final game before the start of the Rugby World Cup.
Of course Tigers have beaten South Africa as well, that famous night back in 2009, 22-17, but Argentina had too much class for a side made up of new faces, academy players and first teamers integrating back in.
However there may be one similarity to that game six years ago - a great talent may have been unearthed.
Against the Springboks it was the first time many had heard the names of Manu Tuilagi and Ben Youngs, who was just an England U20 player at the time. But both starred in the victory and have gone on great feats with the club, England and the British Lions since.
Saturday will be remembered for a stunning try from young academy winger Paolo Odogwu.
The youngster took the ball ten metres inside his own half and took off in a gear few players in the top flight game possess, making a couple of international Puma backs, including former Tiger Horacio Agulla, look a little silly on his way to the try line.
It was a significant moment in the match as well as Leicester fought back from 38-13 down to close within four points of Argentina. Harry Thacker charged down a kick which he regathered to score and Freddie Burns, on as a second half replacement, intercepted a pass to score under the posts.
Momentarily the atmosphere in a half full Welford Road changed as the crowd sensed an upset could be on. However it didn’t last too long as the Pumas scored three late tries through Newcastle back Juan Pablo Socino, Juan Manuel Leguizamon and Agulla.
In the first half the slick handling from Argentina was simply too good, every time they went wide, quickly and accurately, they seemed to score, and ‘The Magician’ Juan Martín Hernández was mystifying the Tigers’ defence with his nifty footwork in the centres.
Argentina winger Santiago Cordero opened the scoring. Saracens centre Marcelo Bosch was next to breach the Leicester defence, with winger Juan Imhoff and Toulon fly-half Nicolas Sanchez following him.
Hooker Julian Montoya and Agulla also crossed.
However Leicester also crossed the whitewash through prop Riccardo Brugnara after a sustained assault by the forwards.
Despite a 21 point defeat Leicester probably finished the happier of the two sides having scored four tries against international opposition.
It was also the first run out for a host of new signings including winger Peter Betham, hooker Greg Bateman, lock Mike Fitzgerald and flanker Lachlan McCaffrey.
Argentina international winger Gonzalo Camacho also made his first team debut two years after signing for the club, having finally recovered from shoulder injury.
Meanwhile England were having a pretty good day at Twickenham on Saturday, beating Six Nations champions Ireland 21-13.
The win saw England move up from sixth in the World Rugby rankings to third, the position Ireland were in at the start of the day.
Leicester’s three players in England’s 31-man World Cup squad all started against Ireland in what looks like head coach Stuart Lancaster’s first XV for the up-coming tournament.
Ben Youngs had a great day at scrum half, creating Jonny May’s opening try with a visionary miss-pass to the winger.
His brother Tom also had a much improved performance, with a perfect record in the lineout, an area he struggled in previous warm-up games.
However there is still much work to be done in the line out as this is one case where stastistics don’t tell the whole true - a number of the lineout catches were scrappy and tipped back putting England on the back foot.
Tom Youngs also butchered a try with a forward pass to May, however he should of done enough to start against Fiji in eight days time.
He was England’s third highest tackler behind only the backrow pairing of Chris Robshaw and Tom Wood.
Dan Cole also started for England but performed without much fanfare.
Tigers face Sale Sharks on Saturday in their first Kings of the North fixture.
Sale beat Newcastle 36-22 in the opening game of the competition on Saturday.