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Leicester edge Cardiff in Millennium drama to reach final

Latest update : 2009-05-04

Two-times European Cup champions Leicester Tigers ousted the Cardiff Blues after coming out on top in the competition's first place-kick shootout at the Millennium Stadium. They will face Leinster in the final in Edinburgh on May 23.

AFP - Two-time European champions Leicester beat Cardiff 7-6 in a dramatic place-kicking contest to book their place in this season's European Cup final after an extraordinary climax here on Sunday.

Leicester forward Jordan Crane banged over the decisive kick at the Millennium Stadium after Martyn Williams had missed from in front of the posts on a ground where he'd enjoyed some of his greatest triumphs.

Cardiff had earlier wiped out a 14 point deficit in the final six minutes of regulation time to leave the match level at 26-26 come the end of 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 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 game for the Blues pulled well wide of the posts.

Scott Hamilton tied things up at 4-4 and the match 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.

Crane, reflecting on the kicking contest, said: "I actually enjoyed it."

However, the No 8 added: "I've taken a few kicks in training, although I have to say I am in no hurry to take another kick."

Leicester skipper Geordan Murphy, who scored one of the Tigers' two tries, said: "It is a nasty, horrible way to lose and I feel really sorry for the Cardiff boys.

"It is not much of a way to win either and we will have to play much better to beat Leinster in the final."

Dejected Cardiff coach David Young refused to criticise those Blues players who'd missed placekicks

"I admire the guys who stepped-up and took the kicks, but unfortunately, someone was always going to miss, either for us or Leicester," he said.

"You win together and you lose together and there is no finger-pointing, but I really feel for someone like Martyn Williams who has put in so much work to take this region forward.

"For 60 minutes Leicester were the better team - we couldn't produce any quick ball - but at 26-26 the momentum was with us before it went to dreaded kicks at the end."

Leicester were 26-12 ahead going into the final 20 minutes.

But cynical infringements by 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 late tries from centre Jamie Roberts and wing James, both nervelessly converted from the touchline by 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 had taken 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 a fine attacking display allied to superb defence saw them upset the formbook to defeat title-holders and Irish rivals Munster 25-6 in Saturday's first semi-final at Dublin's Croke Park.

Date created : 2009-05-03