Leicester have reached the Champions Cup semi-final after thrashing Stade Francais
The Tigers will face either Racing 92 in the final four
Tries from Manu Tuilagi, Niki Goneva, and Freddie Burns gave Tigers a 24-6 lead at half-time
Further scores from Goneva, Mike Fitzgerald, and Telusa Veainu ensured the deserved triumph
Niki Goneva was at his premium best as his fierceness display and pair of tries helped Leicester trounce Stade Francais to secure their place in the European Champions Cup semi-final for the first time in seven years.
The victory at Welford Road means Leicester join fellow Aviva Premiership sides Wasps and Saracens in the semi-finals, while the defending French champions slumped to their fifth loss in six games.
An almost perfect opening 40 for the hosts saw the Tigers run in three first half tries with Tuilagi getting them off to a blistering start before Niki Goneva and Freddie Burns both touched down to give the hosts a deserved 24-6 lead at the break.
The French visitors made a dream start to the second half when Julien Dupuy went over, but further scores from Goneva, Mike Fitzgerald, and Telusa Veainu secured the comfortable victory for the Tigers.
Tuilagi crossed to open the scoring for Leicester after just two minutes. He tapped down after Djibril Camera was flummoxed by a Burns grubber kick. Referee, Nigel Owens wanted to check the ball hadn’t gone into touch, but it hadn’t and the try was given. Burns then kicked the extras to get Tigers off to a dream start, 7-0.
Morne Steyn squeezed the ball over soon after to reduce the deficit but Burns kick after 15 minutes flew between the sticks to re-establish the hosts seven-point buffer. Steyn though once again reduced the hosts advantage with another penalty after 24 minutes.
But Leicester responded with their second try soon after as Goneva continued his electrifying form, darting in for his fifth try in his lat five games. A flat cut-out pass from Peter Betham puts the winger into space out wide and nobody could stop the powerhouse Fijian from there. Burns then knocked over the extras to give the hosts an 11-point advantage, 17-6.
Tigers then continued to get onto the front foot, immediately extending their lead further when Burns intercepted from the halfway point and raced unopposed straight under the posts for the hosts third try of the contest. The fly-half then slotted the extras as Stade capitulated before our eyes heading into half-time, 24-6.
Stade Francais responded immediately after the restart as Julien Dupuy went over against his former side. The scrum-half made the most of an excellent delayed pass from Sergio Parisse and coasted through the gap. Stade had a lifeline as Steyn added the conversion to reduce Tigers lead back to 11-points.
But Leicester was back in firm control again when Newcastle-bound Goneva raced in for his second after 45 minutes. A wayward kick was collected by Matthew Tait, who made a powerful initial break for Tigers before releasing the winger to blitz in and finish superbly in the corner. Burns then nailed the touchline conversion, 31-13.
Tigers then added their fifth try on the hour mark through Fitzgerald. Fullback Tait started the move, before Brendan O’Connor put in a firm carry to draw in defenders and create the space out on the wing for Mike Fitzgerald to score. Great credit also had to go to Goneva, who unselfishly gave his flanker the final pass instead of going for his hat-trick. Williams though failed to add the further two with his attempt rebounding off the post, 36-13.
Veainu then put the icing on the cake for the hosts as he beat some of Stade’s defenders to dive over for try number six. An honourable mention has to go to Betham, who was instrumental in that move with a darting break.
Having replaced Freddie Burns, Owen Williams saw his two conversion attempts and a penalty all rebound off the post, but the 41-13 victory means Leicester secured their first European semi-final since 2009 when they take on Racing 92 in Nottingham.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Leicester Tigers: Peter Betham
Leicester: 15 Mathew Tait (c), 14 Telusa Veainu, 13 Peter Betham, 12 Manu Tuilagi, 11 Vereniki Goneva, 10 Freddie Burns, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Lachlan McCaffrey, 7 Brendon O’Connor, 6 Mike Fitzgerald, 5 Graham Kitchener, 4 Dom Barrow, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Harry Thacker, 1 Marcos Ayerza
Replacements: 16 Greg Bateman, 17 Logovi’i Mulipola, 18 Fraser Balmain, 19 Ed Slater, 20 Tom Croft, 21 Sam Harrison, 22 Owen Williams, 23 Adam Thompstone
Stade Français: 15 Djibril Camara, 14 Waisea Vuidarvuwalu, 13 Geoffrey Doumayrou, 12 Jonathan Danty, 11 Jérémy Sinzelle, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Julien Dupuy, 8 Sergio Parisse (c), 7 Raphaël Lakafia, 6 Jono Ross, 5 Alexandre Flanquart, 4 Hugh Pyle, 3 Rabah Slimani, 2 Remi Bonfils, 1 Zurabi Zhvania
Replacements: 16 Craig Burden, 17 Dany Priso, 18 Paul Alo Emile, 19 Paul Gabrillagues, 20 Willem Alberts, 21 Julien Tomas, 22 Jules Plisson, 23 Hugo Bonneval
Date: Sunday, April 10
Venue: Welford Road
Kick-off: 13:45 BST (12:45 GMT)
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)
Assistant Referees: George Clancy (Ireland), Leighton Hodges (Wales)
TMO: Derek Bevan (Wales)