A day to remember as Leicester Tigers beat Toulouse
An epic occasion. Soaked in drama and drenched in snow. Leicester Tigers are in the Heineken Cup quarter-finals.
Tigers showed all the attributes that the club's proud heritage has been built on.
They gritted their teeth, rolled their sleeves up and simply out-fought a club that reportedly spends £14million on wages, compared to Leicester's £4.5m.
It was not a day for finesse as morning snow picked up in intensity during the game making handling a lottery.
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It was, however, a day for Leicester's dogs-of-war and the likes of Geoff Parling, Julian Salvi and man-of-the-match Louis Deacon were rabid.
Tigers will travel to the south of France, in April, for a quarter-final against a Toulon side whose wage bill makes Toulouse's look like a child's pocket money.
Before then, Leicester can bask in the glory of their biggest win at Welford Road since beating Stade Francais in a quarter-final thriller, in 2007.
It began well in the first half after the frost protector had been lifted from the surface.
Toby Flood kicked the hosts ahead in the sixth minute after the strong start they needed.
Toulouse fought back in style as their famed off-loading game hit top form, even in the atrocious conditions.
Crucially through, Luke McAlister and the truly dreadful Lionel Beauxis missed three penalties in a six-minute spell.
Flood missed one of his own on 27 minutes and Niall Morris missed two try-scoring chances as he dropped the ball diving over the line before knocking-on in midfield with the try-line begging. Flood made it 6-0 on 31 minutes though and then landed a third penalty from inside his own half just before the break to give Tigers a 9-0 lead.
That seemed huge in the arctic conditions but Toulouse flew out of the blocks in the second half.
A wonderful up-and-under from McAlister put Mathew Tait and Morris in trouble near their own line and when the ball bobbled free, winger Yoann Huget dived on it over the line for a try on 49 minutes.
It was no surprise that Beauxis missed the conversion but momentum had changed.
With some excellent kicking from McAlister and livewire scrum-half Jean-Marc Doussain, Tigers' back three of Adam Thompstone, Morris and Tait were given a torrid time.
Toulouse also threw bodies into the breakdown and Tigers were pinged repeatedly, but the Frenchmen's profligacy with the boot continued to kill them.
Beauxis and McAlister ended up missing five from five and it quite simply cost them the game.
The closing stages were almost unbearable as the home crowd whipped themselves up into a nerve-ridden frenzy. The noise in the final seconds was truly deafening.
When Flood was sin-binned for a deliberate knock-on with 12 minutes to go and Toulouse enjoyed a succession of five-metre lineouts, it looked as though their pressure would finally tell.
But Leicester dug in. Great defence in the middle of the park forced a turnover, then Tigers remained calm and organised to continually thwart Toulouse's driving mauls – as they had done wonderfully all afternoon.
As Flood ran back on with two minutes to go, Parling rose superbly to disrupt another five-metre lineout, Leicester dived on the bouncing ball and Ben Youngs cleared.
The end came as a messy scrum was whistled dead and 24,015 people went into orbit.
Bizarrely, Toulouse ran off without shaking hands or clapping off the winning team.
"That was strange and not really in the spirit of rugby," said Tigers' flanker Salvi afterwards. "Still, they are in the Amlin Cup and we are in the quarter-finals, so who cares?"
With Toulouse back in the changing room, Leicester left the field with a warm glow and the adulation of their supporters ringing in their ears.
It was a day to remember.