Hackney handful

Leicester 43 Scottish Borders 3
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The Independent Online
Perhaps it was a good thing there were no television cameras at Welford Road yesterday to capture this often turgid encounter between Leicester and the Scottish Borders. The visitors can be commended for their spirited performance in the most inhospitable of venues. But for large swathes of the game the Tigers appeared to have left their teeth in a glass of water on the bedside table.

The opening exchanges were characterised by numerous errors. Passes were fumbled, Rob Liley fluffed three penalty attempts at goal, and then the unthinkable happened: two Leicester rolling mauls were held up on the line. The Scots were in fact first to score, going ahead with a Gary Parker penalty goal in the sixth minute. They then kept Leicester at bay thanks to the siege-gun boot of Craig Chalmers.

Leicester finally broke through in the 34th minute - but only courtesy of a Scottish blunder. A bullet pass from the Borders scrum-half Bryan Redpath was intercepted by Eric Miller. He dashed 50 yards to outpace the defence and score in the corner. Liley found his touch to slot the conversion from the touchline. Gradually the natural order reasserted itself. Martin Johnson and Matt Poole began to dominate the line-out and the passes through the Leicester backline started to stick.

On the stroke of half-time, a break by the sharp-looking Stuart Potter set up a try for Rory Underwood. After the break, Leicester built on their lead with another Liley penalty goal before the human electric eel known as Steve Hackney - he looked capable of giving the Scots a nasty shock every time he handled the ball - dived over by the corner flag. Near the end, Poole, Underwood and hooker Dorian West surged through the tiring Scottish defences for further tries.

Sure, the final score was convincing, and with players of the calibre of Johnson and Hackney Leicester are always going to be tough to beat. But in all honesty, the Scots did not represent top-flight opposition, and the impression remains that the Tigers' coach Bob Dwyer, watching from the sidelines yesterday after five weeks in Australia, still has plenty of work to do to turn Leicester's talented parts into a cohesive whole.

You could not help but agree with the wag in the crowd who shouted at the talismanic Tigers captain sitting in the stand: "Come on, Deano, get out there and sort them out."

Leicester: J Liley; S Hackney, S Potter, N Malone, R Underwood; R Liley, A Healey; D Jelley, D West, D Garforth, M Johnson (capt), M Poole, E Miller, W Johnson, O Wingham.

Scottish Borders: C Turnbull; T Stanger, C Murray, S Nichol, G Parker; C Chalmers, B Redpath (capt); M McIlroy, S Brotherstone, S Ferguson, C Hogg, S Aitken, S Bennett, R Kirkpatrick, N Broughton.

Referee: G Simmonds (Welsh RFU).