Leicester 48 West Hartlepool 15
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The Independent Online
LEICESTER needed a late burst of scoring yesterday to instil fresh hope of retaining the Courage Championship. For much of this match the Tigers were more like contented tabbies as visitors West Hartlepool kept them at bay, despite being heavily out-gunned in scrums and line-outs.

But Leicester's dominance up front yielded 28 points in the last 22 minutes, a spree which made much-needed inroads into Bath's superior points difference.

Three of Leicester's six tries came from the scrum half Aadel Kardooni, making a welcome return after a knee injury. He was soon back in the wars, however - after his first try he dislocated a thumb and the bone broke through the skin, requiring five stitches. The former England wing Steve Hackney ran in two tries, including a spectacular effort from within his own 22 with two minutes remaining, while the other try scorer was the rejected England flanker Neil Back.

However, the 8,000 crowd streaming away from Welford Road felt that Leicester, having done the ground work before the interval when they led 17-0, should have begun the demolition much earlier.

Despite a pack which had lost its way and often lost its rag in the loose, West kept the contest alive for at least an hour thanks to a virtuoso display by their fullback and captain Tim Stimpson, who scored all their points.

Both of Stimpson's tries were gems. The first came early in the second half as he cut inside his centre Paul Hodder and touched down one-handed. The other came as he timed his run into the line to perfection, accelerating past the Leicester fullback John Liley, who otherwise had a solid game and kicked 18 points.

Stimpson apart, it is not difficult to see why West are propping up the table, though it would not be fair to say they were pushovers - despite Kardooni's first two tries of that variety, which were quite beautifully orchestrated by Dean Richards at the back of the Leicester scrum.

From the moment West's pantomime reindeer found himself upstaged by Leicester's tiger in the pre-match entertainment, the result was never in doubt. Within four minutes Hackney, normally a right wing, popped up at centre to coast in for Leicester's first try. Then fly-half Jez Harris broke the deadlock 20 minutes later with a drop goal and Kardooni's first try completed the first-half scoring.

Stimpson opened West's account with a penalty, and after his first try the score stood at 20-10 with 20 minutes remaining. Then Kardooni's second opened the floodgates for Leicester, who ran in three more tries, punctuated only by Stimpson's second touchdown. West may be heading for the drop, but it's a fair bet that Stimpson won't go down with them.

Leicester: J Liley; S Hackney, R Robinson, P Delaney, R Underwood; J Harris, A Kardooni; G Rowntree, R Cockerill, D Garforth, M Johnson, M Poole, J Wells, N Back, D Richards (capt).

West Hartlepool: T Stimpson (capt); M Wood, P Hodder, A Blyth, J Williams; A Parker, S Cook; S Sparks, T Herbert, P Beal, C Murphy, K Westgarth, D Mitchell, R Leach, P Evans.

Referee: G Hughes (Manchester).