Leicester survive lapses

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The Independent Online
PAUL STEPHENS

West Hartlepool 12 Leicester 19

West Hartlepool are an enigma with only the flimsiest of variations. Once Leicester had seen through the most opaque of them, West were facing a long hard look in the mirror, and then upwards to the nine First Division teams above them. Neither provides a particularly pretty sight for the Cleveland club.

The Brierton Lane faithful are fond of telling all those prepared to listen that no side relishes a trip to the north-east, and that West make life difficult for even the best, as Bath and Leicester will readily testify.

True to an extent - though it is one thing making it awkward for the top teams to triumph there, and quite another for the home side to create sufficient chances to win themselves. Saturday's game was a case in point.

For most of the first half and all of the closing 10 minutes, West took the game to the Tigers with a ferocious relish and the sort of confidence that makes a nonsense of their predicament at the foot of the table - but it was not enough as West allowed Leicester ample space to score tries.

"We only started believing in ourselves during the final quarter," West's director of rugby, Barry Forster, said. "With better ball control, we might have got a lot closer. What pleased me, though, was the way we stretched Leicester to the limit. If we can do this against Saracens next weekend, we could be on our way."

Leicester, trying to retain the Courage title, will be thankful that West, like Sale three weeks previously, were unable to take full advantage of Tigers' lapses, particularly in handling. It was the Leicester backs who were most at fault; Stuart Potter and Richie Richardson spilling the ball with the line open. It was left to the Tigers' forwards to seal it, Darren Garforth and Richard Cockerill scoring the tries.

West Hartlepool: Penalties Stimpson 4. Leicester: Tries Garforth, Cockerill; Penalties Liley 3.

West Hartlepool: T Stimpson; O Evans, J Williams, C Lee, A Parker; P Hodder, S Cook; P Lancaster (capt), T Herbert, M Shelley, C Murphy, K Westgarth (J Dixon, 71), D Mitchell, A Brown, R Wainwright.

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

Referee: E Murray (Greenock).

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