I SHALL write this only once more this season because my bleatings on the subject are becoming as tedious as so much of the play, but if Sir John Hall, the owner of Newcastle, and his ilk truly believe that club rugby in England is worth the millions of pounds that they are at present asking for it, then they have completely lost their entrepreneurial marbles. The sooner this dismal season is laid to rest for ever the better.
Welford Road used to be a thoroughly enjoyable place to visit. No longer. The warmth and the friendliness of the atmosphere have been replaced by braying discourtesy and brute ignorance. Yesterday, and not for the first time in his refereeing career, Brian Campsall was the target for the crowd's abuse, but the truth is that without the referee to vent their spleen on there is very little else at the moment for the home crowd to shout about.
The most blinkered partisans will of course point to the fact that the Tigers are the defending league champions who are making a spirited defence of their title and who have reached yet another Pilkington Cup final. Next to Bath they are the most successful club side in the country attracting huge crowds to their stadium every home match. But at what price.
By no stretch of the imagination could yesterday's shoddy spectacle be described as entertainment. Had Leicester lost it might have not been an accurate reflection of the play, but it would have been no more than they deserved and when Guy Gregory, with a drop goal and two penalties in the final quarter of an hour brought Wasps to within three points of Leicester, their slim hopes of a second successive title were even more flimsy.
But for the umpteenth time John Liley's boot came to Leicester's rescue. Once again he produced a masterly performance of kicking both off the ground and out of the hand. His line- kicking was punishingly long and, when he moved to stand-off in place of the injured Niall Malone, his garryowens were dispatched towards the opposition full-back, Jon Ufton, with withering accuracy.
Leicester, like England, depend for their survival upon the total dominance of their pack and yesterday the forwards enjoyed much less control than usual.
Both Wasps' second-row forwards, Matt Greenwood and Richard Kinsey, succeeded in taking a surprising amount of ball in the line-out from the acknowledged masters Martin Johnson and Matt Poole, and in the scrummage the Wasps front row obstinately refused to bend the knee to their opposite numbers.
Very few sides given a penalty five metres from the Leicester line would opt for a scrummage rather than the kick as Wasps did yesterday. Not that it did them much good but at least they had made their point.
Leicester: J Liley; S Hackney, J Overend, R Robinson, R Underwood (capt); N Malone (J Hamilton, 38), A Kardooni; G Rowntree, R Cockerill, D Garforth, M Johnson, M Poole, J Wells, W Johnson, N Back.
Wasps: J Ufton; L Scrase, N Greenstock, A James, S Roiser; G Gregory, A Gomarsall; D Molloy, K Dunn, I Dunston, M Greenwood, R Kinsey, M White, L Dallaglio (capt), P Scrivener
Referee: B Campsall (Yorkshire).Reuse content