Rugby: Leicester leave a little to be desired

Leicester 26 Milan 10
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The Independent Online
Leicester will regard this victory against a surprisingly stubborn Milan side at Welford Road as little more than a useful workout in Pool A of the Heineken European Cup, knowing full well that sterner tests lie ahead if they are to make the knock-out stages of the competition. We shall no doubt get a better idea of whether last season's losing finalists can progress once they have visited Toulouse in a fortnight's time.

There was enough in some of Leicester's play to suggest that, once the newcomers are fully integrated, the Tigers will be as significant a force as they were last term. What Leicester lacked in understanding in some areas, they were compensated for by the contributions of their established players.

But Leicester's director of coaching, Bob Dwyer, was unable to draw any comfort from his team's performance. "We were disappointing in the extreme," Dwyer said. "Never mind Toulouse, on today's display we haven't got a hope in hell of winning in Dublin against Leinster on Friday. We aren't doing the simple things well, and collectively we were all over the place."

Leicester's continuity, it is true, often lacked conviction, and they ought to have been able to build more effectively on a 16-point advantage accrued after little more than half an hour, but so often promising moves broke down, even when the Milan defence was fully stretched.

In the first half Milan, who have yet to record a win in the tournament, contributed wilfully to their own downfall. Gabriel Filizzola missed twice with penalty chances, before Federico Williams made an awful hash of dealing with Joel Stransky's chip to the goal-line and Will Greenwood pounced on the loose ball for the first of his two tries.

Greenwood, hinting that his recovery from the severe head injury which he sustained in Bloemfontein playing for the Lions is now complete, made the most of Neil Back's incisiveness to stride across for the second and Leicester - with two Stransky penalties already in the bag - had Milan by the throat.

The Italians, often revealing some delightful touches with the ball in hand, were a good deal less effective than one would expect from a team containing 12 internationals. They scrummaged well and tackled vigorously, but their ball retention was indifferent and at the line-out it was no contest, as Martin Johnson, Matt Poole and the irrepressible Eric Miller were in total command.

Marcello Cuttitta scored a late try for Milan, converted by Filizzola, who also kicked a penalty. But Leicester had advanced to 26-3 with a try by Michael Horak, converted by Stransky, who also kicked a third penalty to put Leicester out of Milan's reach.

Leicester: Tries Greenwood 2, Horak; Conversion Stransky; Penalties Stransky 3. Milan: Try Cuttitta; Conversion Filizzola; Penalty Filizzola.

Leicester: M Horak; W Serevi, W Greenwood, S Potter, C Joiner (L Lloyd, 64); J Stransky, A Healey (J Hamilton, 64); G Rowntree, R Cockerill, D Garforth, M Johnson (capt), M Poole, M Corry, N Back, E Miller.

Milan: F Williams (M Ravazzola, 25); P Vaccari (P Scanziana, 71), M Platania, M Tommasi, M Cuttitta; G Filizzola, F Gomez; G De Carli, C Orlandi, F Properzi (capt), S Racca, G Croci, D Beretta (S Tassi, 65), A Marengoni, R Turner.

Referee: D Bevan (Clydach).

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