Rugby: Leicester set season's benchmark

London Scottish 3 Leicester 38
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The Independent Online
THOSE WHO have pretensions of winning the Allied Dunbar Premiership, and with little else to play for this season the usual suspects have made it even more of a priority, may discover that Leicester have established the benchmark.

By their own standards, the Tigers had a lean time of it last season, finishing fourth in the league and making no impression in Europe. Preferring the little Englander approach to a more cosmopolitan outlook, they sacked the Australian coach Bob Dwyer and replaced him with one of Leicester's favourite sons, Dean Richards. On the evidence of two games they appear to have put in some sound work in the summer break.

Last Saturday they scored seven tries and 49 points in the rout of Harlequins and yesterday they produced another wildlife special. Not quite the killing of the previous week but impressive none the less.

London Scottish, the new kids, had their heads on the block. The Scots, who had surreptitiously been doing their own thing at the Athletic Ground at Richmond, found themselves in the major league by beating Bristol in the play-offs. Having moved down the road to their new home at The Stoop, they opened their season with victory over Sale last week. Leicester, however, are a very different proposition and the Scots can compare notes with Quins, their fellow tenants at The Stoop, on how to play against them.

The Exiles had spent a few bob to compete in the Premiership but they were out of this match by half-time when Leicester led 30-3. The Tigers' pack looks as mean and ugly as ever but the team also have a lot to offer elsewhere.

The try of the afternoon illustrated the point. Midway through the first half, Joel Stransky linked with the Australian centre Pat Howard, who flicked a sublime reverse pass behind his back to Leon Lloyd. The right- wing raced through the breach and sent the left-wing Nnamdi Ezulike over on an overlap to score under the posts. The gem from Ezulike put Leicester 20-0 ahead.

Stransky, the former Springbok stand-off, looks as if he is going to collect a shedful of points this winter. He amassed 23 yesterday with a try, three conversions and four penalties. With the referee ignoring a suspected knock-on from Tim Stimpson, Austin Healey, restored to full vitality at scrum-half, broke down the middle, found support from Paul Gustard and Stransky did the rest for Leicester's first try.

The only response from the Scots was a penalty by Iain McAusland, but he had no time to celebrate. A few minutes later he found himself defending the line against Stimpson and it was no contest, the former Newcastle full-back brushing the wing aside.

The Exiles, who made four changes at half-time, came out fighting and Leicester were restricted to just eight points in the second half, a Stransky penalty and a try from Gustard.

The spirit of the Scots limited the damage although Leicester were denied a try after Darren Garforth had been driven over by the mean machine following consistent pressure on the Scottish line. Ed Morrison awarded the try but then had his attention drawn by a touch judge to an act of skulduggery from Fritz van Heerden. Morrison's decision was rescinded and instead he awarded the Scots a penalty.

London Scottish: D Lee; I McAusland, R Davies, R Eriksson, C Sharman; S Binns, G Easterby (S Cook, 67); M MacDonald (Bijl, 40), D Cummins, P Burnell, G Manson-Bishop (M McAtamney, 40), M Watson, S Fenn, R Hunter (capt; C Tarbuck, 40), T Davies (S Holmes, 40).

Leicester: T Stimpson, L Lloyd, S Potter (J Overend, 72), P Howard, N Ezulike (D Lougheed, 72); J Stransky, A Healey; G Rowntree, R Cockerill, D Garforth, M Johnson (capt), F van Heerden (N Fletcher, 72), P Gustard, M Corry, N Back (L Moody, 48).

Referee: E Morrison (Bristol).