Rugby Union: Botica fails to settle Orrell

Orrell 12 Leicester 29
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Although the Courage League is only three matches old, it is already clear that Leicester will spend the latter part of the season fighting Harlequins and Bath for the rich pickings at the top of the table and that Orrell will still be placed below the salt, tussling with Gloucester and West Hartlepool for the scraps.

The rich get more complacent, the poor more down at heel. But the talk of a Super-16 league must surely be self-delusion. Super? Sixteen? What about the Strong and Slightly Boring Half-dozen, in which Leicester might be promising contenders?

In the opening stages, both sides paid something more than a passing tribute to the passing game. With Orrell it may been a necessity, since they were never going to match the blunt physical strength of Leicester in the pack. But led by Frano Botica, a fluent mover always alive to the possibilities of the quick pass, scissors, overlap and the simple outside break, the only problem with the Orrell backs was an excitability which often ran the movement blindly into touch.

Leicester must also have been trying to correct their bad press, for they too threw the ball about, although with less conviction. Their first instinct was always to belt it up the field. It was not their fault that their opening score was a penalty from John Liley, a scant reward for a sustained cross-field attack. But it was shamed by Orrell's reply after 20 minutes, a sweeping charge by Botica from his own 22, completed by David Lyon, Lua Tuigamala and Jim Naylor, who scored between the posts. Botica converted.

Alas, Orrell threw this lead away in a typical moment of rashness when Lyon ambitiously tried to clear his line by cross-kicking to the far touchline. The ball came off the side of his boot and dropped gently into Rory Underwood's hands. His route to the line was covered, but he was able to slip the ball to the unmarked Will Greenwood for the try. So Leicester changed ends with a 7-8 lead, and after recovering from the fright, were not prepared from there on to take any gambles not underwritten by their forwards.

By now, some of the adventure had gone out of the game with the departure of Botica. He was replaced by Robin Saverimutto, who went to full-back, with Rob Hitchmough moving up to stand-off. But this did nothing to encourage the Tigers to show their teeth. In the first half-hour of the second half, John Liley added another three penalty goals while his brother Rob sent the third of his failed drop-kicks tamely in the rough direction of the Orrell posts. It was only then that Leicester constructed a try entirely by their efforts, Underwood breaking through to the corner before putting Stuart Potter over the line.

Saverimutto scored a late try of small consolation to Orrell, who had seen the bright promise of their first-half lead worn away by the dreary realities of method rugby, which brought Leicester a third try from Steve Hackney and a conversion by Liley in the dying minutes.

Orrell: R Hitchmough; J Naylor, D Lyon, L Tuigamala, N Heslop; F Botica (capt) (R Saverimutto, 40), S Cook; J Cundick (P Ledson, 71), M Scott, S Turner, C Cusani, P Rees, J Huxley, A MacFarlane, P Angelsea.

Leicester: J Liley; S Hackney, W Greenwood, S Potter, R Underwood; R Liley, G Becconsall; G Rowntree, R Cockerill, D Garforth, M Johnson, R Field, J Well, D Richards (capt), L Moody.

Referee: C White (Cheltenham).