Rugby Union: Brooke is facing a Gross task

Leicester 49 Harlequins 15
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The Independent Online
Leicester 49

Harlequins 15

ZINZAN BROOKE might find it instructive to spend some time during the week to go over the events leading to the dismissal of Christian Gross as the manager of Tottenham Hotspur. Gross was brought in to turn the ailing White Hart Lane club around after several disappointing seasons. With big spending to match even bigger expectations, Spurs enlisted Gross, who promised a regime of rigorous discipline and tough training. The players would not accept it, the results never came and Gross was shown the exit door.

Brooke's arrival at The Stoop Memorial Ground last April had similar overtones. After a season under Dick Best, when they finished third in the league, Best was fired after a rift with his players, notably Will Carling. Andy Keast took over, but failed to stop the rot and Quins finished third from bottom. Enter the multi-talented All Black Brooke, who promised to put some steel into the capital's other great underachievers.

It's early days yet, but the size of the task confronting Brooke is considerably wider than the smile on the face of Dean Richards, Leicester's rugby manager, after Harlequins surrendered with hardly a whisper at Welford Road. They were blown away by half-time, by which time Leicester had scored three of their seven tries and established almost complete command up-front.

The steel is clearly going to take some time forging. There was a cast- iron promise of better things from Garrick Morgan. The big Queenslander made Martin Johnson work hard in the dispute for line-out supremacy, and the Quins front-row were troublesome in fits and starts. But that was about it. Brooke resembled little more than a cardboard cut-out of himself, while the Harlequins' backs were simply outclassed.

Darren Garforth was at the forefront of a whopping drive to set up the first try for Nnamdi Ezulike, while the second came from a pushover and was claimed by Austin Healey, who has reverted to his preferred role at scrum-half. Even by the end of the opening quarter it was looking ominous for Harlequins, though John Schuster kept them in contact with the first two of his five penalty goals.

Instead, Richard Cockerill was on the end of another huge drive to score Leicester's third; Joel Stransky kicked a penalty from half way, plus two conversions as Brooke's interval lecture presumably centred on the need for focus and cohesion.

Those attributes came naturally to Leicester as they ran in four second- half tries, two for Leon Lloyd and one each for Neil Back and Stransky.

If Zinzan Brooke is considering a long-term stay in England, it might well be wise to put those plans on hold.

Leicester: Tries Lloyd 2, Ezulike, Stransky, Back, Healey, Cockerill; Conversions Stransky 4; Penalties Stransky 2. Harlequins: Penalties Schuster 5.

Leicester: T Stimpson; L Lloyd, S Potter (J Overend, 78), P Howard, N Ezulike (D Lougheed, 74); J Stransky, A Healey; D Jelley (G Rowntree, 74), R Cockerill, D Garforth, M Johnson (capt), F van Heerden (N Fletcher, 71), M Corry, N Back, P Gustard (J Aldwinckle, 61-71).

Harlequins: D Officer; D O'Leary, S Power, P Mensah (V Going, 57), D Luger; J Schuster, H Harries; J Leonard, K Wood, G Halpin, G Morgan, B Davison, Z Brooke (capt), R Jenkins, S Bibby.

Referee: A Rowden (Berkshire).