Rugby Union: Harris has the magic boot

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The Independent Online
Leicester. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .28

Gloucester. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .8

THERE was a strongish breeze blowing, but not half as strong as the rumours flying around concerning Neil Back. The fair- haired flanker gave yesterday's league match a miss, the official reason being that he was resting a dead leg. Unofficially, the word was that he is resting himself in readiness for winning his first England cap against Scotland at Murrayfield next weekend.

Today we will know one way or the other, and certainly the feeling is that he has earned his chance. Meanwhile, back to the present. No Deano, no Back and no dice for Leicester, at least not for the first 10 minutes. Then Jez Harris harnessed the wind and kicked all five penalties on offer before the break to give the Tigers a 10-point cushion.

Which was mighty tough on Gloucester, who initially took advantage of the absence of the injured Dean Richards and Back. They won every opening line-out and the rucks and about the only thing they did not do was score. Leicester, though, weathered the storm and, of course, there was always Harris to add the brush strokes.

The stand-off is enjoying a tremendous season and whatever Back might be doing next weekend, Harris will be in Spain playing for England Emerging Players. It is a fitting reward and yesterday he celebrated by hardly putting a foot wrong as he kept the Tigers in the hunt along the way to their 10th Courage win in 12 matches. Gloucester, on the other hand, have fallen away again following a strong recovery from a dismal start.

At Welford Road, they gave it their best shot but their biggest mistake was to give Harris a sight of those beckoning posts. Having just failed with a drop-goal attempt, he made no mistake from 35 yards when Gloucester fell offside in the 11th minute. Another missed drop followed but his place- kicking was deadly.

Further penalties after 13, 18, 30 and 39 minutes put Leicester firmly in the driving seat and Harris passed 200 points for the season. Gloucester, though, finally earned a try for all their forward efforts. Tim Smith put in a long touch-finder deep into Tigers territory, Dave Sims soared to collect the ball and then the No 8 was driven over the line.

The boot was now on the other foot but no sooner had Tim Smith landed a penalty of his own than Leicester were off and running down the right, Wayne Kilford laying on the scoring pass for Tony Underwood to tear away. Harris converted to a resounding roar.

And there was more to come from the man with the magic boot, two subsequent penalties bringing his tally to seven in the match.

Leicester: Try T Underwood; Conversion Harris; Penalties Harris 7. Gloucester: Try Sims; Penalty T Smith.

Leicester: W Kilford; T Underwood, L Boyle, S Potter, R Underwood; J Harris, A Kardooni; G Rowntree, R Cockerill, D Garforth, M Johnson, M Poole, J Wells (capt), C Tarbuck, W Drake-Lee.

Gloucester: T Smith; P Holford, S Morris, I Morgan, M Nicholson; D Cummins, B Fenley; T Windo, J Hawker, A Deacon, S Devereux, R West, P Glanville, D Sims, I Smith (capt).

Referee: B Campsall (Sowerby).

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