Rugby Union: Harris leaves it late

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The Independent Online
Wasps. . . . .13

Leicester. . .15

A LAST-GASP drop goal kept Leicester's fading hopes of the championship alive. With defeat staring them full in the face - and the title slipping away to the West - Jez Harris hoofed a speculative drop-kick and watched it soar between the posts.

No doubt the groans were loudest in Bath. Without that final drop goal the West Country club would have had Leicester off their backs and an easy run-in.

As it is, the seemingly magical boot of Harris keeps the contest alive. He scored all Leicester's points in what is becoming a pattern - he has been kicking at the rate of 20 points a game recently.

Third in the table, Wasps had seemed set to jolt the team above them off the path to the title until the Leicester outside- half's successful kick. The London side had fulfilled the promise made by their coach Rob Smith when he said: 'The players have a licence to run the ball. We probably can't win the league. We are out of the cup. We are not going to get relegated, so we might as well play decent rugby.'

And play decent rugby they certainly did, fighting it out eyeball-to-eyeball with a Leicester side similarly determined on adventure.

It took an hour before daylight appeared between the two teams: Wasps were swinging play from side to side, trying to find the chink in the defence. After a series of rucks, Rob Andrew changed direction, switching the ball to the right where it reached the wing Phil Hopley. The England student cap tore up the touchline, and grounded near the posts. Wasps looked on course to upset the Leicester applecart.

But that was without reckoning on the proficient boot of Harris. A minute later he kicked the penalty that narrowed the deficit to a point; four minutes after that he kicked the penalty that took Leicester into the lead.

By now it seemed to be a private battle between the boots of the outside-halves. Andrew then kicked a penalty to snatch the lead back and take the tension up a notch.

But Harris clearly thrives on tension. Leicester threw everything forward more in hope than in expectation. Harris was slung the ball outside the 22, steadied himself and struck the winning kick perfectly. Leicester breathed again; Wasps' heads dipped. Bath now have work to do; the league, mercifully, still has a lot of life in it.

Wasps: Try Hopley; Conversion Andrew; Penalties Andrew 2. Leicester: Penalties Harris 4; Drop goal Harris.

Wasps: H Davies; P Hopley, G Childs, D Hopley, S Hunter; R Andrew, S Bates; G Holmes, K Dunn, J Probyn, R Kinsey, M Greenwood, L Dallaglio, D Ryan (capt), M White.

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, N Back.

Referee: C Harrison (RFU).

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