Rugby Union: Harris unable to inspire Leicester

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Sheffield. . . .7

Leicester. . . 27

TREATING this as a dress-rehearsal for their showpiece game with England on Saturday to celebrate 100 years of rugby at Welford Road, Leicester, though a few members short of a full cast, took an inordinately long time getting their lines anywhere near right.

Their director, Tony Russ, will be alarmed at the glut of possession his troupe squandered in a first half when they failed to maximise their overwhelming advantage in territory, pace or power. It was not much better after the interval.

The Tigers' prompter, Jez Harris, was the chief culprit. Since Leicester's failure to persuade Scotland's outside-half, Craig Chalmers, to move to the Midlands and Gerry Ainscough's decision to return to his native Orrell, Harris at last has a chance to establish himself in Leicester's problem position.

Perhaps a bigger stage will encourage him to reveal his best; but he was not alone in displaying a lack of sharpness and creativity in broken play.

Leicester inaugurated Abbeydale as a rugby ground in 1919, so ending Sheffield's first 17 years as nomads and, like their visitors, the home side have something to party about.

While they have spent the previous year playing their home games on junior pitches, the main playing area, once with a fearful slope, has been levelled, drained, and re-seeded.

Their new grandstand was officially opened by Dudley Wood, the Rugby Football Union's secretary, and on the evidence of a gritty defensive performance embellished with an occasional hint of attacking flair, Sheffield may soon have a team to match their splendid new facilities. Their only try was scored by the full-back, Stuart Juds, which Mark Rodgers converted to bring the scores to 13-7.

It was 10-0 at the break, John Liley scoring a 25-metre penalty and converting Matthew Poole's try which came from Darren Garforth's bullocking burst.

Harris widened the gap with a snap dropped goal before Juds struck.

Steve Hackney and Aadel Kardooni brought the curtain down with a try apiece, each converted by Liley, but it was a Leicester performance lacking in conviction or class.

Sheffield: Try Juds; Conversion Rodgers. Leicester: Tries Poole, Hackney, Kardooni; Conversions Liley 3; Penalty Liley; Drop goal Harris.

Sheffield: S Juds; M Kirk, C Saul, S Slater, M Rodgers; D Hill, I Wright; D Bosworth, A Challoner, S McMain, D Kaye, T Meadley, R Parr (capt), N Crapper, D Watson.

Leicester: J Liley; S Hackney, S Potter, I Bates, P Sandford; J Harris, A Kardooni; G Rowntree, R Cockerill, D Garforth, D Richards, M Poole, J Wells (capt), N Richardson, M Grant.

Referee: J Pearson (Durham).