Rugby Union: Irish drop points to Harris

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The Independent Online
London Irish . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .10

Leicester. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .22

JEZ HARRIS, the compact Leicester stand-off, kept his club on course to challenge Bath in the First Division by scoring 12 points from two drop goals and two penalties during the final 15 minutes at sun-splashed, windy Sunbury-on-Thames.

This decisive flourish brought Harris's tally of drop goals this season to 10 and leaves him nearly five months to break the club record of 13 set by the former England player, Les Cusworth, in 1979-80.

'I prefer not to think about records but I admit I put in a lot of work to perfect my drop kicking,' Harris said. 'After every Thursday training session I practice for about 15 minutes with the help of Paul Dodge and last week landed 10 out of 10 so I hoped I might get a chance against the Irish.'

Harris is a product of Leicester's excellent youth policy and has been with the club for 12 years. He also scored a try in the first half, but was the first to admit that the foundation of victory was established by Leicester's driving forwards.

Even so, before Harris intervened it appeared possible that the Midlanders might return home with only one point as tenacious Irish tackling and a flair for counter-attacks, ensured that the score was locked at 10-10 for half an hour.

The influence of the All Black tour could be seen in much of Leicester's play. Forwards like Darren Garforth, John Wells and Dean Richards drove their bodies fearlessly into the thick of battle and within two minutes had opened a gap for that quick-thinking scrum-half, Aadel Kardooni.

League rugby has added extra collective discipline to traditional London Irish fiery play. They refused to buckle under repeated attacks and asserted themselves early in the game when a well-directed kick by Owen Cobbe split the visitors' defence for a Simon Geoghegan try.

In the line-outs and loose the Irish missed Matt Keenan, their Western Samoan lock, who has departed for lowly-placed Pontypool. Obvious questions are now being asked, but there will be no answer unless the Welsh Rugby Union decides to hold an inquiry.

London Irish now find themselves second from the bottom of the table and with relegation looming face the possibility of losing other players. Leicester have no such worries as they managed to win without the injured Tony Underwood, Ian Bates and Graham Rowntree, and Neil Back playing for the Barbarians.

London Irish: Try Geoghegan; Conversion Corcoran; Drop goal Cobbe. Leicester: Tries Kardooni, Harris; Penalties Harris 2; Drop goals Harris 2.

London Irish: R Hennessy; S Geoghegan, S Burns, D Dooley, M Corcoran; O Cobbe, R Saunders; N Donovan, R Kellam, G Halpin, A Higgins, S Domoni, P Collins (capt), R Jenkins, H Lamb.

Leicester: J Lilley (N Malone, 35); S Hackney, R Underwood, S Potter, W Kilford; J Harris, A Kardooni; D Jelley, R Cockerill, D Garforth, M Johnson, M Poole, J Wells, W Drake-Lee, D

Richards (capt).

Referee: D Matthews (St Helens).