Rugby Union: Leicester seek home from home

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The Independent Online
Newcastle Gosforth . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .13

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

LEICESTER'S conviction that they have the wherewithal to lift the First Division title, or at very least chase Bath all the way, is in need of an objective reappraisal after this disappointing display against revitalised Newcastle Gosforth.

Even so, the Tigers are now firmly established in second place, despite appearing as only a shadow of the side which demolished Wasps last week.

Tony Russ, Leicester's director of rugby, believes his team still have much to do if they are to dispossess Bath of a fourth successive crown. 'We play so much better at home,' Russ said, 'and the next psychological barrier we have to overcome is to perform to our abilities away from Welford Road.'

Against Newcastle - who made five changes after their listless display against Harlequins - Leicester were considerably below their best. The Tigers' only try came from a ragged series of short-range scrums, when Neil Back was driven over in the first half.

Newcastle had gone ahead with a try from a five-metre scrum, when the Leicester pack were snapped embarrassingly backwards, for Kiwi No 8 Richard Arnold to touch down. Thereafter there was little to enthuse over. The exceptions being a neat kicking exhibition by Jez Harris with 17 points and the highly encouraging debut of Tom Willcox.

The son of the former England and Lions' full-back John Willcox, the Newcastle outside-half is a player of rich promise. He kicks well off either foot, has plenty of time and confidence, and was never subdued by the close attention of Back.

If Newcastle had been able to call on more backs with Willcox's abilities, they may have run Leicester uncomfortably close.

Newcastle Gosforth: Try Arnold; Conversion Willcox; Penalties: Willcox 2. Leicester: Try Back; Conversion Harris; Penalties Harris 4; Drop goal Harris.

Newcastle Gosforth: D Bennett (D Casado, 55); T Penn, R Wilkinson, I Chandler, M White; R Willcox, J Merritt; P Vanzandvleit, A Hetherington, J Curry (capt), J Fowler, G Archer, B Chick, R Arnold, J Nicholson.

Leicester: W Kilford; S Hackney, I Bates, S Potter (J Hamilton, 65), P Sandford; J Harris, A Kardooni; G Rowntree, R Cockerill, D Garforth, M Johnson, M Poole, J Wells, D Richards (capt), N Back.

Referee: J Bacigalupo (Edinburgh).

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