Rugby union: Miller makes turkeys of Tigers

Leicester 24 Barbarians 38
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The Independent Online
BARBARIANS RUGBY no longer matters a fig, unless you happen to relish the opportunity of reminding your former employers that you can actually play a bit. Eric Miller, the Lion who failed to cut the mustard amongst the Tigers of Leicester, reintroduced himself to the Welford Road faithful yesterday afternoon and took immense pleasure in force-feeding Dean Richards, Martin Johnson and company an unpalatable helping of ice- cold turkey.

Eighteen months ago, Miller was the talk of this remarkable sporting town; christened the "new Deano" by a crowd reared on back-row brilliance, he made the Lions tour of South Africa with something to spare and would have started the first Test in Cape Town had he not fallen ill 48 hours before kick-off. At which point, his career went into free-fall. His form and fitness dipped, Leicester stopped picking him and his appetite quickly disappeared in the same direction as his confidence.

Hence his decision to cut his losses and head back home to Ireland. It has done him the world of good, clearly. Together with his no-nonsense partners from mainland Europe, Massimo Giovanelli and Jan Machacek, he gave his old club-mates their biggest seasonal hurry-up since they last tackled the new year sales. Miller's try four minutes into the second half bore the stamp of a genuine footballer and it gave the Baa-Baas, who spent all of four hours preparing for the game, the launch-pad for a third consecutive victory over their traditional Christmas hosts.

Craig Chalmers, that evergreen outside-half from the Scottish borders, made the other telling contribution, registering 13 points in a flawless display of goal-kicking. The 14,000-plus crowd were not amused by his decision to take the penalty points as Leicester's midfield stumbled offside six minutes from time - apparently, it was not in keeping with the occasion - but as the favourite son of Melrose pointed out later, even Barbarians recognise a main chance when they see one.

Leicester might well have notched a victory had their front-line internationals stayed the course, but Johnson and Neil Back were both gone inside 30 minutes and Richard Cockerill was withdrawn at half-time. Most damagingly of all, Leon Lloyd, who looked a handful on the left wing, left after 26 minutes. "He got a bit of a bump," said Richards, whose diagnostic skills are unlikely to bring about a 21st century revolution in medical science.

In all seriousness, Lloyd looked sharp enough to warrant the once-over from Clive Woodward. The England coach is probably loath to watch any more wings, having chosen 12 of them in 16 months, but anyone quick enough to give as sharp an opponent as Derek Stark the run-around must have something going for him. Lloyd created an opening try for Back on nine minutes before finishing beautifully himself five minutes later and Leicester were nowhere near as threatening in his absence.

Leicester: Tries Back, Lloyd, Joiner, Stimpson; Conversions Stimpson 2. Barbarians: Tries Evans, Miller, Martin, Grimes, Machacek; Conversions Chalmers 5; Penalty Chalmers.

LEICESTER: T Stimpson; C Joiner, S Potter, J Stuart, L Lloyd (M Horak, 26); G Murphy (A Goode, h-t), A Healey (J Hamilton, h-t); D Jelley (P Freshwater, 64), R Cockerill (D West, h-t), G Rowntree, M Johnson (capt; R Hurrell, 26), N Fletcher, O Wingham, W Johnson, N Back (L Moody, 16).

BARBARIANS: L Criscuolo (Coventry and Argentina); D Stark (Glasgow Caledonians and Scotland), S Hastings (Edinburgh Reivers and Scotland, capt), L Martin (Begles-Bordeaux and Italy), H Thorneycroft (Northampton); C Chalmers (Edinburgh Reivers and Scotland), D Scully (Rotherham); M Cuttitta (Calvisano and Italy), J Evans (Bristol), J Mallett (Bath and England), J Chandler (Northampton), S Grimes (Glasgow Caledonians and Scotland), M Giovanelli (Narbonne and Italy), J Machacek (Sale and Czech Republic), E Miller (Leinster and Ireland). Replacements: T Murphy (Harlequins) for Evans, 60; P Davies (Henley) for Stark, 71; M Venner (Henley) for Giovanelli, 79.

Referee: S Lander (Liverpool).