Rugby Union: Murphy the perfect understudy

West Hartlepool 15 Leicester 45
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The Independent Online
LEICESTER STROLLED to the top of the Premiership by inflicting a ninth successive defeat on West Hartlepool at Victoria Park yesterday. While Joel Stransky ran the show with his astute generalship, young Geordan Murphy was the undoubted star of a Tigers team shorn of both first-choice centres and five other regulars.

Leicester were able to make light of these absences against a game but outclassed West, who made far too many elementary errors, while often surrendering promising positions, losing the ball in contact or knocking on with Leicester in retreat. Invariably, Leicester punished these frailties, without being notably extended.

The Tigers needed to improve their points difference by just nine points to leapfrog above Bath. They had reached that mark before half-time, as Murphy and Stransky each scored a try. Stransky converted both and kicked two penalties. West were awarded a penalty try when Emmet Farrell was obstructed by Paul Gustard in the act of collecting his chip ahead. Jon Benson converted, to add to his earlier penalty, so West went in 20-10 in arrears.

West have acquired an eccentric habit of conceding a rash of tries immediately after the break. It took Leicester precisely 77 seconds to remind West how expensive this can be. Stransky high-stepped his way towards the left touchline, linked brilliantly with Leon Lloyd, who put Murphy across in the corner. Although Stransky missed with the conversion, Leicester were waxing stronger.

To their credit, West did not fold. Instead, Stephen John took them deep into Tigers' territory and almost worked Jamie Connolly into the corner. No try resulted, but Philippe Farner claimed the line-out, for Tu Nu'uali'itia to steal across for West's second try. But the fightback ended there.

In the movement leading to this score, Stransky was sin-binned for a professional foul. While the South African was off, Murphy revealed his versatility by stroking over a penalty. Stransky kicked his third penalty within moments of returning and James Overend raced in for two tries, both of which Stransky converted for a personal tally of 22 points.

West Hartlepool: Tries Penalty try, Nu'uali'itia; Conversions Benson; Penalty Benson. Leicester: Tries Stransky, Murphy 2, Overend 2; Conversions Stransky 4; Penalties Stransky 3, Murphy.

West Hartlepool: E Farrell; T Lough, P Tanginoa, J Connolly, S John; J Benson, T Nu'uali'itia; S Sparks (P Seymour, 64), B Cullinane (A Peacock, 53), P Beal, P Farner (capt), B Fuller (M Giacheri, 60), J Ponton, M Bentley (M Salter, 39), S Cassidy.

Leicester: G Murphy; L Lloyd, J Overend, J Stuart, N Ezulike; J Stransky, A Healey; D Jelley (P Freshwater, 62), R Cockerill (D West, 62), D Garforth, M Johnson (capt), N Fletcher, L Moody, N Back, P Gustard (W Johnson, 73).

Referee: C Rees (Twickenham).