Rugby Union / Pilkington Cup: Tigers display killer instinct

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Leicester. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .76

Exeter. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .0

THE UNDERDOGS shivered and froze, the first real icy blast of winter awaiting them as they entered the Tigers' lair. It was not a happy experience, but then if it is any consolation Exeter would do well to remember the one about once bitten, twice shy. In their darkest hour among the mud, the blood and probably too much beer, the light of promotion after all still beckons.

The consolation here was a look at life beyond the Third Division and to appreciate what a rough, tough, old world the likes of Leicester live in up among the highest branches. Roared on in front of 9,000, the Tigers returned home with a vengeance after six successive away ties in the Pilkington Cup and who could blame them for reacting with such a ruthless display.

This was their biggest win in the competition in the most one-sided quarter-final of all, while others present in today's Twickenham draw will need no reminding that Leicester have only ever lost three ties on their own patch since the cup kicked off back in 1971. With the plug already pulled on the holders Bath, this is shaping up for another year of the Tiger.

Leicester won their third and last title when completing the cup's first hat-trick in 1981 and though Saturday's 13-try performance may not have been the ideal testing ground, there is enough evidence to suggest that the killer instinct is alive and well at Welford Road.

Indeed, but for the kicking lapses of John Liley, who in a difficult wind failed with nine conversion attempts, Leicester would have been sitting comfortably on a cup record. Thankfully for Exeter's sake, this remains in the safekeeping of Gloucester, who in 1985 put 87 points past the students from Exeter University.

As it was, Leicester contented themselves by wrapping up Exeter so efficiently in the forward exchanges that the outcome was never in doubt. This left their opponents once again looking at a blank scoreline on their seventh visit to the ground and while Andy Green, first-class rugby's leading scorer this season, could have broken the duck early in the second half with a close-range penalty, there was applause when Exeter bravely decided to run the ball.

Which was what Leicester did throughout and much to the delight of Tony Underwood. With a Five Nations debut to come against Scotland at the weekend, the England wing outshone his brother Rory in a 3-1 try count. And the Tiger who would be a Lion in New Zealand this summer said: 'The Scots' match provides me with a platform to make a bid for selection. I feel I have the ability to make the squad.' Exeter are in no doubt.

In a four-phase move, Ian Bates put him away after 28 minutes and no sooner had Exeter kicked off again than he was off on a 60-yard break resulting in a try for Neil Back. Finally, following the interval, Exeter hearts were broken when Underwood Jnr snapped up two further tries inside six minutes.

Leicester: Tries Povoas, A Underwood 3, Back, Richards 2, Potter, Liley 2, Cockerill, Grewcock, R Underwood; Conversions Liley 4; Penalty Liley.

Leicester: J Liley; A Underwood, S Potter, I Bates, R Underwood; J Harris, A Kardooni; G Rowntree, R Cockerill, D Garforth, M Johnson (D Grewcock, 61), M Poole, S Povoas, D Richards (capt), N Back (M Grant, 52).

Exeter: I Stewart; M Chatterton, A Baker, J Tutchings, S Dovell; A Green, A Maunder (capt); R Gibbins, R Pugsley, P Sluman, H Langley, P Hodge, P Westgate, R Baxter, T Edbrooke (G Meldon, 33).

Referee: F Howard (Liverpool Society).