Rugby Union: Slemen's crash diet starts to pay off

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The Independent Online
Orrell . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .0

Leicester. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6

NECESSITY being the mother of invention, Orrell have been forced to create an entirely new game- plan to ensure their survival among the elite.

The gargantuan pack Orrell wielded to bludgeon opponents into submission is history. Size is fine so long as you can avail yourself of it. But, denuded of an entire front-row and unable to call on sufficient bulk or height at the line- out, the earth no longer moves when Orrell forwards take the field.

The radical rethink is to introduce more dynamism and width to Orrell's forward play and make better use of a pacy back line. Leading Orrell's brains-trust is the former England wing Mike Slemen who, at Dewi Morris's instigation, is applying his tactical nous at Edge Hall Road, where resources are almost impossibly slender.

Welded to implacable team spirit, Slemen's plan has yet to achieve optimum efficiency and was not quite working well enough to undo Leicester. But it was a close-run thing and the Tigers may look back on this result as significant if they are to run Bath any closer than last season.

'We have to be better going into contact,' was Slemen's verdict. 'It will take us time to alter our style and develop it fully, but each game has seen an improvement. We're making better use of space, though our option-taking still needs some fine-tuning. If we'd kicked our goals we would have won.'

By the same token, if Jez Harris had kicked all of his, the margin of defeat would have been greater. He landed the two which counted - both in the first half, each from fully 40 metres - though inexplicably missed with four other shots from shorter range.

Leicester are trying to evolve a flatter offensive style, which found its best expression when Stuart Potter knifed open Orrell's midfield only to be cut down brilliantly by Morris.

In the absence of the Underwood brothers, Leicester's attack produced only two try-scoring opportunities. But they appear to have discovered a useful talent in Andrew McAdam. The England colt twice went near; once with a 45-metre kick and chase which Austin Healey did well to stifle.

Elsewhere, Leicester were unconvincing, and they misused much of the quality ball Martin Johnson and Dean Richards won at the line-out. For the time being, Bath can rest easy.

Leicester: Penalties Harris 2.

Orrell: S Langford; J Naylor, I Wynn, P Johnson, A Healey; G Ainscough, D Morris (capt); J Russell, T Redmond, J Cundick, C Brierley, C Cooper, P Manley, D Cleary (S Hayter, 70), S Bibby.

Leicester: W Kilford; S Hackney, D Edwards, S Potter, A McAdam; J Harris, A Kardooni; G Rowntree, R Cockerill, D Garforth, M Johnson, M Poole, J Wells, D Richards (capt), N Back.

Referee: J R Wallis (Bridgwater).