Rugby Union: Tigers find safety net

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Bedford 23

Leicester 32

BEDFORD may have financial problems but they have riches aplenty on the field, as the league leaders, Leicester, discovered yesterday at a noisy Goldington Road.

Not until the second half did Leicester's streetwise experience finally do for Bedford. Until then the home side had competed on an almost equal footing; toe to toe, blow for blow.

Except for three glorious minutes of the final quarter when Alistair Murdoch scored their second try, they trailed, though, and they were unable to sustain the lead when they eventually took it. There was too much indiscipline which allowed Leicester to profit from penalty kicks, and Bedford were also guilty of the worst crime of all, handing over possession. The number of times Bedford took the ball up and into close-quarter combat, only to see the Tigers claw it from their grasp was incalculable. Much work will have to be done by whoever ends up coaching them. Geoff Cooke has taken sole charge following Paul Turner's unexpected departure at the beginning of the week.

But there was enough on view to suggest that Bedford have the firepower. Too often they eschewed position for the chance of points when awarded penalties. A kick to the corner and a chance to compete at the line-out looked a far better bet than to put Sam Howard under pressure, sometimes from awkward angles.

Still, home defeat or not, Bedford are not going to be a pushover. In fact for a long time the Tigers found themselves unable to dictate the course of events. Bedford, they discovered, had strength around the fringes, notably in Jason Forster, and pace outside in Darragh O'Mahoney.

Indeed before Bedford had scored their try the Ireland international had brought the home fans to their feet with a blistering run that took him 75 yards upfield and carved the Leicester defence to shreds. The tattered remnants of the Tigers cover just managed to envelop him before he could inflict any concrete damage.

By then Leicester had scored two tries, the first after Nnamdi Ezulike, a former Uppingham schoolboy who was born in Nigeria, had scorched around a former Tiger, Rory Underwood. That was in the fifth minute and seven minutes later they had their second when Stuart Potter was put clear by Pat Howard and by-passed what cover was left before touching down under the posts.

Forster hit back for Bedford when he was driven over and Howard's boot kept them in touch with a couple of penalties as well as a conversion. They paid for their effrontery when Leicester applied the power in a series of scrums. The tiring Bedford eight succumbed and conceded the inevitable penalty try. Although Murdoch's try followed, after Tim Stimpson's drop goal attempt had been charged down, Leicester never looked beaten.

Bedford: S Howard; R Underwood, A Murdoch, J Ewens, D O'Mahoney; T Yapp, C Harrison; N Hatley, J Richards, C Boyd, A Duke, D Zaltzman, 32), S Murray, R Winters (J Cockle, 59), R Straeuli (capt), J Forster.

Leicester: T Stimpson; L Lloyd, S Potter, P Howard, N Ezulike; J Stransky, J Hamilton; D Jelley (H Toews, 73), R Cockerill (D West, 63), D Garforth, M Johnson (capt), F van Heerden, P Gustard, M Corry, L Moody (N Back, 63).

Referee: C White (Cheltenham).