Rugby Union: Underwood a lonely spark

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Leicester. . .23

Harlequins. . .0

THE week had begun well for Leicester with three of their players being selected for the British Lions, and its end was no less happy. Leicester beat Harlequins comfortably in their last home game of the season in the Courage League. They approach the semi-finals of the Pilkington Cup with confidence, which is more than can be said for Harlequins.

Harlequins are so on and off, hot and cold, ordinary one week, extraordinary the next. They were without Will Carling and Peter Winterbottom, so Brian Moore was acting captain but even he could whip up little enthusiasm. Leicester were not at full strength either, missing Dean Richards, Tony Underwood and Neil Back, although there was a blond flanker, a dead ringer for Back, on the field - Adam Fox, Winterbottom's replacement.

By half-time not a try had been scored. A pretty dreary half it had been, too. Leicester led 6-0 thanks to a drop-goal by Jez Harris and a penalty by John Liley. A try-less 40 minutes is a rarity when Leicester are playing and it was all the more puzzling considering Leicester's superiority in the line-out and the alacrity with which they kept the ball alive at the rucks and mauls.

There were a few moments to savour after half-time. One came when Liley, normally a right- footed kicker, attempted a penalty from out near the right touch-line with his left foot. He was successful. Another moment to remember was Leicester's first try.

Rory Underwood did the damage after Harris and Ian Bates had moved the ball quickly from a ruck to the left. Underwood spun, dodged and outpaced several distinguished Quins and almost reached the line himself but when he was stopped Nigel Richardson was there to take the pass and score. Liley converted, this time using his right foot.

After a suprising defeat by Bristol two weeks ago, Leicester are back on form ready for their cup semi-final against Northampton in two weeks. As for Quins, who knows? They conceded too many penalties and were slightly lucky that Liley was not kicking accurately and missed four attempts. That was only the half of their trouble. They are so erratic. If they were a public company and I a shareholder, then I would certainly be asking some probing questions at the annual general meeting as to why they can be so good one minute and so bad the next. Can anyone explain?

Leicester: J Liley; W Kilford (L Boyle, 73 min), S Potter, I Bates, R Underwood; J Harris, A Kardooni; G Rowntree, R Cockerill, D Garforth, M Johnson, M Poole, J Wells (capt), S Povoas, N Richardson.

Harlequins: K Bray; M Wedderburn, M Evans, G Thompson, J Alexander; P Challinor, R Glenister; J Leonard, B Moore (capt), A Mullins, A Snow, S Dear, M Russell, C Sheasby, A Fox.

Referee: B Kempsall (York).

Scores: Harris (drop goal, 18 min, 3-0); Liley (pen, 31 min, 6-0); Richardson / Liley (try / con, 60 min, 13-0); Liley (pen, 68 min, 16-0); Povoas / Liley (try / con, 74 min, 23-0).

(Photograph omitted)