Back the redeemer in scrappy show

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The Independent Online

There was supposed to be a helicopter fly-past before the game, but for the majority of people in the stands at Welford Road the chopper could only be heard not seen, and that might have been the ideal way to follow this match.

There was supposed to be a helicopter fly-past before the game, but for the majority of people in the stands at Welford Road the chopper could only be heard not seen, and that might have been the ideal way to follow this match.

Leicester's chief executive, Peter Wheeler, in welcoming the club's seven-figure three-year deal with Vauxhall - this a club with Austin Healey in its ranks - talked about everyone settling back and watching some real rugby. If real rugby is aerial ping-pong accompanied by scrappy play, then this error-strewn Allied Dunbar Premiership match fitted the bill perfectly. It was only partially redeemed by Neil Back's 74th-minute try - from a line-out close in.

The pattern for the match was set within half a minute of the kick-off, when the referee, Ed Morrison, first put whistle to lips. He was to do so a further 19 times before the interval. By the 20th, Morrison was being given a slow handclap by the crowd. They had booed him on anyway so there was no surprise that he was then booed off.

There was little doubt that many of the penalties were warranted. There were problems setting the scrum, problems once it was set and any amount of trickery at the breakdown, but there was still a sneaking suspicion that Morrison was also having a poor day at the office.

Although Leicester finished on the wrong end of the penalties, and went into the dressing-room at half-time trailing 8-12 in awards, they had nosed themselves ahead thanks to the accurate kicking of Tim Stimpson. He missed just one of his five, while poor Kenny Logan was way off target with two of his four shots.

It was Logan who set pulses racing the earliest with the first decent break of the match, that came after 25 interminable and boring minutes, but the move petered out. Gradually, after that, the Leicester half-backs - two promising 19-year-olds Andy Goode and the scrum-half James Grindal, who have played in partnership since they were seven - began to string more and more movements together, Goode often showing some extremely sly and deft touches.

There was a fair amount of tension lurking in the atmosphere, but once the packs settled down there was some fierce driving and magnificent mauls for the crowd to enjoy.

The second half at least began more promisingly, when Back - playing his 200th match for the Tigers - broke clear from a free-kick before sending Will Greenwood away down the left.

Leicester's next score was not a try, however. Predictably it was yet another penalty goal from Stimpson, quickly countered by one from Logan. Stimpson then added a sixth a couple of minutes after that.

At least both sides were trying to open things up. Wasps worked their way upfield with a fine passage of play shortly before the hour, but when the Tigers clawed their way out of trouble Wasps found themselves dropped deep in the mire by their full-back Josh Lewsey. He collected a kick ahead brilliantly and managed to make a mark as well. He then attempted to take that kick as a quick tap and opened the floodgates by knocking-on. At the resultant scrum, in front of the posts, Wasps infringed and Stimpson knocked over his seventh penalty.

It just got worse for Wasps. A forward pass from Fraser Waters to Paul Sampson who was right on the Leicester line. And, try as they might, Wasps could not pierce the Tigers defences even after a long series of sapping scrums. They kept up the pressure even after Back's try, but by then there was too much to do.

Leicester: T Stimpson; G Murphy, W Greenwood, P Howard (C Joiner, 76), D Lougheed; A Goode, J Grindal; D Jelley (G Rowntree, 60), D West (R Cockerill, 60)), D Garforth (P Freshwater, 76), M Johnson (capt), J Welborn, P Gustard, M Corry(A Balding 39-41), N Back.

Wasps: J Lewsey; P Sampson (J Ufton, 67), F Waters, M Denney (R Henderson, 73), K Logan; A King, M Wood; D Molloy (A le Chevalier, 73), T Leota (D Macer, 66), W Green, A Reed, S Shaw, J Worsley, L Dallaglio (capt), P Volley (P Scrivener, 64).

Referee: E Morrison (Bristol).

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