Broadfoot shows calm beyond his years

Leicester 32 - Northampton 13
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The Independent Online

Tiger cubs are born with claws and when the 22-year old man of the match Harry Ellis went for the kill after the second of two five-yard scrum drives on 53 minutes, and his 19-year old stand-off potted as cool a touchline conversion as you would want to see, the fate of the Saints was sealed. No wonder Ellis is already being talked about as a potential rival to Gloucester's Andy Gomarsall for the England No 9 shirt.

Tiger cubs are born with claws and when the 22-year old man of the match Harry Ellis went for the kill after the second of two five-yard scrum drives on 53 minutes, and his 19-year old stand-off potted as cool a touchline conversion as you would want to see, the fate of the Saints was sealed. No wonder Ellis is already being talked about as a potential rival to Gloucester's Andy Gomarsall for the England No 9 shirt.

The crowd's deep purr, almost a theme song at Leicester, was interrupted only by satisfied licking as they turned a meal into a feast at the expense of their local rivals.

Seru Rabeni's carving run a few minutes later gave the home side their fourth try bonus point, so justice had been done after an earlier attempt had been disallowed. The Tigers even managed to hold on with 14 men in the last minute after Alex Tuilagi had quite stupidly piled into a punch-up in which his brother Henry seemed more than to be holding his own.

A blow to the Saints' solar plexus came within a couple of minutes of half-time. Once again the Tigers elected to attack down the right wing and, when they were awarded a penalty, they just tapped the ball into the corner. Ben Kay soared, the pack rumbled in the Welford Road way and, at the third drive, it was the old warrior Neil Back who burrowed over. Ross Broadfoot, the 19-year-old, converted and a 15-6 lead was no more than they deserved.

What creative rugby there was in a furious opening 40 minutes had been in the hands of Leicester, who only took one defensive nap, which allowed Wylie Human in for Northampton's only try.

Lunchtime rain had not spoiled conditions and all eyes were on what those Down Under like to call the "pivot", not least because of the decision by Leicester coach John Wells to give Broadfoot his first run in the starting line-up at stand-off, in place of the league's top scorer, Andy Goode, who is out with a knee ligament injury.

Premiership clubs like Leicester do not gamble, but there was always a risk factor that a good clattering on Broadfoot's debut could wreck him for all time. But although he has only played five minutes of Premiership rugby for Leicester, he had not only banged over 23 points for England Under-19s earlier this year but had been given the seal of approval by one of Leicester's favourite sons, Dusty Hare. That should be enough for anybody.

Broadfoot's first touch was an unsuccessful clearance kick to touch, the second was safe, and the third was a smooth switch of direction as Leicester drove upfield, only for Martin Johnson and Damien Browne to be sent to the cooler for 10 minutes after an eighth-minute line-out scrap.

The old age and treachery of the likes of the Northampton captain Corne Krige is supposed to beat youth and talent, but not a finger was laid on Broadfoot in the first half. England have had another 19-year old at No 10, of course - Jonny Wilkinson.

Wells was well in profit as his Tigers were winning in the guile game, too. Martin Johnson was everywhere, challenging his own back row for breakdown burglary - his brother Will was looking busy, too - while it was Austin Healey who completed a break down the right and capitalised on the first of a number of fumbles by Ben Cohen in front of the England defensive coach Phil Larder to grab Leicester's opening try. "They really did outplay us," said the Northampton coach Alan Solomons afterwards. "We dug our own grave."

Leicester: G Murphy (R Warren, 75); A Healey (A Tuilagi, 79), O Smith, J Holtby, 62), D Gibson, S Rabeni; R Broadfoot, H Ellis; G Rowntree, G Chuter (J Buckland, 72), J White, M Johnson (capt), B Kay (L Deacon, 72), B Deacon, W Johnson (H Tuilagi, 72), N Back.

Northampton: B Reihana; J Rudd (W Human, 55), M Tucker, M Stcherbina, B Cohen; S Drahm, J Howard; T Smith (C Budgen, 57), S Thompson, R Kempson, S Boome (M Lord, 15), D Browne, D Fox, G Seely (A Blowers, 55). C Krige (capt).

Referee: A Spreadbury (Somerset)

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