Leicester revived their flagging Premiership hopes with a bonus-points victory over lowly Worcester yesterday. It was hardly Tigers’ greatest performance – two of their five tries came when their opponents were down to 14 men – but it should serve to lift spirits and help them to push on for a top-four finish.
The big question at Leicester was who might be offered the job of head coach, currently held by Richard Cockerill. The names of South Africa World Cup-winning coach Jake White, David Young of Cardiff and even former Welford Road favourite Dean Richards were suggested. There were also whispers that centre Seru Rabeni, who is still recovering from a knee operation, was on the brink of signing for Gloucester.
Leicester had the bulk of the possession and most of the penalty awards, but too often ran up blind alleys or missed touch from the penalties offered. Worcester certainly looked better organised and, when they had the ball, were a lot more dangerous, with Rico Gear and Marcel Garvey always ready to take on defenders.
Indeed, one Garvey break down the left had Leicester struggling to close things up as the nimble-footed winger went round the outside. Worcester’s scrum had a bit of a struggle at the set-piece, conceding a couple of penalties, but they operated far more slickly at the line-out where Craig Gillies was able to steal the first one off Tigers. The ball went into touch as a result of Worcester’s inside centre Loki Crichton upending Leicester full-back Geordan Murphy – not quite a spear tackle, but no more subtle or delicate.
The patience of the home fans was sorely tested as they saw the Tigers wasting chances and allowing Worcester to press up. The deadlock was not broken until 23 minutes had passed – when Leicester scrum-half Julien Dupuy knocked over the first of his penalties.
A miss, from a slightly better position, by Worcester’s Joe Carlisle a couple of minutes later finally convinced Leicester they could take control of this match and they duly did.
A superb passage of play by Tigers took them into the Worcester 22, Aaron Mauger feeding right winger Scott Hamilton, Murphy running a stunning line off the latter’s inside shoulder and loosehead prop Marcos Ayerza on hand to rumble over like a Chieftain tank.
Two minutes later Tigers struck again. This time fly-half Sam Vesty darted between a couple of slack-jawed, motionless Worcester players and sprinted upfield. The Warriors’ cover was already thin so when Vesty off-loaded to Alesana Tuilagi, who had stayed in support, there was only ever going to be one outcome. And with Tigers scrum-half Julien Dupuy right on song with his goal-kicking it helped to open up a useful 17-0 lead for the home side.
There was more purpose, but still too much inaccuracy, about Tigers after the interval and Worcester were able to get on to the scoreboard when a sweeping move released Kai Horstmann on the left, he shrugged off one despairing tackle before sending in Will Bowley for an unconverted try. Back came Leicester though and they created several opportunities, but spoiled things with too many simple errors. Tuilagi was at fault and even second-rower Ben Kay knocked on perfectly good passes with a score in the waiting.
Thankfully, further pressure and a half-break by Vesty finally saw replacement scrum-half Ben Youngs get over for Tigers’ third try. And the all-important fourth try to secure the vital bonus point came four minutes later when Tom Croft put in Vesty down the left. Leicester scored a fifth when centre Matt Smith burst through a demoralised Worcester defence and Vesty, who had taken over the kicking duties, landed his third conversion.
Leicester: G Murphy (J Murphy, 54); S Hamilton, M Smith, A Mauger (capt), A Tuilagi (A Erinle, 68); S Vesty, J Dupuy (B Youngs, 59); M Ayerza, B Kayser (G Chuter, 66), M Castrogiovanni (J White, 50), L Deacon (T Croft, 67), B Kay, C Newby, B Woods, J Crane (B Deacon, 58).
Worcester: W Walker; R Gear, D Rasmussen, L Crichton (A Grove, 40), M Garvey; J Carlisle (M Benjamin, 72), M Powell (R Powell, 76); D Morris (M Mullan, h-t), C Fortey, T Taumoepeau (A Lutui, 62), W Bowley, C Gillies (G Rawlinson, h-t), T Wood (N Talei, 76), P Sanderson (capt), K Horstmann.
Referee: R Poite (France).