Freddie Burns, England’s forgotten fly-half, wrote his name large yesterday with 20 of the points that sent Leicester into third place in the Aviva Premiership and pushed Exeter Chiefs down to fourth. On a day when rival Henry Slade proved fallible in front of the posts, Burns’s efforts will not go unnoticed.
In a strong, gusting wind, it was not merely the accuracy of Burns’ kicking from the tee that proved decisive. He curbed his natural attacking instincts in favour of a territorial game which, after Exeter had dominated possession in the first half, gave Leicester a platform from which to play. It has been a scruffy season for the Tigers, but a play-off place still looms.
Richard Cockerill, Leicester’s director of rugby, said: “Freddie’s learning to control games. We don’t want to take the sparkiness out of him but goalkicking wins games. He’s under pressure to perform and he’s doing it.”
Burns’s last international game was in New Zealand last summer and he has worked hard to adapt to the Leicester culture but five successive Premiership wins have had much to do with him.
Slade missed a couple of early penalties and slammed a point-blank conversion against a post. Yet the dark horse for England’s utility-back place in the World Cup squad chipped over a close-range penalty in time added on for a losing bonus point which could prove crucial.
Exeter, who won their LV= Cup semi-final against Leicester here two weeks earlier, dominated possession and territory with the wind behind them yet trailed 12-3 at half-time after conceding kickable penalties.
Leicester produced the move of the match, creating a hole in a lineout 40 metres out through which Ben Youngs dashed before feeding Tom, his brother, who was brought down five metres short. Youngs Snr went close at the start of the second half from an overthrown Exeter lineout, but tries remained in short supply until Thomas Waldrom, back on his old stamping ground, rolled over from a five-metre scrum for Exeter.
Geoff Parling, who will join Waldrom at Exeter next season, replied after a Leicester scrum which was reset three times, causing the visiting coaching staff angst. They thought they had overcome Leicester’s scrum superiority but Sebastian de Chaves fed his fellow lock for Parling’s first try of the season.
The conversion from touch by Burns was significant and Leicester’s coaches were equally distraught when Exeter counter-attacked from what appeared to be an offside turnover. Slade swayed through the cover and Will Chudley supported for his side’s second try.
Leicester: M Tait; A Thompstone, M Smith (T Bell, 71), S Bai, M Benjamin (V Goneva, 37); F Burns, B Youngs (capt; S Harrison, 66); M Ayerza (L Mulipola, 59), T Youngs (L Ghiraldini, 60), D Cole (F Balmain, 71), S de Chaves, G Parling, J Gibson, J Salvi, J Crane (L Pearce, 76).
Exeter Chiefs: P Dollman (T James, 49); I Whitten, J Nowell, S Hill, M Jess; H Slade, W Chudley (D Lewis, 71); C Rimmer (B Moon, 49), J Yeandle (E Taione, 67), A Brown (M Low, 62), M Lees (B White, 26-34, 49), D Welch, D Ewers (K Horstmann, 67), D Mumm (capt), T Waldrom.
Referee: J P Doyle (London).Reuse content