Nick Easter rises again as Harlequins continue to defy the odds

Leicester 9 Harlequins 22

The principal chat following Harlequins' second successive league win at Leicester surrounded Nick Easter, who on the ground where the great Dean Richards once roamed supreme from the base of the scrum gave Leicester's stand-in captain Jordan Crane a lesson in cute handling and where to put your body on the line to maximum effect.

Since taking charge at the turn of the year, England's head coach, Stuart Lancaster, has preferred Leicester's Thomas Waldrom to the now 34-year-old Easter in what might be called the shambling bear role. Lancaster and his forwards assistant, Graham Rowntree, were at Welford Road mainly to see 10 current England squad members, including the props Joe Marler and Dan Cole, whose packs finished about even in the scrummaging stakes with penalties galore on both sides in the 22-9 win for Quins.

"I know he's desperate to play for England again," Quins' England scrum-half Danny Care said of his club and erstwhile Test team-mate Easter, "and if he keeps playing like that there's no reason why not. He was on fire and we couldn't ask for more from him. England's loss is our gain. His carrying, his offloading – he's the talisman of this team and when he plays well, we play well."

Easter did not cover himself in glory at last autumn's World Cup – but then who did? Manu Tuilagi, perhaps, and he was a notable absentee here, with what Leicester described as a "bruised shoulder". Clubs are cagey with their medical bulletins, particularly when England squad players are involved. Tuilagi's fellow England centre, Jordan Turner-Hall, went off with a shoulder injury and though Harlequins counterpart Conor O'Shea said, "We think he'll be all right," Care was not so sure. Ross Chisholm (fibula) and Tom Williams (hip flexor) were also replaced and Care became an emergency wing in a mixed-up back line that Leicester could not exploit, lacking as they were Tuilagi and their strike runners Geordan Murphy and Ben Youngs. Much as Anthony Allen tried his bulleting breaks, Leicester failed to score a try for the second match running.

Including last May's play-off final at Twickenham, the champions have won three of the last four league meetings with the Tigers. Yet a check of the six leading bookmakers and exchanges who were quoting yesterday showed they all had Leicester at shorter odds than Quins for the title, perhaps because the win-loss score in the preceding 10 years was 15-3 to Leicester with one draw.

"When we keep seeing we're not favourites in games and we're not favourites to win the league, we're happy to play that card," Care said. "People think we're one-hit wonders. We believe in ourselves, we believe we can go anywhere and win. Four wins from four and top of the table, we'll take that."

The solitary try by Williams after 20 minutes was an exemplar of Harlequins' well-coached set piece and dynamic support. There was nothing flashy about George Robson batting back Joe Gray's line-out throw on the Leicester 10-metre line and Quins using Mo Fa'asavalu, Gray, Easter, Matt Hopper, Chris Robshaw, Mike Brown, Marler and Turner-Hall as muscle in rucks. It took them 10 phases to reach the 22 – but that was where they picked up pace where lesser sides lose it. Perfect passes by Nick Evans and Robson out of the tackle sent Williams to the posts, hampered only by the tweak the wing felt in his hip flexor as he went.


Get Adobe Flash player


Asked if he thought Easter was looking trimmer this season, Care grinned beneath his boyband haircut. "The way we play it's hard for the forwards to keep the weight on because we expect them to keep running. They're losing weight left, right and centre, I'd imagine. Nick looks good, he looks quick. I think his mental quickness is what beats teams."

Leicester: Penalties Flood 3. Harlequins: Try Williams; Conversion Evans; Penalties Evans 4; Drop goal Care.

Leicester S Hamilton; N Morris (A Thompstone, 74), M Smith, A Allen, V Goneva; T Flood, S Harrison (P Phibbs, 74); B Stankovich (L Mulipola, 48), T Youngs (G Chuter, 53-61), M Castrogiovanni (D Cole, 48), G Kitchener, G Parling, S Mafi (T Waldrom, 48), J Salvi, J Crane (capt).

Harlequins M Brown; T Williams (R Chisholm, 21; K Dickson, 61), M Hopper, J Turner-Hall (R Clegg, 49), U Monye; N Evans, D Care; J Marler, J Gray (R Buchanan, 78), J Johnston, O Kohn, G Robson, M Fa'asavalu (T Guest, 56), C Robshaw (capt), N Easter.

Referee D Pearson (Northumberland).


Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

Typefaces still matter in the digital age

A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
The Pan Am Experience is a 'flight' back to the 1970s that never takes off - at least, not literally

Pan Am Experience: A 'flight' back to the 70s

Tim Walker checks in and checks out a four-hour journey with a difference
Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics - it's everywhere in the animal world

Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics

Voting, mutual back-scratching, coups and charismatic leaders - it's everywhere in the animal world
Crisp sales are in decline - but this tasty trivia might tempt back the turncoats

Crisp sales are in decline

As a nation we're filling up on popcorn and pitta chips and forsaking their potato-based predecessors
Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

Ronald McDonald the muse

A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
13 best picnic blankets

13 best picnic blankets

Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
Barcelona 3 Bayern Munich 0 player ratings: Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?

Barcelona vs Bayern Munich player ratings

Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?
Martin Guptill: Explosive New Zealand batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Explosive batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Martin Guptill has smashed early runs for Derbyshire and tells Richard Edwards to expect more from the 'freakish' Brendon McCullum and his buoyant team during their tour of England
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'