Tuqiri runs hot as Tigers pack takes Wasps to the cleaners

Leicester 34 London Wasps 8: Leicester go top of Premiership with bonus-point victory in only match to survive freezing weather
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The Independent Online

The Leicester staff's week-long efforts to keep this game on were richly rewarded by a bonus-point victory in front of a capacity crowd, with Lote Tuqiri contributing his first tries since arriving in November. The former Wallaby has taken a while to settle but he knows an in-form pack when he sees one.

"Our scrum demolished theirs," he said. "It's probably the most dominant pack I've played behind."

Leaving aside what that says about Australian forwards of recent vintage, Leicester could not have been more chuffed with the win which put them top of the Guinness Premiership for the first time this season. The huge new single-tier stand here loomed over Wasps with the baleful look of the house in The Amityville Horror as the dusk fell over a freezing stadium – though not so cold, thankfully, that the fixture went the way of all others in England.

Most discomfited among the visitors were Tim Payne and company in the Wasps scrummage, who suffered a thorough going over, and Danny Cipriani, whose decision to tap and run a kickable penalty when his side were 8-3 ahead after 32 minutes was inexplicable. Cipriani had banged over a great penalty goal from halfway, to add to Mark van Gisbergen's second-minute try, so a 25-metre shot at the posts need not have been daunting. True, Paul Sackey had been waving madly on the far wing for a quick penalty to be taken, but he had given up on the idea and was walking backwards when Cipriani went for broke. The home defence had re-organised, to the extent that they forced a turnover and very nearly scored at the other end. "Ambitious," was the word used by Tony Hanks, Wasps' director of rugby. It sounded like a euphemism for something more bluntly critical to be said behind closed doors.

Payne was sent to the sin-bin four minutes later as Wasps' scrum caved in and in his absence Leicester scored 17 points, with the breakthrough made just before half-time by the wing Johne Murphy from a scrum when sharp passing by Ben Youngs, Jeremy Staunton, Tuqiri and Scott Hamilton – and a decoy run by Toby Flood – outdid the blitz defence. Flood's play in front of the England coaches John Wells, Graham Rowntree and Mike Ford cemented him as a leading candidate to play fly-half against Wales on 6 February. Jonny Wilkinson had recovered from a back complaint to score eight points for Toulon yesterday but Flood is easily the more exciting prospect.

With Wasps still down to 14 men, Leicester pummelled them at the start of the second half. A wave of attack featuring Flood's flat pass ended with Tuqiri darting between David Lemi and Simon Shaw to score, although the grounding looked dodgy. Flood converted and added a penalty for a soft offside after the restart to make it 20-8. Then Payne came close to a red card at another dropped scrum. A penalty try soon followed as Wasps back-pedalled and Flood converted. Poor Payne had the ball knocked from his grasp by his opposite number, Dan Cole, with a try beckoning and Tuqiri scored again in the 63rd minute after Youngs, who advanced his cause as England's No 3 No 9, skipped through heavy traffic.

The sight of Shaw limping off with a hyper-extension of his right knee, days before England's Six Nations squad announcement, summed up Wasps' day.

"I want to be top because I want to be the best team," said Leicester's head coach, Richard Cockerill, "but in the context of the season it means nothing yet."

Leicester Tigers S Hamilton; J Murphy (A Tuilagi, 54), D Hipkiss, J Staunton (S Vesty, 64), L Tuqiri; T Flood, B Youngs (J Grindal, 64); M Ayerza (B Stankovich, 64), M Davies (G Chuter, 59), D Cole (R Harris, 67), L Deacon (capt), G Parling, C Newby (T Croft, 58), J Crane (B Deacon, 64), L Moody.

London Wasps M van Gisbergen (D Walder, 71-73); P Sackey, B Jacobs, D Waldouck, D Lemi (T Varndell, 64); D Cipriani, M Robinson (J Honeyben, 67); T Payne (G Bocca, 72), R Webber (J Ward, 60), B Broster (S Taulafo, 48), S Shaw (M Veale, 54), G Skivington, J Hart (capt), D Ward-Smith, W Matthews (Taulafo, 37-47; D Leo, 53).

Referee: R Poite (France).