Harlequins 15 Leicester 21: Burke settles old boys' battle

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The Independent Online

There were times in this match when Harlequins looked capable of presenting their director of rugby, Dean Richards, with victory over his former employers. But as unconvincing as Leicester were, in the end they were just too canny - always able to soak up pressure, ever ready to regain lost territory and forever alert for scoring opportunities.

As hard as Harlequins tried they were unable to break Leicester's hold and the bonus point they earned for staying within seven points of their conquerors will be poor consolation after four straight defeats.

No one could have lived up to Leicester's blistering start, not even some of the terrific Tigers sides of the past. It took them just 36 seconds to open up the dazed Harlequins defence. John Murphy (no relation to Geordan) broke from the kick-off and recycled the ball, Dan Hipkiss burst up the middle and a succession of passes (all of them looking suspiciously forward) saw the ball travel rapidly to Sam Vesty and from him to the left wing Tom Varndell, last season's top try scorer in the Premiership with 14. He made no mistake about his first touchdown of the new campaign. Unfortunately the fly-half, Paul Burke, missed the conversion.

The cheers he received from the home supporters for that error and a subsequent off-target penalty matched the way his successes were greeted when he was kicking goals for Harlequins not so long ago. Adrian Jarvis then nudged Quins ahead with a couple of penalties, and the Tigers spent a fair amount of time in their own territory as half-time approached.

Leicester's England scrum-half, Harry Ellis, marked his first appearance of the season by making himself a nuggety nuisance around the base of the scrum and darting for plenty of half breaks, but Jarvis landed a 50-metre penalty on the stroke of half-time for a 9-5 lead.

After the break, when Harlequins were penalised for collapsing a scrum in front of their posts, Burke was presented with a cheerless goal and the Quins faithful with an opportunity to air their latest chant. A variation of the famous "Pompey Chimes" heard at Fratton Park in Portsmouth, the west London version was not particularly complimentary: "Same old Leicester, always cheating."

It did not seem to bother the Tigers, who pulled ahead on the hour when the replacement scrum-half Scott Bemand, a Harlequin two seasons ago, muscled over. Burke converted. That was quite a feat, given that the fly-half had been laid out by a late tackle by Will Skinner minutes earlier, for which the former Leicester flanker was sent to the sin-bin.

A couple of Jarvis penalties sandwiched one from Burke, but there was no hope of a winning score by the home team.

Harlequins: G Duffy; S Keogh, H Luscombe, M Deane, U Monye; A Jarvis, S So'oialo (D Care, 47); C Jones, J Hayter (J Richards, 66), M Ross (R Nebbett, 66), O Kohn (J Evans, 66), N Spanghero (J Evans, 20-26), N Easter (capt), C Hala'ufia, W Skinner.

Leicester: G Murphy (O Smith, 45); J Murphy, D Hipkiss, S Vesty, T Varndell; P Burke, H Ellis (S Bemand, 57); M Castrogiovanni, G Chuter, J White, L Cullen, B Kay, L Deacon, M Corry (capt), L Moody.

Referee: C White (Gloucestershire).

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