Irish crushed as Tigers get their Back up

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Leicester reasserted themselves at the top of the Zurich Premiership with an emphatic victory over an uncharacteristically sluggish and ragged-looking London Irish. And for good measure the Tigers turned it into a five-pointer with a fourth try.

Leicester reasserted themselves at the top of the Zurich Premiership with an emphatic victory over an uncharacteristically sluggish and ragged-looking London Irish. And for good measure the Tigers turned it into a five-pointer with a fourth try.

With kickers of the calibre of Tim Stimpson and Jarrod Cunningham on each side it was not unreasonable to expect penalties to be punished, and they were. Although, surprisingly, Cunningham missed one early on.

Thankfully though, the boot did not dominate the scoring. And if the Tigers had been a little bit sharper there might well have been a couple of tries on the board inside 10 minutes and before the first exchange of penalties.

Unfortunately Healey's final pass to Leon Lloyd was deemed to have been forward and a second-minute touchdown was disallowed. Leicester showed more initiative, thrusting and probing, frequently testing the Exiles' cover.

But Irish have always been dangerous on the counter. Their captain, Conor O'Shea, is a wily exponent of the turnaround, be it by running at the opposition or chipping over their heads and into space.

In the 12th minute he took the second option, the bounce obliged the chasing Paul Sackey, who makes greased lightning look as if it is in super slo-mo, and he snaked inside once and once again, before leaving Cunningham a straightforward conversion.

Leicester were stunned but began to reorganise themselves instantly. Within a couple of minutes they had pressed back upfield, Irish were caught offside, Healey thumped the ball into touch, Martin Johnson caught the throw, his pack drove linewards and Back crashed over for his 50th league and Premiership try - the first forward to reach a half-century in the competition.

Once they had tasted blood the Tigers went for the kill. They adopted a methodical approach, working themselves into position before the forwards presented their backs with decent possession. Back set up the position 15 metres out, the ball was popped up for Pat Howard and he jinked past Fijian Tabai Matson and scrum-half Kevin Ellis for his try.

Irish were looking out of it at this stage. They had been committing more unforced errors, a couple of those on their own throw at line-outs. They also began to concede kickable penalties and Stimpson was in commanding form.

Back suffered a cut head just before the interval that forced him out for the rest of the game, but by then Leicester looked on top. Even when Irish, no doubt kick-started by Dick Best their director of rugby, at half-time, made more concerted forays into the Tigers' territory they all too often ran up against the immovable object of the Leicester defence. Not until the last quarter did they perform as they should have throughout. Eddie Halvey's try in injury time was poor consolation, though.

Generally Leicester, who were guilty of some silly mistakes themselves, managed to play to their strengths. And after an hour, slick handling and quick thinking put the ball into the hands of Winston Stanley, who made no mistake. Neither did Stimpson. When Stanley set up Alistair Newmarch for another try five minutes later, that was that.

Leicester: T Stimpson; A Newmarch, L Lloyd, P Howard (O Smith, 76), W Stanley; A Goode, A Healey (J Grindal, 73); G Rowntree, D West, D Garforth (R Nebbett, 69), M Johnson (capt; P Short, 63), B Kay, M Corry, A Balding, N Back (P Gustard, 39).

London Irish: C O'Shea (capt); P Sackey, T Matson, J Wright, J Bishop; J Cunningham, K Ellis (K Campbell, 49); M Worsley (N Hatley, 66), R Kirke (D Alexopoulos, 66), S Halford (R Hardwick, 66), R Strudwick, S Williams (G Delaney, 70), E Halvey, C Sheasby, K Dawson.

Referee: J Barnard (Driffield).

Comments