Moody quick to find his feet but the test is yet to come

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The Independent Online

Leicester are in the sort of form which suggests they are about to rekindle their love affair with the Heineken Cup. Last season, the double-winners never reached the knock-out stages, having been bundled unceremoniously out of the competition by Stade Français on a dreadful January evening when four of their five goal-kickers failed to hit the target. That loss and the subsequent acrimony cost their director of rugby, Dean Richards, his job.

Leicester are in the sort of form which suggests they are about to rekindle their love affair with the Heineken Cup. Last season, the double-winners never reached the knock-out stages, having been bundled unceremoniously out of the competition by Stade Français on a dreadful January evening when four of their five goal-kickers failed to hit the target. That loss and the subsequent acrimony cost their director of rugby, Dean Richards, his job.

While the bookmakers have installed the Tigers as second favourites, it will take something up-close and demanding of greater physical contact than Calvisano were able to provide before we can be certain of the force of Leicester's ambition to lift the trophy for a third time. The other runners in Pool One, Wasps and Biarritz, are sure to make life more interesting when the lights come on.

Although they were without the suspended George Chuter and Martin Corry, Leicester were able to welcome back Lewis Moody after a 10-month absence with a foot injury. Geordan Murphy was rested, while Ross Broadfoot, who has shown so much promise in the Premiership this campaign, was another not making the starting line-up at a sold-out Welford Road.

Calvisano started with eight internationals and faced an assignment on the fearsome side of improbable. No team from Italy have ever won here, and it would have been a major upset if they downed the Premiership leaders.

In the first half Leicester were diffident and unsure of themselves. Once they had realised that the conditions demanded full-frontal rugby and Calvisano's forwards were no match for them, only the size of the score was in doubt.

Not once did the Italians threaten the Tigers' line, while their own was under constant bombardment. Had Leicester been able to take full advantage of their superiority in possession and territory, they would have been out of sight at half-time. Instead they were only 13-3 up, thanks to two penalty goals from Andy Goode and a try by Harry Ellis, a constant thorn in the side of Calvisano's back row.

The Tigers began the second half with far greater dynamism. Drive after drive had the Italians on the back foot and it was no surprise when their defensive line was breached as Seru Rabeni powered over in the fifth minute after the restart for Leicester's second try. Even then it looked as if Calvisano would fold. But inspired by their captain Maurizio Zaffiri, with his pack tackling way above their weight, they clung on.

Gerald Fraser, who kicked a first-half penalty, struck again in a rare visit to within reach of Leicester's posts.

Clearly trying to adapt to the worsening conditions, and finding his feet after so long on the sidelines, Moody's confidence about his likely return to the England squad was given a timely boost as he made the most of some sloppy defence to claim tries in the 59th and 63rd minutes. Goode converted both to wrap up a well earned victory.

Leicester: S Vesty; J Holtby, S Rabeni, D Gibson, A Healey (A Tuilagi, h-t); A Goode (M Cornwell, 72), H Ellis; G Rowntree (J White, 19-31; h-t), J Buckland (R Cockerill, 51-64), D Morris, M Johnson (capt), B Kay, B Deacon, L Moody, W Johnson (H Tuilagi, 70).

Calvisano: P Vaccari; L Nitoglia, G Raineri, C Zaoletti, A Vodo; G Fraser, P Canavosio (P Griffen, 41); G Bocca (M Castrogiovanni, 55), A Moretti, S Perugini (G De Carli, 64), M Ngauamo, J Purll, R Mandelli, M Zaffiri (capt), V Bernabo.

Referee: D Changleng (Scotland).

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