Stimpson keeps Leeds in the hunt

Worcester 43 - Leeds 34
Click to follow
The Independent Online

There are those who have dubbed this the "Euro Disney Cup", because it is a Mickey Mouse competition, but at least these two sides looked as if they wanted to reach the final next month, when the winners of this semi-final will tackle either Bayonne or Auch of France.

There are those who have dubbed this the "Euro Disney Cup", because it is a Mickey Mouse competition, but at least these two sides looked as if they wanted to reach the final next month, when the winners of this semi-final will tackle either Bayonne or Auch of France.

And while the European Shield may be the third-ranked tournament, there was no doubt that a surprisingly good crowd, in excess of 4,000, enjoyed the 10 tries served up by the Premiership's basement pair.

There might not have been quite as many tries, or indeed a victory for Worcester, had Leeds not lost their half-time replacement Diego Albanese, the Argentinian international wing, after he had been on the pitch for just two minutes.

Albanese was deemed by the referee, Nigel Owen, to have deliberately knocked on when Worcester were pressing hard within five metres of the line. It was a tricky call, since the former Puma looked to be going for the ball-carrier, not the ball, but he was sent to the sin-bin and Worcester were awarded a penalty try.

Worse was to follow for Leeds. A man down and with Worcester's tails up on firm ground, the home team ran in two more well-worked tries in Albanese's absence.

But Leeds had had their share of luck when they moved into what looked to be a comfortable 15-point lead by the interval thanks to a couple of errors by Worcester's Jonny Hylton, who was playing his first match of the season after having been out for eight months with a knee injury. It was a pity, because the pacey Hylton had impressed with his lightning breaks, which earned him a try in the sixth minute when he was put in by Thinus Delport.

When the full-back himself went over six minutes later it looked as if Leeds were going to be on the end of a hiding, but Tim Stimpson, the former Lions, England and Leicester full-back, was in brilliant form with the boot.

Worcester's Tommy Hayes only missed one kick. Stimpson landed all of his. He also scored two tries, and said later that he felt the slender Worcester lead should be reachable in the return leg, on 22 April at Headingley.

His mind, though, like those of his team-mates, was on the Powergen Cup final against Bath at Twickenham on 16 April. A victory in that competition would guarantee Leeds a place in Europe's premier tournament, the Heineken Cup, if they survive in the Premiership. Victory in the final of the Shield merely guarantees a slot in the Challenge Cup.

Worcester: T Delport; P Sampson (J Brown, 73), B Hinshelwood, G Trueman, J Hylton (D Roke, 30); T Hayes, N Cole; S Sparks, A Van Niekirk (B Daly, h-t), L Fortey (T Windo, h-t; C Hall, 58), P Murphy, B MacLeod-Henderson, S Vaili, N Mason, D Hickey.

Leeds: T Stimpson; D Rees, P Christophers, C Bell (D Albanese, h-t), T Biggs; C McMullen, A Dickens (M McMillan, 55); M Cusack, R Rawlinson, M Holt, S Hooper (capt), T Palmer (S Palmer, 55), J Dunbar, D Hyde, A Popham.

Referee: N Owen (Wales).

Comments