Tigers thrive on home comforts

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The Independent Online

The Leicester faithful like nothing more than an afternoon at Welford Road watching their team psychologically and physically overpower the opposition. It can be cruel sometimes, if that is a sentiment allowed in professional sport these days, but it is a necessity if Leicester are to keep developing the legend of being impossible to beat at home.

The Leicester faithful like nothing more than an afternoon at Welford Road watching their team psychologically and physically overpower the opposition. It can be cruel sometimes, if that is a sentiment allowed in professional sport these days, but it is a necessity if Leicester are to keep developing the legend of being impossible to beat at home.

And that is what this weakened Leicester team were playing for. Victory guaranteed home advantage in the quarter-final of the Heineken Cup, further perpetuated their myth of invincibility and demonstrated their exceptional strength in depth as a squad. The equation is quite simple. To dispel the rumours of being nothing more than bullies in England they need to win in Europe and to do that they need to play as many of their European fixtures at home as possible. Down that path lies their best chance of success.

They went ahead yesterday with a Tim Stimpson penalty, but were then caught unawares by an expansive Glasgow attack, Jon Stuart breaking some weak tackles before gifting Shaun Longstaff a try under the posts.

Three minutes had gone, the 12,000-strong crowd settled back in anticipation of a spectacle and both sides seemed stunned. Glasgow with the ease with which they had breached the home defence, Leicester by the cheek of the opposition.

Although Austin Healey, Neil Back, Martin Johnson and Leon Lloyd were absent, the ingredients of a typical Leicester performance were displayed in the following eight minutes. Again Glasgow broke through the midfield and the Leicester defence was a shambles. Seven metres out, men spread to the far wing eagerly awaiting a simple score and they were thwarted by a canny professional foul by Pat Howard. Realising the danger he blatantly dived into the ruck from the side, grabbed the ball and waited for the referee's whistle. Leicester have excelled at this for seasons, trusting that the officials will not respond with a card and, being a first offence, it probably did not deserve one. In contrast Andy Nicols' sin bin for the same offence in the 59th minute did.

That was the darker side of Leicester but, three minutes later, they showed their superior rugby skills. Stimpson chipped a kickable penalty for a line-out close to the line and the ensuing catch and drive was textbook forward play. An impenetrable maul relentlessly marched onwards with the ball tucked safely at the back. Usually it is Neil Back who claims the score but Dorian West applied the final touch.

From then on Leicester really dominated the game, although Glasgow never lacked for effort. Jamie Hamilton and Oliver Smith added tries for the Tigers in the 34th and 55th minutes, Alan Bulloch and Gordon Simpson replying for Glasgow, before Richard Cockerill completed the scoring and the match with another classic Leicester catch and drive.

The rest in between was entertaining, the action fast if a little meaningless. Still, Dean Richards, Leicester's director of rugby, was satisfied. "We had a lot of people pull out late but we do have others who can come in and do the job which is obviously very pleasing. We did let in a couple of tries that we shouldn't have though.''

Not one to get carried away with exuberance his last words ensured a hard week's training for his team. "It'll be a lot harder next week," he warned. No-nonsense words from a no-nonsense man. For all the exciting running and passing of earlier it will be those sentiments and the boring catch and drives that Leicester will need to continue their home dominance next week.

Leicester: T Stimpson; G Murphy, O Smith (G Gelderbloom, 56), P Howard, W Stanley; A Goode, J Hamilton; P Freshwater (G Roundtree, 70), D West (capt) (R Cockerill, 70); Short on Johnson off 70, D Garforth, L Deacon, B Kay, W Johnson (P Short, 70), M Corry, L Moody.

Glasgow: R Shepherd; J Steel, J McLaren, J Stuart (A Bulloch, 66), S Longstaff (J Craig, 78); T Hayes, A Nicol (capt); D Hilton, G Bulloch, G McIlwham (A Watt, 56), J White, S Griffiths, G Simpson (R Reid, 78), J Petrie, D MacFadyen.

Referee: A Lombardi.

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