Varndell's pace takes slick Leicester to the summit

Worcester 11 - Leicester 38
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The Independent Online

If nostalgia is a thing of the past, anticipation is a consideration for the present with an eye to the future. Both elements were on the agenda at a packed Sixways on Saturday, especially for those who can remember Rory Underwood's early years in a Leicester or England shirt. Austin Healey will beg my pardon, but not since the flying wing arrived at Welford Road has anyone demonstrated the spontaneity and pace of Tom Varndell.

A product of Colston's Collegiate in Bristol, where the England coach, Andy Robinson once taught, Varndell can make a hundred metres in 10.8 seconds and at 6ft 3in and about 15 stone is some handful. It took the 19-year-old Varndell just 13 minutes to complete a sensational hat-trick of tries to help the Tigers move top of the Premiership by five clear points.

More of this from Varndell - who was having only his second start for Leicester - and Robinson will soon be on the telephone to John Wells, the Tigers' head coach. "Tom is a bit special. While Tom will hog the headlines, some of our other stand-in youngsters, like James Buckland and Matt Cornwell were terrific," Wells said.

There was not a hint of Varndell's magic in a first half where the scores had to be ground out. Scott Bemand claimed the first of Leicester's three tries before the break, after Healey made the most of fielding Tommy Hayes's thoughtless clearance. The second was 24-carat Leicester.

Healey tapped a quick penalty as Worcester were expecting Andy Goode to take a pop at goal, the Tigers forwards massed on the home line for Neil Back to be driven across, and the third went to Healey, as if to remind us that at 31 he can still outpace the cover to score a classic winger's try. Paul Sampson got Worcester's try in stoppage time, while Leicester were reduced to 14 men with Will Skinner in the sin-bin.

Worcester: Try Sampson; Penalties Hayes 2; Leicester: Tries Bemand, Back, Healey, Varndell 3; Conversions Goode 4.

Worcester: T Delport; D O'Leary (P Sampson, 29), D Rasmussen, G Trueman, B Gollings (D Roke 61); T Hayes, C Stuart-Smith (M Powell, 64); T Windo, B Daly, C Horsman, T Collier, C Gillies, L Greef (M Gabey, 44), P Sanderson (capt), D Hickey.

Leicester: S Vesty; A Healey (R Broadfoot 64), S Rabeni (M Cornwell, 15), D Gibson, T Varndell; A Goode, S Bemand; M Holford (C Noon, 68), J Buckland (R Cockerill 78), D Morris, M Johnson (capt), L Deacon (J Hamilton, 74), B Deacon (W Johnson, 46), N Back (H Tuilagi, 69), H Tuilagi (W Skinner, 58-69).

Referee: G Ashton-Jones (Hampshire).