Worcester 20 Leicester 35: Gibson ends madness to seal semi-final spot for Tigers

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The Independent Online

What looked to be a frolic turned out to be a frenzy and it was not until deep into the second half that Leicester closed out this Anglo-Welsh Cup Pool D match at Sixways. There was so much agitation in this game that Leicester not only wobbled but wavered.

They need not have worried, because Northampton's loss to the Newport-Gwent Dragons later in the afternoon meant that they could not be caught in the race for a semi-final place.

Leicester arrived here, having not won a trophy since 2002, treating this competition like it was heaven sent. Worcester had other, more important matters to consider, like maintaining their place in the Guinness Premiership. They are currently bottom, and play Gloucester here on Friday night, so they fielded a bits-and-pieces team against a close to full-strength Tigers outfit.

Worcester were in pieces within 13 minutes of the start. Their fly-half, James Brown, had opened the scoring with a penalty, but two catastrophic defensive mistakes gave the wing Johne Murphy and full-back Sam Vesty straightforward tries. Paul Burke converted the second and kicked a penalty, so Leicester were scoring at more than a point a minute.

We were not in for a day of pantomime rugby, though, and the only other score in the first half was a penalty from Brown. So it was 15-6 to Leicester at the break.

Gavin Quinnell turned that into 15-13 with a try from a line-out within four minutes of the restart. Although the Leicester forwards were in the ascendant, with Marcos Ayerza, James Buckland and Julian White in splendid form, not until the last 20 minutes did Leicester cut loose, and then not with the confidence they have displayed in recent games.

Burke kicked a penalty to open up the gap to five points, and within seconds Ayerza scored a driving try. Burke had gone off with a hamstring problem, so Andy Goode kicked the conversion. Leicester then made several changes, though shortly after Daryl Gibson nicked a try, back came Worcester.

Ben Gotting, who had replaced Aleki Lutui at hooker, scored himself. Brown converted. With five minutes to play, that made it 30-20, and five minutes of mayhem followed. Gibson, however, got the final try in stoppage time to seal it.

Worcester: Tries Quinnell, Gotting; Conversions Brown 2; Penalties Brown 2. Leicester: Tries J Murphy, Vesty, Ayerza, Gibson 2; Conversions Burke, Goode; Penalties Burke 2.

Worcester: T Delport; M Tucker, D Rasmussen (M Avramovich, 66), S Whatling, G Trueman; J Brown, R Powell (M Powell, 65); T Taumoepeau (L Fortey, 40), A Lutui (B Gotting, 40), C Horsman (Taumoepeau, 65), R Blaze, C Gillies (T Collier, 59), G Quinnell (T Harding, 50), P Sanderson, K Horstmann (capt; Harding 31-40).

Leicester: S Vesty: G Murphy (L Lloyd, 54), O Smith, D Gibson, J Murphy; P Burke (A Goode, 56), S Bemand (F Murphy, 66); M Ayerza (M Holford, 66), J Buckland (G Hickie, 61), J White, L Cullen (capt), B Kay (S Jennings, 50), L Deacon (M Corry, 69), L Moody, J Crane.

Referee: R Maybank (Kent).