Worcester 20 Leicester 35: Tigers give Brain much to ponder

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The Independent Online

If Leicester's coach, Pat Howard, had the luxury of still settling on a formidable outfit, his Worcester counterpart, John Brain, had to be in two minds yesterday about success in the EDF Energy Cup. No wins in the Premiership are his main headache; one in the EDF against Northampton last week was a valuable boost.

Now Brain can go back to concentrating on a domestic tussle at home to Gloucester on Friday. Howard, who can always see ways of improving things, is on course in this Anglo-Welsh competition and close to settling on an all-round attacking force. The Tigers' power-packed, five-try display in bright sunshine yesterday assured them a semi-final place.

It took James Brown less than two minutes to raise home spirits with a 20-metre penalty, awarded for tripping by Lewis Moody, but Ollie Smith soon cut through to lob a pass to Sam Vesty out on the right. He found the wing Johne Murphy on his shoulder to score the try.

Early home euphoria then turned to deep foreboding as Vesty cut through to add his own try, Paul Burke converting and then adding an easy penalty. At 3.15pm the score was 3-15.

Brown added a penalty to close the gap in the first half, scant reward for a Worcester side that seemed happier playing a battering ram style of rugby, forwards and backs running straight at the opposition and relying on massed support at the breakdown.

The Tigers, with their internationals in evidence, were also short on reward. But they clearly had the edge up front, a more organised line-out and an ability to run fast and effectively at a defence that owed much to its back row, notably the England international Pat Sanderson.

It looked as if playing up the middle was still a paying option for Worcester when Gavin Quinnell bullocked his way over less than three minutes into the second half and Brown slotted a tricky conversion. A three-point gap meant it was game on again.

But Burke settled the Leicester ship with an easy penalty and only minutes later Leicester opted for a five-metre line-out and drove over, the hooker James Buckland being credited with the try and Andy Goode, on for the last quarter, smoothly adding the conversion.

The game was now being played in the Worcester half and as Martin Corry prepared to come on for a 10-minute workout, Daryl Gibson finished a fast sequence of handling to give the Tigers a bonus-point fourth try. Before he added his second deep into time added on, Ben Gotting scampered over for a consolation for the hosts.

Worcester: T Delport; M Tucker, D Rasmussen (M Avramovich, 66), S Whatling, G Trueman; J Brown, R Powell (M Powell, 66); T Taumoepeau (L Fortey, 40), A Lutui (B Gotting, 59), C Horsman (Taumoepeau, 65), R Blaze, C Gillies (T Collier, 59), G Quinnell (T Harding, 50), K Horstmann (capt; Harding, 32-40), P Sanderson.

Leicester: S Vesty; G Murphy (L Lloyd, 55), O Smith, D Gibson, J Murphy; S Bemand (F Murphy, 66), P Burke (A Goode, 56); 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), J Crane, L Moody.

Referee: R Maybank (Kent).