Tigers mount late assault

Leicester 47 Leinster 22
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The Independent Online
Leicester duly extracted revenge for their surprise defeat earlier in this competition by the Irishmen, the only mystery being how on earth the Tigers had lost on that occasion. So dominant were they yesterday that Leinster's sole means of halting their opponents' surging attacks, in the first half at least, was to break the law which they did with great enthusiasm and in a variety of ways, none of them subtle enough, however, to hoodwink the referee, Daniel Gillet.

The Frenchman refereed with Anglo-Saxon strictness almost as if he feared an eruption of ill-temper should he allow play to continue beyond the point of infringement. The sorry events of a fortnight ago have clearly left their mark on more than the players of Brive and Pontypridd.

Leinster's tactics badly fractured the flow of a game in which until the final flurry of points there was infinitely more stop than start. John McWeeney's powerful burst from the left wing for Leinster's first try midway through the first half was one of the very rare occasions during that spell when the ball was in play for more than 10 seconds.

For this Leicester cannot be blamed. It was quite clearly in their interests to maintain the continuity of the play between their forwards and backs and to keep the game flowing. Leon Lloyd on the Tigers' left wing proved the most elusive of runners even when he was confronted, as so often happened, by a wall of blue-shirted Irishmen.

In the end, though, their only method of advancing the score during the first half was by the boot of Joel Stransky who kicked three penalties, Austin Healey who dropped a goal and Waisale Serevi who came off the replacements' bench for the injured full-back Michael Horak.

After he had kicked his penalty he found himself in the much more exacting role of fly-half when Stransky was forced from the field with an injury. Up to this point Stransky's line-kicking had been a feature of the match, combining breathtaking length with pinpoint precision.

Although Martin Johnson and Matt Poole exerted their customary control at the lineout, Leinster refused to yield an inch in the face of Tigers' second-phase driving. Not only that but in three separate spells in the first half Leinster's midfield strike force looked a more potent weapon and had they possessed a greater degree of self confidence and a cooler head in the area of decision-making, they might have found a way through more than once.

McWeeney's try, which followed a charge down and chase by Martin Ridge, proved that Leicester's defence was not impregnable, and it was unlikely to be stiffened by Serevi's arrival. But Leicester swiftly quelled any doubts about their defensive organisation by going on to the attack straight from the kick-off in the second half. Their scrummage gained just enough of a foothold for their midfield to put Tim Barlow outside McWeeney for Leicester's first try and this was followed minutes later by Serevi's second penalty.

McGowan kicked a penalty for Leinster before Healey made the game safe for Leicester. And a bittersweet moment it was. Having broken with sublime timing and quicksilver pace from the base of the scrum and having sped half the length of the field Healey patently lost control of the ball in the act of touching down. The referee was too far back to see what had happened but Healey himself knew full well. Was it too much to hope in this professional age that he would come clean? Alas, it was.

Three minutes later, Niall Malone sliced through Leinster's disheartened defence for the third try and with Serevi now beginning to relax and enjoy himself Rowntree scored the fourth. In a then meaningless avalanche of scores Denis Hickie scored two tries for Leinster and Greenwood crossed for Leicester.

Leicester: M Horak (W Serevi, 27); L Lloyd (J Hamilton, 63), N Malone, S Potter, T Barlow; J Stransky (W Greenwood, 35), A Healey; P Freshwate (G Rowntree, 63), R Cockerill (D West, 63); D Garforth, M Johnson (capt), M Poole (N Fletcher, 63), M Corry, E Miller, N Back (P Gustard,63).

Leinster: K Nowlan; D Hickie, M Ridge, K McQuilkin (C Clark, 48; capt), J McWeeney; A McGowan, D O'Mahony; R Corrigan, S Byrne (J Blaney, 48), E Byrne, S Jameson (D O'Brien, 48), A Freeman, T Brennan, V Costello, D O'Sullivan.

Referee: D Gillet (France).

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