West test Tigers

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The Independent Online
West Hartlepool 12

Leicester 19

MESSRS Richards and Johnson, the two Lions in the Tigers pack, had greater reason than their Leicester colleagues to breathe relieved sighs when the final whistle sounded at Brierton Lane yesterday. The veteran No 8 and the giant lock forged the 21st-minute breakthrough in an open and entertaining encounter between the champions and the club at the foot of the First Division table.

Leicester, already behind in this season's championship chase after losing to Bath two weeks ago, were 9-3 down and struggling to contain a dynamic West Hartlepool team until Richards drove into the home pack in his deceptively lolloping way and Johnson followed to rule the maul which produced a dive- over try for the prop Darren Garforth. John Liley's second and third penalties, either side of half-time, gave Leicester a five-point cushion and they put the game beyond West's eager grasp in the 65th minute when Aadel Kardooni broke to set up the hooker Richard Cockerill for his first try in three and a half years.

Almost as crucial as the victory for Leicester, however, was a trouble- free afternoon for Richards, who faces the Leicestershire disciplinary committee and the threat of suspension on Thursday, having been yellow- carded in the two games which followed his decision to take a sabbatical from police duty. Johnson, who was also booked at Kingsholm the previous Saturday, could have joined Richards in the dock following a little tap dancing. Fortunately for him, however, with South Africa's visit to Twickenham on the horizon, the referee Ed Murray settled for a verbal warning.

West, unlucky to suffer a five-point defeat at home to Bath on the opening day, took the game to the champions and might have put their first league points on the board had Mr Murray not whistled for a Leicester infringement as Rob Wainwright broke clear for the visitors' line. In the end, though, all the north-easterners had to show for their endeavour was a four from seven penalty return by Tim Stimpson.

West Hartlepool: T Stimpson; O Evans, J Williams, C Lee, A Parker; P Hodder, S Cook; P Lancaster, T Herbert, M Shelley, C Murphy, K Westgarth, D Mitchell, A Brown, R Wainwright.

Leicester: J Liley; S Hackney, R Robinson, S Potter, R Underwood; J Harris, A Kardooni; G Rowntree, R Cockerill, D Garforth, M Poole, M Johnson, J Wells, N Back, D Richards.

Referee: E Murray (Scottish RU).