Leicester were in no mood to be messed around with yesterday. They snarled on and off the pitch. First target of their wrath was England manager Clive Woodward.
The claws were out in the Tigers' den yesterday, or rather in the programme. The Leicester manager, Dean Richards, was growling over the alleged behaviour of Woodward last week when Leeds inflicted an unexpected defeat on the champions, and wrote in the programme: "There was another aspect of last week's game that particularly annoyed me – the reaction of England manager Clive Woodward at the final whistle. He was there summarising for Sky, but at the end of the game our supporters saw him stand up and punch the air in delight as Leeds celebrated. Many people have complained to us that this is inappropriate behaviour for somebody in Clive's position. Although he is a former Leicester player, that has done us no favours at all ..." And the 10 Leicester players whom Woodward has named in his 50-strong training squad that meets at Pennyhill Park tomorrow must be puzzled.
But there was no puzzle about the Leicester performance yesterday. They rediscovered their winning ways with an emphatic victory over an off-colour Harlequins.
The performance was not perfect, not by a long way, but enough of the component parts of the machine fired yesterday to suggest that they will once again be the team to beat.
All the points in the first half sprang from penalties and indeed it took Harlequins a fair old time to get into the Leicester half for any other kind of meaningful threat. Their solitary score in the first quarter arrived when David Slemen slotted Quins' opening penalty in the eighth minute, but that merely cancelled Tim Stimpson's opening shot four minutes earlier.
The Tigers' eagerness to make amends for the slip-up against Leeds led to some silly mistakes, spilled ball, stray passes and daft decisions to drift offside, but despite all these they still looked in control of affairs.
Harlequins' defence was repeatedly tested with the sniping runs of Austin Healey from half-back and Steve Booth out on the right, not to mention the power-running of Jo Naufahu from the centre.
Typically Leicester's opening try followed a penalty kick for touch. The resulting line-out, predictably won by captain Martin Johnson, produced a trademark drive-over try for England flanker Neil Back, which Stimpson converted.
Although Slemen reduced the Tigers' advantage with his second penalty the home side were beginning to recall how to take charge of a game. Will Greenwood, the one-time Tiger, now in captivity with Harlequins, had a strangely subdued match. The bars of his cage were rarely rattled and his old chums gave him barely enough room to think, let alone move.
After the interval Tigers finally broke clear. Breaks by Healey then replacement scrum-half Jamie Hamilton eventually saw Josh Kronfeld feed Booth for the run-in.
Five minutes later, Leicester put things out of reach with a back-buckling shove at a five metre scrum that cleared the way for Hamilton to dart in.
But Tigers had not finished. In the fifth minute of injury time Stimpson rounded off a move following an aborted catch and drive line-out, a bonus point was in the bag for the fourth try.
Leicester: T Stimpson; S Booth, O Smith (J Hamilton, h-t), J Naufahu, F Tuilagi; A Healey, H Ellis; G Rowntree (P Freshwater, h-t), D West (G Chuter, h-t), F Tournaire, M Johnson (capt), B Kay, M Corry (P Short, 76), W Johnson (J Kronfeld, 35), N Back.
Harlequins: N Williams; M Moore, W Greenwood, C Bell (V Satala, 44), B Gollings; D Slemen, M Powell (S Bemand, 28); J Leonard (capt), A Tiatia (M Caputo, 73), L Gomez, K Rudzki, W Davison, L Sherriff, T Diprose (J Evans, 73), P Sanderson.
Referee: N Williams (Neath).
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