Leicester reached the quarter-finals of the Powergen Cup for a record 22nd time yesterday after breezing past First Division Worcester with a coltish-looking side.
But the stayaway fans and the playing absentees did not miss much. It was dank, grey rugby to match the weather. Once again the refereeing was of a questionable standard – Roy Maybank is one of the Rugby Football Union's handful of full-time referees, but the penalty count against Leicester was a travesty. They could not seem to get anything right in the official's eyes, and that, coupled with their propensity either to over-complicate moves or to spill the ball in contact resulted in them clinging on to a slender lead when they should have been clear of Worcester by half-time.
Tigers, without 10 regulars, lost two through injury in the first half, Martin Corry and Leon Lloyd limped out of the action inside 30 minutes. Corry's replacement Martin Johnson only lasted 17 minutes before falling foul of the referee, who brandished a yellow card after the England lock went to ground at a breakdown. If the official had been more alert he might have spotted a Worcester forward pass which had led to that particular breakdown. He didn't, and Tim Walsh was able to knock over his third penalty.
At least Tigers had scored a couple of tries. The first came as result of Worcester full-back Hugo Southwell fumbling Steve Booth's kick ahead. Lloyd hacked on and won the chase to the touchdown in the right hand corner. The second was more traditional – from their second penalty Tigers kicked for touch then drove the line-out, with hooker George Chuter hammered through. This time Sam Vesty landed the conversion.
Worcester were unable to take advantage of their weight of penalties, although when they did go forward they looked threatening enough until the final pass. Scotland international centre Ben Hinshelwood was the sharpest, along with the fly-half Walsh – who had plenty of tricky moves and deft handling touches to bemuse the Tigers.
But Leicester cleared their heads at the break and re-emerged a more disciplined and purposeful force. If Tigers were as puzzled as the home crowd at some of the referee's decisions, they did not show it. While the angry fans, were able to voice their frustration with boos, their team just got on with knocking Worcester out of the cup.
When Sam Vesty kicked his first penalty shortly after the interval Leicester followed with a try from second row Peter Short – again from a line-out, but this time from one of Worcester's. Scrum-half Jamie Hamilton's sharp break then set up Booth to dart and unload to Ollie Smith. Vesty's conversion bounced off both uprights, hit the crossbar and toppled over for the extra points. With their tails up, Tigers went over again after another penalty line-out – flanker Adam Balding on the end of it.
Leicester: S Booth; O Smith, L Lloyd (J Holtby, 17), G Gelderbloom, F Tuilagi; S Vesty, J Hamilton (T Tierney, 59); D Garforth (R Nebbett, 57), G Chuter (D West, 57), F Tournaire, P Short, L Deacon, M Corry (capt; M Johnson, 28), W Johnson (L Abraham, 69), A Balding.
Worcester: H Southwell; N Ezulike, B Hinshelwood, J Ogilvie-Bull (C Chalmers, 64), C Garrard; T Walsh, W Swanepoel (capt); T Windo, C Hall, A Olver (N Lynam, 63), D Zaltzman, M Morgan, R Bates (N Mason, 8), J Jenner, R Nias (G Pfister, h-t).
Referee: R Maybank (London).
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