Confident Tigers sweep aside Worcester
February 21, 2009
Martin Castrogiovanni is wrapped up by the Worcester defence
© Getty Images
Leicester eased to a bonus point victory over a spirited Worcester in a low-key Guinness Premiership contest at Welford Road. The Tigers were rarely at their fluent best in an error-riddled game but still managed to score five tries in their rare moments of cohesion and increased Worcester's misery.
All Leicester's tries were scored in quick bursts in each half. Marcos Ayerza and Alex Tuilagi crossed in quick succession before the break and Ben Youngs, Sam Vesty and Matt Smith scored in eight minutes in the second period. Worcester had to defend grimly for much of the time but they have now conceded 13 tries in their last three Premiership games and they have not won in the league in three months. They might have been in deeper trouble but for Bristol's continuing struggles.
Both sides struggled for fluency in a poor opening quarter, the low point of which was a wayward penalty kick to touch from Leicester full-back Geordan Murphy. Instead of setting up a line-out deep in Worcester territory, Murphy's kick rolled dead which meant play was brought back to half-way and Worcester were awarded a scrum.
Murphy had an immediate opportunity to atone for his error when French referee Romaine Poite penalised Worcester for collapsing the scrum. This time Murphy found touch to ironic cheers from the 17,000 crowd. The stalemate was eventually broken by Leicester's French scrum-half Julien Dupuy, who levered over a 22nd-minute penalty after Worcester were caught offside in a ruck.
Worcester should have been level again within three minutes but fly-half Joey Carlisle made a hash of a kickable penalty attempt when Leicester's backs went offside. It proved a costly lapse as Leicester eventually stirred themselves and scored two tries, both improved by Dupuy, in three minutes. Argentinian prop Ayerza got the first, rounding off a move which was started by Aaron Mauger's misplaced pass and continued by Scott Hamilton's diagonal run.
Tuilagi then crossed from close to halfway after he battered through flimsy tackles from Rico Gear and Carlisle after Sam Vesty had exploited another gap in Worcester's defence. But Leicester lost momentum with another sleepy start to the second half which allowed Worcester, who brought on England Saxons prop Matt Mullan and former All Blacks lock Greg Rawlinson to beef up their pack, back into the game.
A sweeping move led to number eight Kai Hortsmann putting lock Will Bowley over for a try that Carlisle could not convert, which silenced the home supporters and forced Leicester to refocus. Once Leicester switched back on there was only going to be one winner. Worcester had captain Pat Sanderson and replacement prop Aleki Lutui sin-binned for killing the ball and uncontested scrums were awarded for the final quarter when Worcester ran out of front-row forwards.
Replacement Johne Murphy had a try disallowed for putting a foot in touch but Worcester's resistance was broken when replacement scrum-half Youngs closed from close range. Tom Croft then set up Vesty, centre Matt Smith powered over unopposed and Vesty put the seal on the victory by kicking three conversions.
Leicester coach Richard Cockerill has praised his side's efforts but also admitted that they are far from the finished article as they look to move up the Premiership table.
"It's no secret that we are trying to play with the ball in the middle a bit more," said Cockerill. "I thought the endeavour was great but the execution was a bit poor and scrappy at times. It's hard against a team that doesn't want to play too much and they make you fight for every bit of contact. But I'm obviously happy with the result and we need to start putting some pressure on the teams above us.
"We have not been used to playing like that and some of it is because Worcester stifled and frustrated us for long periods and we tried to force it a bit. We scored some good tries, we bombed some others great opportunities. But, all in all, you have got to take the result. It was a good win for us and something to build on but we will have to be sharper for London Irish next week."
Worcester boss Mike Ruddock has admitted that his side had not targeted the fixture as a must-win, but that they would have to pick up results in their next three games if they are to steer clear of Bristol in bottom place.
"We have got Wasps and Northampton at home and Bristol away," he said. "Those are three massive games for us, our cup finals, so it was important that we shared the load this week. We had to make a lot of tackles last week and the game before. To come to Leicester and get a result is going to take an effort from all 22 so I felt it was appropriate to share the load today.
"Obviously we feel we are not playing to our full potential but next week we will hopefully get Chris Latham and Hal Luscombe back - and they will make a big difference. It would have been nice to have got a win at Leicester but it wasn't really a target game for us. The next three are massive target games for us."
Leicester: Murphy; Hamilton, Smith, Mauger (captain), Tuilagi; Vesty, Dupuy; Ayerza, Kayser, Castrogiovanni, Deacon, Kay, Newby, Woods, Crane
Replacements: Chuter, White, Croft, Deacon, Youngs, Erinle, Murphy
Worcester: Walker; Gear, Rasmussen, Crichton, Garvey; Carlisle, Powell; Morris, Fortey, Taumoepeau, Bowley. Gillies, Wood, Sanderson (captain), Horstmann
Replacements: Mullan, Lutui, Rawlinson. Talei, Powell, Grove, Benjamin
The All Blacks' form is not a peaking issue, but Hansen must threaten to wield his axe, to demand improvement, Craig Dowd writes
"It has been the World Cup that smashed down the gender barriers of the sport." Tom Hamilton looks back at a remarkable tournament
A selection of the best pictures from England's historic World Cup triumph in Paris as they beat Canada 21-9
The latest Week in Pictures takes in the Women's World Cup, the opening round of the Top 14 and the Rugby Championship