Tigers see off Exiles challenge
February 9, 2013
Leicester continued their relentless charge towards an Aviva Premiership play-off place against London Welsh thanks largely to the goal kicking of departing fly-half George Ford.
Publicly criticised for his decision to depart Welford Road this summer, Ford produced a near-faultless display in the absence of England international Toby Flood with 13 points to keep Welsh at arm's length.
Adam Thompstone scored a first-half try, with Niall Morris and Dan Bowden touching down for the Tigers after the break, while Gordon Ross scored 12 points for the Exiles.
With Sale winning on Friday night against Exeter, the Exiles desperately needed a win to keep some breathing space at the foot of the table, making a total of nine changes after losing 42-14 to Newport Gwent Dragons in the LV= Cup last weekend.
But despite missing the likes of Dan Cole, Tom Youngs, Geoff Parling and Martin Castrogiovanni from the Leicester pack, who are all away on Six Nations duty, the Tigers dominated up front from start to finish.
Ross put Welsh on the board with a third-minute penalty before opposite number Ford kicked the Tigers ahead with two penalties, though a third attempt struck the post.
The Tigers struggled to turn their territorial dominance into points, Welsh hacking clear from one spell deep inside their own 22 as Graham Kitchener tried to power over. Mathew Tait jinked in from the left wing on 23 minutes but strong tackling from Greg Bateman halted the danger.
On 27 minutes some quick exchanges on the right wing released Thompstone, who skipped past Sonny Parker and touched down for a score which Ford duly converted.
Leicester - looking to secure their fifth successive win - continued to press and a powerful surge from Jordan Crane had to be stopped metres from the line.
A brief excursion into the Tigers' half from winger Nick Scott was ended abruptly as he found space on the right only to collide with Tait just beyond the 10-metre line.
Excellent hands from Anthony Allen and Matt Smith - celebrating his 100th game - opened space for Tait but his run was halted just inside the 22.
Full-back Tait continued to look for ball in hand, breaking the gain line again with five minutes remaining only to find his path blocked by an impressive Welsh pack.
Welsh struggled to escape their half as the break approached and Ford kicked the Tigers further ahead minutes before the whistle.
Tom Arscott had an early chance to narrow the gap but his 42nd-minute penalty was scuffed wide from distance.
A Leicester lineout deep inside the visitors' 22 led to a long spell of pressure but fly-half Ford failed to find a team-mate with a loose pass with men over on the left.
With 10 minutes gone in the second half some indiscipline at the breakdown handed the visitors a penalty, which Ross slotted to bring Welsh within 10 at 16-6. Ross continued the Exiles' revival minutes later with another close-range penalty, which struck the post on its way over, before adding another.
The hosts struck back immediately, an offload from Smith - who followed his father Ian to 100 games for Leicester, the first father-son pair to achieve the mark - found Morris for the score which Ford converted.
Tigers nearly crossed again minutes later when Allen picked a great line through the Exiles defence but was brought down 10 metres short.
Phil MacKenzie came close soon after when he intercepted a pass just outside his 22 and ran the length of the field only to be brought down metres from the line.
Another long drive on 68 minutes from Welsh came up short as they failed to find a way through a sturdy Tigers defence.
Replacement Rob Lewis broke free on 70 minutes but was pulled down inside the 22 and the resulting drive was halted on the line by the Tigers, with Ford booting clear.
With minutes remaining Leicester had a lineout metres from the line but the resulting maul could not gain ground as the Exiles pulled it down.
Leicester restarted quickly and replacement Dan Bowden slipped between two challenges on the left wing to score.
Jordan Crane was part of a Leicester pack that was too strong for London Welsh © Getty Images
And despite seeing Tom Croft come through nearly the whole match, Tigers boss Richard Cockerill played down any notion that he is ready for an international call-up. "Tom Croft is sharp, he's a quality player, we know his abilities in the loose but he's not played much in eight months but he'll get better," said Cockerill. "He's got pace and at times we need that to get us out of some sticky moments but its all positive for me but we do need to be patient."
The Tigers were without a host of stars due to the Six Nations but Cockerill was pleased with his team's showing. "Obviously there are things that we could have done better and could have made things easier for ourselves but it's about winning at the end of the day," he said. "We got the four points and at the end of the season nobody will care about the weather or the game, it's international week so nobody cares as long as we win."
"Obviously you would like more and potentially the five points but at the start of the day if you'd offered me four points and no significant injuries then I'd have taken it. Welsh are a hard side to play against."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
On Saturday, New Zealand face the USA in a match that has been 40 years in the making. Tom Hamilton finds the atmosphere building in Chicago
Most modern rugby players will not know the name Ray Williams but they should be eternally grateful to him, writes John Taylor
With the All Blacks playing the USA Eagles this weekend, Craig Dowd says rugby is ready to make a professional breakthrough Stateside
"He had a death stare so you'd know when you were wrong." George Kruis talks about his mentor Borthwick, fly-fishing and his England aspirations