Leicester Power Their Way to the Top of the Premiership
Leicester muscled their way to the top of the Premiership with a dramatic last-gasp win at Sixways secured by two second-half penalty tries.
Richard Cockerill, Leicester’s director of rugby, was furious that referee Andrew Small did not reward his pack for their domination against Gloucester last week but he could have no complaints about London official JP Doyle. Doyle twice marched under the posts after Worcester collapsed five-metre scrums, with the winner coming a minute from time after a five-metre scrum went down for the first time.
Doyle was booed by angry home supporters as he left the pitch after Worcester suffered their first home defeat in all competitions since the opening day of the season. But Worcester head coach Richard Hill had no complaints about Doyle’s decision.
“I have no arguments with the try at the end, we were going backwards,” Hill said.“We lost a bit of ball in their 22, they turned us over and went the length of the field and got five-metre position. That was always going to be difficult for us. They have an extremely powerful scrum and they shunted us back and the referee had no option with that last one.”
Worcester had brought in former international referee Steve Lander to help them improve their discipline after they had collected 10 yellow cards, including two at Sale last week, before Friday night’s game.
Worcester’s discipline appeared to have improved but then Andy Goode added to their yellow card collection for tackling without his arms as Scott Hamilton went over for Leicester’s first try in first-half injury time. Leicester, who were 14 points down at one point, took control through their pack in the second half.
“The crucial moment was Andy’s sin-binning right on the stroke of half-time,” Hill said. “Chris Pennell had two kickable kicks at a crucial time. I am convinced if Andy Goode had been on we would have slotted those two penalties and got us really going again. In a game of very small margins that was a key blow and yet again we are down to 14 men.”
For a long time it looked like Goode might help Worcester to their first win over Leicester in almost seven years as the former England fly-half kicked three first-half penalties to go with David Lemi’s try.
But Leicester were able to reinforce their front row with tighthead Dan Cole and loosehead Marcos Ayerza early in the second half. “You get the benefit from the first penalty try from the work the first two props put in and then the others come on fresh and strong,” said Cockerill.
England head coach Stuart Lancaster and forwards coach Graham Rowntree were part of a capacity crowd and will have been relieved that England flanker Tom Croft came through 50 minutes of play unscathed after more than eight months out with a neck injury.
Croft missed a tackle on Jon Clarke in the build-up to Worcester’s try but admitted he was happy just to be playing again. “It’s nice to have come off the pitch in one piece. I’m a bit battered and bruised but I have got a weekend to recover,” Croft said.
“There are two massive games coming in the Heineken Cup against Ospreys and Toulouse, but I am just happy to have come through the game unscathed.”