Planet Rugby

Leeds win at last

12th October 2007 22:00

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Alberto De Bernardo Alberto Di Bernardo Thinus Delport

Di Bernardo halts the rampaging Delport

Leeds claimed their first Guinness Premiership victory of the season with a tense 26-21 success over Worcester at Headingley Carnegie on Friday.

Defeat for the Warriors means they are now leapfrogged by the Yorkshire side, leaving European champions Wasps at the bottom until Sunday at least.

Leeds were boosted by the return of fly-half Alberto Di Bernardo from injury, who kicked eleven vital points on the night.

Argentinian Di Bernardo, who proved himself to be the best fly-half in National League One last term with Cornish Pirates, had missed the last three games due to a hand injury sustained on his Leeds debut against Gloucester last month.

But on his return, the number ten's educated boot and playmaking skills guided Leeds around the field, something they've missed in his absence.

In addition to landing two drop-goals, a penalty and a conversion, the 27-year-old produced a delightful piece of skill which handed captain Stuart Hooper the crucial opening try on the stroke of half-time.

Outside centre Jonny Hepworth eclipsed Di Bernardo shortly before the hour mark, though, collecting possession on the edge of his own 22 before embarking on an exhilarating run that saw him outstrip the visiting defence and cross the line for a brilliant individual effort.

And when full-back Jon Goodridge capitalised on a dreadful error from the Worcester back line to touch down for a third try in the 64th minute, Leeds were left to celebrate their first Premiership win since they beat the same opponents 21-15 on February 24, 2006.

That Leeds have found life tough back in the top flight is undeniable, and they were forced to live on their nerves when Worcester claimed two tries in the final two minutes to cut the gap to five points.

But they held on for a crucial success which was rapturously received on all four sides of Headingley and will ultimately pour confidence into Stuart Lancaster's men.

Having gone agonisingly close to registering victory at Newcastle last week, losing 21-19 despite leading 19-18 in the closing stages of the game, this victory suggested Leeds are slowly acclimatising the demands of the Premiership.

Beating a second-bottom Worcester at home was a must for Leeds - even at this early stage in the season - and they did not disappoint.

Warriors full-back Shane Drahm set the tone for a disjointed display from the visitors when he skewed an attempted drop-goal wide of the posts.

However, in the fifth minute he got Worcester off the mark with a penalty and Leeds' hopes suffered another blow in the 13th minute when Hooper's late and high-tackle on Drahm earned him a place in the sin-bin.

Yet Di Bernardo was already beginning to exert his authority on proceedings with a stream of probing kicks that gave Leeds the field position from which to build.

And in the 20th minute Leeds number-eight Mark Lock fed the fly-half from a scrum and Di Bernardo executed a drop-goal from 25 metres to draw his side level.

Three minutes later, an excellent penalty goal edged the hosts 6-3 ahead, but he then erred with another penalty and a drop-goal attempt.

And in the 40th minute, he showed brilliant technique to chip forward and race on to collect his own kick ahead of Drahm before spotting Hooper racing alongside him in support.

A sublime offload allowed the Leeds skipper to touch down but Drahm had the final say of the first half when he landed a penalty moments later.

The Worcester kicker cut the gap further by adding another penalty in the 53rd minute but Hepworth's outstanding effort gave Leeds some much-needed respite.

And Goodridge's try six minutes later proved vital - Di Bernardo failed with both conversion attempts - when Loki Crichton scuttled over with just ten minutes remaining.

Leeds then lost hooker Rob Rawlinson to the sin-bin in the closing stages and were under the cosh when Ryan Powell crossed for a try, which Drahm converted to give Worcester a losing bonus-point.

The scorers:

For Leeds:

Tries: Hooper, Hepworth, Goodridge

Con: Di Bernardo

Pen: Di Bernardo

Drop goals: Di Bernardo 2

For Worcester:

Tries: Crichton, R Powell

Con: Drahm

Pens: Drahm 3

Yellow cards: Hooper (Leeds, 12 mins), Rawlinson (Leeds, 76 mins)

Leeds: 15 Jon Goodridge, 14 Leigh Hinton, 13 Jonny Hepworth, 12 Lee Blackett, 11 Tom Biggs, 10 Alberto Di Bernardo, 9 Joe Bedford, 8 Mark Lock, 7 Calum Clark, 6 Rhys Oakley, 5 Stuart Hooper (c), 4 Erik Lund, 3 Colin Noon, 2 Vili Ma'asi, 1 Fosi Pala'amo.

Replacements: 16 Michael Cusack, 17 Rob Rawlinson, 18 Tommy McGee, 19 Kearnan Myall, 20 James Brooks, 21 Richard Welding, 22 John Holtby.

Worcester: 15 Shane Drahm, 14 Thinus Delport, 13 Dale Rasmussen, 12 Mark Tucker, 11 Marcel Garvey, 10 James Brown, 9 Matt Powell, 8 Kai Horstmann, 7 Pat Sanderson (c), 6 Drew Hickey, 5 Craig Gillies, 4 Phil Murphy, 3 Chris Horsman, 2 Chris Fortey, 1 Tony Windo.

Replacements: 16 Darren Morris, 17 Tevita Taumoepeau, 18 Aleki Lutui, 19 Will Bowley, 20 Gavin Quinnell, 21 Ryan Powell, 22 Loki Crichton.

Referee: Rob Debney

Touch judges: Steve Terheege, Alan Hughes

Television match official: David Hudson

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