Planet Rugby

No tries again for winning Tigers

19th September 2009 19:33

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Johne Murphy finds space against Newcastle

Clear path: Johne Murphy

An injury-hit Leicester continued their climb up the Guinness Premiership table with an error-strewn 15-6 win against Newcastle on Saturday.

But the Tigers set an unwanted record on their laboured way to an unconvincing success in front of Welford Road's biggest-ever crowd.

The defending champions' barren spell without a try extended to four hours and nineteen minutes after they failed to cross their opponents' line for the third successive game in a stuttering start to their title defence.

The try-less period, stretching back to last term's Guinness Premiership final at Twickenham, is now 42 minutes longer than Leicester's previous worst spell 10 years ago.

It was poor entertainment for a 24,000 crowd, 10,000 of whom were seated in the impressive new 14 million Caterpillar Stand, and Leicester again had to rely on the boot of former Ireland fly-half Jeremy Staunton, who kicked five penalties, for all their points.

The new stand was opened with a Tigers Walk of Legends, Leicester's all-time great XV voted for by the readers of a local newspaper. But former England number eight Dean Richards turned down his invitation to join the parade following his involvement in the Harlequins 'Bloodgate' scandal.

Richards, Quins' director of rugby in their ill-fated Heineken Cup quarter-final last season, said he wanted to "let the dust settle before being part of something like this" but he made a wise choice in opting not to attend this error-riddled and low-quality contest.

Staunton had contributed all of Leicester's 27 points in their first two games and he continued to monopolise the scoring for a side lacking cohesion and direction.

He found the target with his first penalty after just three minutes when Newcastle drifted offside in defence, though the score was cancelled out within two minutes when Rob Miller, promoted from the bench after Jimmy Gopperth failed a morning fitness test on a foot injury, equalised for Newcastle.

Staunton added two more penalties in a three-minute period midway through the first half and another from long range with the last kick of the half but missed a golden opportunity to extend Leicester's lead six minutes into the second half.

Newcastle dropped a scrum and were then marched back a further 10 metres by referee Andrew Small for dissent but Staunton pushed his kick left of the target.

Miller punished the lapse when he slotted a 53rd-minute penalty after Leicester went offside in front of their own posts but Hall Charlton fumbled the restart kick which gave the Tigers a promising attacking position.

Anthony Allen and Staunton both went close and England flanker Tom Croft thought he had broken the stalemate when he ploughed over only for the try to be disallowed because the ball deflected off the referee.

Staunton also got over the line only for the try to be disallowed by the television match official for a knock-on which allowed Newcastle to clear their lines.

Leicester made a raft of second-half substitutions but it was left to Staunton to restore their nine-point cushion with his fifth penalty when James Hudson was penalised for a high tackle on Allen.

Clumsy handling prevented Leicester from creating further scoring opportunities and they were relieved to take four points from their first home game of the campaign.

The scorers:

For Leicester:
Pen: Staunton 5

For Newcastle:
Pen: Miller 2

Leicester: 15 Geordan Murphy (capt), 14 Johne Murphy, 13 Matt Smith, 12 Anthony Allen, 11 Scott Hamilton, 10 Jeremy Staunton, 9 Harry Ellis, 8 Brett Deacon, 7 Craig Newby, 6 Tom Croft, 5 Ben Kay, 4 Louis Deacon, 3 Martin Castrogiovanni, 2 Mefin Davies, 1 Marcos Ayerza.
Replacements: 16 Joe Duffey, 17 Julian White, 18 Robbie Harris, 19 Geoff Parling, 20 Ben Pienaar, 21 Ben Youngs, 22 Aaron Mauger, 23 Lucas Amorosino.

Newcastle: 15 Alex Tait, 14 Gcobani Bobo, 13 Rob Vickerman, 12 Tane Tu'ipulotu, 11 Tom Biggs, 10 Jimmy Gopperth, 9 Hall Charlton, 8 Filipo Levi, 7 Ed Williamson, 6 Brent Wilson, 5 Mark Sorenson, 4 James Hudson, 3 Carl Hayman (capt), 2 Rob Vickers, 1 Jon Golding.
Replacements: 16 Matt Thompson, 17 Micky Ward, 18 Laurence Ovens, 19 Tim Swinson, 20 Adam Balding, 21 Chris Pilgrim, 22 Rob Miller, 23 Charlie Amesbury.

Referee: Andrew Small
Assistant referees: Roy Maybank, Peter Huckle
Assessor: Brian Leigh
Television match official: Brian Abrahams, Graham Hughes

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