Rugby Union: Tigers Home in on Title: Leicester 31 London Irish 10
Rea, Chris, The Independent (London, England)
WHATEVER this compelling contest lacked - and there were times when it was almost indistinguishable from a boxing match - it certainly wasn't passion.
There were times in fact when the explosive fury of the exchanges threatened to overpower the creativity which was bursting to get out of both these talented sides. Eventually, however, the good triumphed over the simmering resentment and what we had was an epic encounter in which Leicester displayed all the qualities which will surely carry them unchallenged to the league title.
Not the least of their strengths is the devastating accuracy of Joel Stransky's goal kicking. Yesterday, from a variety of distances and angles and in retaliation for a host of infringements ranging from high tackles to verbal dissent, the Leicester fly-half kicked 21 points from seven penalties. It was his deadly consistency which gradually built up Leicester's lead during a torrid first half when tempers were close to boiling point. Imperceptibly, the Tigers began to move out of reach of their opponents and when London Irish did succeed in building up a head of steam, mainly by clever use of the blind side, chiefly on the left- hand side of the field, they found Leicester's defence unbreachable. The crushing weight of the hits they inflicted on the Irish rattled their bones and ultimately broke their spirit. The decisive moment came in that critical period just before half- time. Leicester had been hurling themselves at the Irish defence with a series of drives. Most of them were from short range but one, involving a lightening exchange between Neil Back and Martin Corry from further out, had all but yielded a try. Ironically, after all the hard graft, the try which turned the match was a soft one. Dave Lougheed, coming in off the left wing, appeared outside Stransky and broke the tamest of tackling in midfield to cross for the try which extended Leicester's lead to 17 points. Stransky, with his sixth penalty, rounded it up to 20 in the fourth minute of injury time. The Irish, whose vigorous challenge for every ball and whose adventure, if occasionally wayward in its execution, had created several promising situations, had received scant reward, but in truth they were badly let down by their indiscipline. Their frustration was at times understandable in the face of some childish petulance - and in the case of Austin Healey's unprovoked stamping on Kevin Putt's head, unpardonable violence - but they contributed to their own downfall by their failure to keep their mounting irritation in check and lost both ground and points by senseless backchat to the referee. …