Report: Leicester v Newcastle. 30.12.97.

Report: Leicester v Newcastle. 30.12.97.

Post by John Willia » Thu, 01 Jan 1998 04:00:00

Leicester 19  Newcastle 25.
--------------------------

Leicester                               Newcastle
M Horak                 15      S Legg
A Healey                        14      J Naylor
J Overend                       13      A Tait
S Potter                        12      V Tuigamala
C Joiner                        11      G Childs
J Stransky                      10      R Andrew
W Serevi                        9       G Armstrong
P Freshwater            1       N Popplewell
R***erill                     2       R Nesdale
D Garforth                      3       P Van Zandvliet
M Johnson (capt)                4       G Archer
D Richards                      5       D Weir
F Van Heerden           6       P Lam
N Back                  7       R Arnold
E Miller                        8       D Ryan (capt)

Referee: Brian Campsall
Attendance: Full house, about 16,000
Weather: Windy and rain, pitch soft.

A game between first and third placed teams was bound to be a tense
occasion, and the conditions conspired to remove adventure from the
agenda. An attritional game dominated by the long punt for territory
was won by the side making fewer errors.

Newcastle kept three of their Lions backs, Stimpson, Tony Underwood
and Bentley well away from the field, and they certainly saw more of
the ball from the touchline than they would have if they'd been
playing.

Leicester pulled a surprise with Dean Richards starting as lock, Van
Heerden moving to blindside flanker. This was presumably because Corry
was still unfit, and as an experiment it was not successful. Van
Heerden was quite badly shown up by the dynamic and impressive Pat
Lam, easily my man of the match. Fritz is a lock, not a blindside.

The start of the game gave no indication of how close it would be, as
Leicester played exculsively in Newcastle's half for the first ten
minutes, and held the upper hand for the rest of the first quarter.
Stransky missing two penalties and hitting two more (9 and 19 minutes,
6-0).

It was beginning to look like a non-contest until Pat Lam made the
first of his major contributions ball in hand, making the gain line
and a bit more from second phase, and the Newcastle pack clearing the
ball well ending with the forwards being held up over the Leicester
line.

Newcastle were penalised at the resulting scrum, and from the line-out
on the Leicester 22 Lam showed an amazing turn of pace to charge down
Stransky's attempted clearance kick and touch down the ball for a try
out of the blue, unconverted by Andrew (6-5, 23 minutes). Leicester
gained more territory and Stransky slotted a penalty for offside on 26
minutes (9-5), but Newcastle were now in the game and the contest was
on.

Leicester were penalised in front of their posts for Andrew to reduce
the lead to 9-8 (35 minutes), but this led to the single most creative
moment of the game. Serevi restarted short to Healey on the right and
he set off on a weaving run which, with the forwards taking the ball
on, ended in a scrum to Leicester under the Newcastle posts. The
Newcastle pack being pushed backwards, a penalty try was awarded
(16-8, 36 minutes). Andrew missed a longish penalty attempt to end the
half.

The second half was a territorial and forward battle, with neither
side having the opportunity or desire to use their backs, as CampsallV
allowed a little too much offside. However, he refereed pretty well,
defusing the occasional bout of over agression with yellow cards to
Archer, Weir and***erill. From the latter penalty offence on halfway
Andrew punted to give Newcastle a lineout 15m from the Leicester line.
When Stransky failed to get sufficient depth on a clearance kick,
Newcastle applied pressure with scrums close in, resulting in
Popplewell being driven over from a short tapped penalty (16-15, 53
minutes).

Leicester added a penalty through Stransky (19-15, 58 minutes), but it
was then Leicesters turn to mess up receiving a restart as***erill
knocked on the drop, and fron the scrum a forward drive resulted in
Lam taking an inside pass to cross near the posts (19-22, 60 minutes).

The advantage swapped as neither side was able to maintain possession
in the others half long enough to score, Stransky missing a penalty,
until a clearance by, I think Stransky was again charged down and
Andrew dropped a goal from around 25m, centre field (19-25, 71
minutes).

Leicester spent most of the remainder of the game in the Newcastle
half, and a final twist seemed very possible as they established a
series of lineouts, short tapped penalties and scrums, however
although they crossed the Newcastle line several times, they were
unable to ground the ball. After one of these occasions a Leicester
forward was penalised for, I think, stamping, giving Newcastle the
chance to clear their lines. I wonder what his internal fine will be.
Not enough I bet, it was criminal and deserves a capital sentence. The
final moments of spread-it-wide desperation rugby from Leicester
didn't ever look likely to succeed, as the final homeside storm
moderated to bluster.

----------------

A game deservedly won by Newcastle as they produced fewer errors in
fairly difficult playing conditions. Both sides employed the punt into
deep into space tactic, and the accumulation of small and not so small
errors was clearly in Newcastle's favour. More serious from the
Leicester point of view was the option-taking at certain times fom the
set piece, and by Horak, Serevi and Miller on crucial occasions.

Neither side looked physically tired after the comparatively heavy
load of recent games, but the Leicester players seemed to lose
concentration when deciding options, whereas Newcastle always knew
what option they were going to take.

Newcastle played exactly according to their reputation - route one
rugby with the minimum errors. Strangely reminiscent of Leicester a
couple of seasons ago. Nothing wrong with that, and on the day it was
a justifiable and successful tactic. But not by a large margin,
despite the 3 tries to 1 on the scoreboard.

All the best

John Williams.