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Worcester Warriors 3 Leicester Tigers 48
October is far too early to be gauging title credentials, but Leicester Tigers are looking increasingly ominous. They barely broke a sweat during this demolition job at Sixways, savaging sorry Worcester Warriors to open up a seven-point gap over Harlequins at the top of the table.
Nemani Nadolo was their destroyer-in-chief as they plundered seven tries in a brutally one-sided Midlands derby, adding a fifth consecutive victory to what is now their best ever start to a Premiership campaign. George Ford pulled strings expertly as the Tigers pack, to borrow a phrase from Worcester head coach Jonathan Thomas, “physically steamrollered” their opponents.
Steve Borthwick remains the voice of caution, desperate to douse any swelling hype and continually highlighting the strength of clubs such as Saracens and Exeter Chiefs. Still, this thrashing epitomised the position Leicester find themselves in. Depending how many Tigers are called up by England, they could get even better. Thomas was more forthcoming with praise.
“I want to congratulate Leicester because that was one of the most complete performances I have seen in the Premiership for a long time,” he said. “They’re at the top of the league for a reason.”
After four straight wins to begin the competitive season, Tigers were able to welcome their heavy cavalry from the Rugby Championship. A pair of Springboks, Jasper Wiese and Marco van Staden, and two Pumas, Julian Montoya and Matias Moroni, bolstered their starting side.
Van Staden, an imposing barrel of a back-rower, announced himself after just three minutes. From a messy lineout, he smashed through two Worcester defenders and dragged two more up to the hosts’ 22. Eli Snyman spilled but Leicester did not let off their opponents. They earned a scrum penalty and Ford made it 3-0.
Another set-piece shove paved the way for Tigers’ first try. Worcester appeared to have repelled a driving maul until Ellis Genge spun away and offloaded to Jack van Poortvliet. Busy wing Harry Potter popped up in midfield and wriggled through a mass of bodies to dive over. The defence was worryingly porous and, although Billy Searle pulled back three points from the tee, Worcester were soon absorbing further pressure.
Freddie Steward, hopeful of an England call-up on Monday, oozed authority under the high ball and Potter almost capped a slick period of phase-play with his second. Hanro Liebenberg, Wiese, Van Staden and Genge, left with a swollen eye following an unpunished high tackle from Andrew Kitchener, dominated the gain-line.
Eventually Moroni slipped through off the shoulder of Ford, who had scooped up a bobbling ball beautifully, and registered number two. Tigers’ third was a pushover, seven minutes before half-time, that carried over another Argentine, Montoya.
Scott Baldwin’s jackal turnover, in the shadow of his own posts, provided brief respite. Worcester ended the first period pressing, but the excellent Potter ripped the ball away from Kyle Hatherell to keep the score at 22-3.
Steward arced around Ford, took a deft pass and sliced through Worcester within seconds of the restart. This time, Tigers did not capitalise. Steward attempted a back-handed offload that went to ground and, via strong running from Duhan van der Merwe and loping lock Justin Clegg, the Warriors asserted themselves.
Despite losing Liebernberg to a yellow card, though, Leicester held out and promptly killed off the contest with the best try of the afternoon. Ford fielded a Worcester clearance and clipped a kick-pass across the halfway line to Nemani Nadolo, who batted away a couple of tacklers and swung an offload in-field. Richard Wigglesworth was tracking the wreckage to secure the bonus-point.
Such was Leicester’s supierority that they thought they had a fifth before being restored to 15 men. Even though Steward’s finish was scrubbed out due to Van Staden’s neck-roll in the build-up, Nic Dolly kept up his scoring spree. The hooker did not need a maul this time. Instead, he was in support as Nadolo and Wigglesworth reprised their counter-attacking double-act. With one extra pass required, Dolly sauntered over in the sun.
In the 73rd minute, Nadolo had the try that his second-half bulldozing exhibition deserved. Matt Scott ghosted through the middle and the Fiji wing surged up in support. Burns, a last-quarter replacement for Ford, was conducting all this and completed the thrashing with a chip-and-chase that delighted travelling supporters.
“I really do keep it simple in my own mind,” Borthwick said at the end, never likely to get carried away. “As as soon as the final whistle went, I am thinking about Sale next week.”
Scoring (Leicester first): 3-0 Ford penalty, 8-0 Potter try, 10-0 Ford conversion, 10-3 Searle penalty, 15-3 Moroni try, 20-3 Montoya try, 22-3 Ford conversion, 27-3 Wigglesworth try, 29-3 Ford conversion, 34-3 Dolly try, 39-3 Nadolo try, 41-3 Burns conversion, 46-3 Burns try, 48-3 Burns conversion
Worcester Warriors: H Doel (O Morris, 75); P Humphreys, O Lawrence, F Venter, D van der Merwe; B Searle (F Smith, 58), W Chudley (G Simpson, 55); R Sutherland (E Waller, 58), S Baldwin (I Miller, 48-58, 75), C Judge (J Tyack, 53), A Kitchener (J Batley, 53), J Clegg, K Hatherell, S Lewis, S Vailanu (M Kvesic, 71)
Leicester Tigers: F Steward; H Potter (K Murimurivalu, 67), M Moroni, M Scott, N Nadolo; G Ford (F Burns, 65), J van Poortvliet (R Wigglesworth, 51); E Genge (N Leatigaga, 59), J Motoya (N Dolly, 64), D Cole (J Heyes , 51), H Wells, E Snyman (C henderson, 64), H Liebenberg, M van Staden, J Wiese (O Chessum, 64)
Yellow card: Liebenberg, 50