Healey boosts Tigers hopes

Austin Healey ended his try-drought to keep alive Leicester's hopes of qualifying for the knockout stages of the Powergen Cup. [more]

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Austin Healey ended his try-drought to keep alive Leicester’s hopes of qualifying for the knockout stages of the Powergen Cup.

The veteran scrum-half’s 52nd-minute score, his first for 14 games, enabled the Tigers to pull clear of a dogged Worcester side and erase memories of their 24-15 defeat against the Newport-Gwent Dragons in their opening pool game.

The Tigers finished with five tries and a valuable bonus point with George Chuter, Leon Lloyd, Harry Ellis and Tom Varndell touching down and Ian Humphreys and Andy Goode adding four conversions and three penalties.

Worcester briefly built up a head of steam in the first half, with skipper Ben Hinshelwood sliding over in the corner with Shane Drahm adding a conversion and three penalties.

But they look a shadow of the side that rattled Wasps at home a fortnight ago and this defeat makes it impossible for them to reach the semi-finals.

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The Tigers made nine changes to their side, Healey enjoying a rare start at scrum-half with a new-look midfield outside him in Irish fly-half Ian Humphreys, Sam Vesty and Dan Hipkiss.

The pack was bolstered, though, with the return of two British & Irish Lions forwards in Ben Kay and Martin Corry.

Worcester’s first Powergen Cup outing was a comprehensive defeat against resurgent Northampton and their side had an experimental look to it without the likes of injured skipper Pat Sanderson, hooker Andre van Niekirk and veteran prop Tony Windo up front.

Leicester dominated the opening quarter in familiar fashion with Chuter surging through an undefended gap at the front of a lineout in the seventh minute with Humphreys converting and adding a 15th-minute penalty.

The former Ulster fly-half got his wet weather tactics spot-on with a huge up-and-under 23 minutes into the game that was spilled by isolated Worcester full-back Jonny Hylton, allowing Lloyd to dribble the ball under the posts for a second try.

Humphreys converted again and his third penalty opened up a 20-6 lead on the half-hour with Worcester down to 14 men after Thomas Lombard was sinbinned for handling on the floor by referee Ashley Rowden.

But Drahm kept them in touch with penalties in the 9th, 26th and 33rd minutes – the latter after Hipkiss was shown the yellow card for killing the ball to level up the sides.

And they built up their momentum with a solid passage of play that stretched Leicester’s defence before outnumbering them down the left with Kai Horstmann’s floated pass putting Hinshelwood into the corner.

Any flicker of a fightback was snuffed out immediately after the break when Worcester shipped 15 points in as many minutes.

Goode, who replaced Humphreys at the interval, opened up with a penalty before a moment of glory for Healey, forced over in the corner by Corry for Goode to convert.

Healey’s strike was followed by the sharpest move of the match with Will Skinner breaking down the right and linking with Lloyd, whose assist gave Ellis the score from his first touch.

Varndell had not been on the field long either when he profited from some more slick work down the flanks in the 72nd minute, Geordan Murphy’s break setting up another straightforward score and Goode converting from the touchline.

Elsewhere, Northampton went clear at the top of Pool D with a 32-7 demolition of the Newport-Gwent Dragons at a sodden Franklin’s Gardens.

After the win over Leicester at Rodney Parade last weekend, Dragons coach Paul Turner opted to make seven changes to his starting XV – and it showed.

The Saints defied the conditions to play some superb rugby, with the New Zealand half-back pairing of Mark Robinson and Carlos Spencer taunting the Dragons with some sublime touches.

The Saints scored tries through Robinson, Sean Lamont, Jon Clarke, and the impressive Bruce Reihana – who also added 12 points with the boot – as they put themselves within touching distance of a semi-final berth.

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