Leicester go top
Impressive bonus-point win takes Tigers from fourth to first
Last Updated: 10/01/10 3:28pm
Flood: Good form
Defending champions Leicester vaulted up to top spot in the Guinness Premiership on Saturday after scoring a convincing 34-8 bonus-point victory against Wasps.
The Tigers capitalised on the decimated programme of fixtures to move up from fourth place - the Welford Road groundstaff proving their '16th man' status after shovelling some 20 tonnes of snow to make sure the match could go ahead.
Richard Cockerill's side - much changed from that which beat long-time leaders Saracens last weekend - did the rest, with Lote Tuqiri (twice) and Johne Murphy scoring to complement a penalty try - all of them coming in a 24-minute period either side of half time.
Youngsters Dan Cole and Geoff Parling both impressed as Leicester's forwards once more asserted themselves, while half-back pairing Ben Youngs and Toby Flood continued to show good form - both surely having one eye on the upcoming Six Nations.
Another contender for England's number 10 jersey, Danny Cipriani, was reduced to making stylish cameo appearances, his effectiveness muted somewhat in a match Leicester increasingly dominated.
Indeed, the first two minutes of the match were the visitors' best as they took an early lead with a very well-worked try - Cipriani and Dominic Waldouck both running with the ball towards the left-hand flank before David Lemi's offload set up Mark van Gisbergen, the full-back albeit missing the extras before slicing a simple-looking penalty wide after eight minutes.
Flood missed a more difficult effort moments later but soon made amends as the home side's possession - they saw more of the ball during the opening minutes despite the scoreline - gained its reward with successive penalties.
The visitors looked to go further ahead after Scott Hamilton's clearance was charged down following the re-start but, having gained the territory, Leicester's defence was able to handle the pressure with the move coming to nought after Wasps were penalised for not releasing.
The first appearance of Leicester's scrum brought a penalty just past the halfway point of the opening half. Faced with a long-range attempt, Cipriani found the target well for 8-3.
The Tigers scrum reverted to type moments later, however, winning a penalty after driving Wasps back into their own half.
Even so, Flood was at this stage losing the battle of the England fly-half hopefuls - his kick slicing wide of the posts.
As the first half progressed, Wasps attempted to assert themselves in line with the score but were fortunate to stay ahead just past the half-hour after being turned over deep in Tigers territory - Flood booting clear and leading the counter-attack before Wasps centre Ben Jacobs tidied up.
His clearance, though, was sliced and having gained territory, Leicester's pack pressed for the line. Jordan Crane's claim of a try was turned down by the video referee and with the Tigers spending several minutes camped close to the line - and Wasps' Tim Payne having been sin-binned for collapsing the scrum - the ball was eventually fed right for Murphy to cross in the right-hand corner.
Flood converted in impressive style to ensure his side ended the half in the ascendancy and matters improved further almost as soon as the second period started as more pressure resulted in Tuqiri running through and - just about - touching down.
The home side were by now overpowering Wasps and after going 20-8 ahead when Flood kicked a penalty, a period of onslaught again involving the video referee ended more conclusively with a penalty try - converted by Flood.
The match was still less than an hour old but Wasps had caved in to the extent that the bonus-point try seemed an inevitability.
The visitors still had some fight in them though and should have scored a second try in the 57th minute when Payne of all people appeared on an overlap - Cole bundling his fellow prop into touch.
In the event, the fourth try came in the 63rd minute, scored again by Tuqiri but owing much to the acceleration from a standing start by Youngs, the scrum-half coming out from behind a ruck, making a one-two with Parling and evading two challenges before passing to the flying Tuquiri on the right wing - Flood converting once more.