Attack-minded Leicester give interim coach Murphy ideal start
If Geordan Murphy’s first game in charge of Leicester Tigers is anything to go by, his tenure as interim head coach will bring as much entertainment as his playing days did.
Murphy went up against long-time mentor Dean Richards – their photos are adjacent to one another on Welford Road’s Wall of Legends – and vowed to encourage attacking verve in the match programme.
Tigers certainly delivered that on an
afternoon that featured 10 tries shared evenly between enterprising teams.
Newcastle, with five ex-Tigers in their starting line-up, at times threatened to repeat their famous victory on this ground four months ago – despite a horrible start.
Ultimately, George Ford’s 29-point haul proved pivotal.
Four days after parting with Matt O’Connor and a week after an insipid loss to Exeter, Leicester scored within seconds of the kick-off. Ford’s flat pass sent lock Will Spencer charging through. Although Ford was clattered by Vereniki Goneva, Leicester recycled. Following a fortunate ricochet off Dan Cole, Ford wriggled over.
His conversion bounced off the left upright, but he then made amends with a penalty.
Toby Flood endured a few torrid moments on his return to the East Mid-
lands. Brendon O’Connor, excellent until limping off close to half-time, plucked an interception from the Newcastle playmaker and sent Jonny May clear. Indeed, Leicester’s forwards and backs dovetailed fluently. On the back of some fierce carrying from Spencer and Mike Williams, O’Connor arrived on the shoulder of Kyle Eastmond and offloaded to Thompstone who stepped inside for Tigers’ third try.
Neither Murphy nor Richards was pleased with the defensive displays. Even so, Newcastle’s director of rugby endorsed his opposite number to lead Leicester permanently. “Geordie’s a great choice,” Richards said. “He’s got flair, he’s got ambition, he understands the game incredibly well and is well respected.”
Whether or not Murphy is made fulltime head coach, no one can doubt his dedication. “I heard very early in week
that 64 had applied for the job by the first day,” added Murphy, possibly with tongue in cheek. “That’s not actually a concern of mine. I care about the club.”
Scores 5-0 Ford try, 8-0 Ford penalty, 13-0 May try, 15-0 Ford conversion, 20-0 Thompstone try, 22-0 Ford conversion, 22-5 Takulua try, 22-7 Flood conversion, 25-7 Ford penalty, 30-7 Tuilagi try, 32-7 Ford conversion, 32-12 Goneva try, 32-14 Flood conversion, 35-14 Ford penalty, 35-19 Goneva try, 40-19 May try, 40-24 Wilson try, 40-26 Flood conversion, 43-26 Ford penalty, 43-31 Mavinga try, 43-33 Flood conversion, 46-33 Ford penalty, 49-33 Ford penalty. Yellow card Veainu 63. Leicester Tigers T Veainu (Olowofela 73); A Thompstone, M Tuilagi, K Eastmond (Hardwick 32), J May; G Ford, B Youngs (Harrison 71); G Bateman (Ma’afu 64), T Youngs (Stevens 62), D Cole (Feao 64), M Williams, W Spencer (Wells 66), D Denton, B O’Connor (Thompson, 38), S Kalamafoni Replacements: J Stevens, Campese Ma’afu, D Feao, H Wells, G Thompson, S Harrison, T Hardwick, J Olowofela Newcastle Falcons S Hammersley; V Goneva, C Harris, J Matavesi, S Sinoti (Tait 48); T Flood (Hodgson 67), S Takulua; S Mavinga (Brocklebank 66), G McGuigan (Socino 66, back on 75), L Mulipola (Payne 67), C Green (Cavubati 66), W Witty, M Wilson, W Welch, C Chick (Graham 48) Replacements: S Socino, A Brocklebank, J Payne, T Cavubati, G Graham, S Stuart, J Hodgson, A Tait. Referee Matthew Carley.
Eye of the Tiger: Leicester’s Manu Tuilagi takes his try