Donncha O’Callaghan sees red as Leicester Tigers sharpen up

Worcester Warriors 20 Leicester Tigers 29: There was a nice moment about an hour before kick-off at Sixways Stadium on Saturday when Donncha O’Callaghan and Geordan Murphy found themselves in the same part of the pitch as the sides limbered up for this Premiership clash.

Donncha O’Callaghan sees red as Leicester Tigers sharpen up

A simple handshake, a high-five, or one of those knuckle-to-knuckle greetings which southern hemisphere players seem to favour would have been sufficient.

But, instead, the two former Irish internationals bear-hugged and backslapped each other like true lost friends. “Catch you later Donners.” “Yeah, will do Geordie.”

Unfortunately for O’Callaghan he was on the sideline near Murphy, now the backs coach with Leicester, quicker than he envisaged after referee Wayne Barnes went to town on him. There seemed to be little dispute that O’Callaghan was the guilty party just after half-time in bringing down another rampaging Leicester maul, but by then Barnes had already dished out a yellow card to the former Munster man so this infringement resulted in red.

“He is distraught that he has got a red card,” said Worcester coach Dean Ryan. “I thought the first yellow card for Donncha dug a hole for Wayne Barnes. And then he ended up with a red card, for two technical offences. I think the first one he is talking about leading into a ruck with a head. That is what we heard on the microphone. There isn’t any image of that, you can’t see it. That is what we heard coming across the mics, and what we seen on the footage. There isn’t any connection with anybody, everybody’s guilty of leading into a ruck with their head.”

In any event O’Callaghan might not be able to tell Munster anything this week that they don’t already know about Leicester as they prepare for the back-to-back matches. The Tigers came from 17-0 down to even deny a plucky Worcester side a bonus-point when Owen Williams converted their fourth try in the final play.

The power, as always, comes from the Leicester pack but there is pace behind that unit and over the next two weekends Munster better prepare for the explosiveness of Telusa Veainu. The Tongan, who switched from the wing to full-back on Saturday in place of hamstring victim Mathew Tait, was signed after the World Cup. He has been an instant hit and has the ability to punish sloppy kicking.

But Leicester, who made eight changes from the side which beat Bath, will be without Mike Williams for the games against Munster after the flanker from Zimbabwe broke his arm on Saturday.

And Cockerill also ruled out Jean de Villiers making an appearance against his former side. The South African, who suffered a broken jaw in the World Cup against Argentina, is unlikely to debut for Leicester until the New Year.

Munster will have been encouraged at the way Worcester, with just two wins in the campaign, took Leicester apart early on with former Irish U20 captain Niall Annett to the fore as they opened up a 17-0 lead after just 21 minutes.

Centre Wynand Olivier and flanker Matt Cox got the tries before former Warrior Graham Kitchener, superb in the lineout all day, got Leicester back in contention after O’Callaghan’s first yellow card to make it 17-7 at the break.

The second half was less than two minutes old when Barnes pinged O’Callaghan again and Worcester ended up spending half of the second period with just 13 men as replacement prop Gareth Milasinovich and flanker Cox were also binned and eventually Leicester made the numbers count on a day when Worcester deserved a lot more.

The win leaves the Tigers in excellent shape going into the Munster games, with fourth victories on the trot.

Worcester Warriors:

C Pennell; B Heem, W Olivier, R Mills, C Vuna; T Heathcote, J Arr; N Leleimalefaga, N Annett, J Rees; D O’Callaghan, D Barry; M Cox, S Betty, P Dowson.

Replacements:

T Cavubati for Betty, 43; G Milasinovich for Rees,44; Rapava Ruskin for Leleimalefaga, 47; for J Breggvadze for Annett, 56; B Howard for Vuna, 64, C Mulchrone for Arr, 74.

LEICESTER TIGERS:

T Veainu; A Thompstone, P Betham, S Bai, V Goneva; O Williams, S Harrison; M Aguero, G Bateman, D Cole; E Slater, G Kitchener; M Williams, T Croft, J Crane.

Replacements:

L McCaffrey for M Williams, 20; T Youngs for Bateman, 22; M Ayerza for Aguero, 57; M Smith for Bai, 62; F Balmain for Cole, 64; J Kitto for Harrison, 71.

Referee:

W Barnes.

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