Tigers brush Chiefs aside
Manu Tuilagi marked his return to Leicester Tigers' starting XV at Welford Road with a try in their 45-15 bonus-point victory over Exeter Chiefs.
Manu Tuilagi marked his return to Leicester Tigers' starting XV at Welford Road with a try in their 45-15 bonus-point victory over Exeter Chiefs on Sunday.
England and British and Irish Lion star Tuilagi, who has been out with a pectoral injury since September, looked back to his best at Welford Road against Exeter - who last weekend won their first major piece of silverware in the Anglo-Welsh Cup final against the Saints.
The rampaging centre scored Leicester's first of six tries in total and his return - along with that of midfield partner Anthony Allen - couldn't be better timed with the race for play-off spots heating up.
It was Exeter's Henry Slade who bagged the game's first points from the kicking tee on six minutes, but Tuilagi quickly took charge.
His burst past Jack Nowell set up the move that eventually saw the centre cross on the left wing for his 14th try in 48 Premiership matches.
Owen Williams was adjudged to have missed a tight conversion, but the Tigers were not about to rest on their laurels and Logovi'i Mulipola was the next to add his name to the scoresheet.
Ben Youngs set Niki Goneva free and the winger played in the charging prop who bounced through the tackles from 20 metres to cross on 12 minutes.
Williams, who was starting as Tigers' flyhalf in place of Toby Flood, added the extras before seeing a 17th-minute penalty bounce back off the post.
But his next effort went over to make it 15-3, capping 20 minutes of total dominance from the hosts.
The Chiefs charged back briefly, a well-worked line-out and drive saw Jack Yeandle burrow his way over on 26 minutes and Slade convert.
But Leicester's response was immediate. Jordan Crane and Julian Salvi played quick ball which allowed Goneva to dart his way past two Chiefs defenders. Williams' conversion, and subsequent penalty, made it 25-10 at half-time.
The bonus point was secured on 52 minutes after another fine piece of play from Tuilagi, who created the line for Adam Thompstone to cross.
Fullback Scott Hamilton was also involved in the move which saw the wing go over and, added to Williams' earlier penalty, the Tigers were home and dry at 33-10.
Leicester went in search of a fifth try and it finally arrived 12 minutes from time through David Meli.
The replacement scrumhalf picked up the loose ball from another dominant Tigers scrum and crossed from close range.
Flood added two points, but Exeter served a reminder of their threat when Ian Whitten burst down the left to reduce their arrears on 72 minutes.
However, Meli and Leicester had the last laugh to make it 45-15 at full-time - the Tigers' biggest score for a year.
Tries: Tuilagi, Mulipola, Goneva, Thompstone, Mele 2
Cons: Williams 2, Flood
Pens: Williams 3
Tries: Yeandle, Whitten
Leicester Tigers: 15 Scott Hamilton, 14 Vereniki Goneva, 13 Manu Tuilagi, 12 Anthony Allen, 11 Adam Thompstone, 10 Owen Williams, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Jordan Crane, 7 Julian Salvi, 6 Jamie Gibson, 5 Ed Slater (captain), 4 Louis Deacon, 3 Logovi'i Mulipola, 2 Tom Youngs, 1 Marcos Ayerza.
Replacements: 16 Rob Hawkins, 17 Boris Stankovich, 18 Fraser Balmain, 19 Graham Kitchener, 20 Thomas Waldrom, 21 David Mele, 22 Toby Flood, 23 Matt Smith.
Exeter Chiefs: 15 Luke Arscott, 14 Jack Nowell, 13 Ian Whitten, 12 Phil Dollman, 11 Fetu'u Vainikolo, 10 Henry Slade, 9 Dave Lewis, 8 Kai Horstmann, 7 Ben White, 6 Dave Ewers, 5 Damian Welch, 4 Dean Mumm (captain), 3 Hoani Tui, 2 Jack Yeandle, 1 Ben Moon.
Replacements: 16 Luke Cowan-Dickie, 17 Carl Rimmer, 18 Alex Brown, 19 Don Armand, 20 Tom Johnson, 21 Haydn Thomas, 22 Gareth Steenson, 23 Matt Jess.
Referee: Dean Richards