Tigers tackle their way to victory
PREMIERSHIP REPORT: Leicester Tigers kept alive their English Premiership play-off hopes after a hard-fought 27-18 win at Harlequins on Friday night.
The Tigers scored 24 unanswered points in the second half at the Twickenham Stoop as they stunned the Harlequins into submission.
Harlequins had looked on course for their third win in four games at the interval, after Alofa Alofa’s try and penalties from Nick Evans and Ruaridh Jackson put them 13-3 ahead.
But head coach Aaron Mauger’s half-time words clearly did the trick for Tigers, as a penalty try followed Sam Harrison’s effort before Freddie Burns’ interception and score sealed the triumph.
The hosts, who had previously not lost in the league on home soil this season, pressed for a losing bonus point in the closing stages and came so close with Dave Ward’s last-gasp try – only for Jackson’s conversion attempt to sail left of the posts.
Harlequins started well as they put the ball through the hands, but the move broke down as Alofa’s pass went forward.
But from then on it was all Tigers for most of the opening 20 minutes, with the visitors somehow not scoring when Brendon O’Connor went clean through, as his loose pass out the back door could not find a teammate.
Quins defence was solid but Leicester finally got their reward for heavy pressure in the 17th minute, Burns pointing to the posts and nailing his kick when the hosts were pinged at the breakdown just short of the ten-metre line.
But the hosts hit straight back five minutes later after stealing a lineout ball, and Evans made no mistake from in front of the posts with the Tigers guilty of not rolling away.
And the momentum was really with them when they grabbed the game’s opening try in fortuitous circumstances.
Aaron Morris’ sensational break started off the move, and although Matt Hopper’s grubber in behind the defence looked to be too firm, it bounced off the corner flag and gave the onrushing Alofa the easiest of finishes in the corner.
Evans nailed the conversion from the sideline and Quins had a 10-3 lead, with Morris continuing to cause the Tigers’ defence all sorts of problems.
But Quins were dealt a big blow when Evans, on his first Premiership Rugby start since the beginning of January, had to leave the field with another injury.
With Scottish flyhalf Jackson taking over the kicking duties however, Quins still had time to make it 13-3 at the break as an impressive maul from the Londoners won them a penalty right in front of the posts.
Leicester had the chance to pull back some of the deficit just before half-time, but Burns’ penalty came up short after James Chisholm was pinged for a poor tackle.
But the Tigers drew first blood after the break, with Telusa Veainu cutting inside to great effect before Harrison’s determination and power saw him wriggle over the line from close range for only his fourth Aviva Premiership Rugby try.
And on 51 minutes Leicester took the lead as they were awarded a penalty try, with Morris also receiving a yellow card after taking out Adam Thompstone in the air from Burns’ cross-field kick.
Another Burns penalty shortly after took the scoreline to 20-13, but Quins had a huge let off when Leicester elected to kick to the corner, and after a well-worked lineout JP Pietersen could not quite gather Michael Fitzgerald’s pass with the try-line at his mercy.
Tigers were rampant however and Burns picked off Jackson’s pass on his own 22 to run in under the posts on 63 minutes, with the fly-half suffering from a bit of cramp and allowing Owen Williams to kick the simple conversion.
Quins were desperate for a losing bonus point, and after putting a penalty into the corner, a series of infringements saw Luke Hamilton sin-binned late on.
Dave Ward then finally rumbled over at the back of a driving maul with the clock in the red, but it was to be a mere consolation as Jackson pulled his conversion attempt from the sideline.
Tries: Alofa, Ward
Pens: Evans, Jackson
For Leicester Tigers:
Tries: Harrison, Burns, Penalty Try
Cons: Burns 2, Williams
Pens: Burns 2
Yellow cards: Aaron Morris (Harlequins, 51), Luke Hamilton (Leicester Tigers, 80)
Harlequins: 15 Aaron Morris, 14 Marland Yarde, 13 Joe Marchant, 12 Matt Hopper, 11 Alofa Alofa, 10 Nick Evans, 9 Charlie Mulchrone, 8 Mat Luamanu, 7 Dave Ward (captain), 6 James Chisholm, 5 Charlie Matthews, 4 George Merrick, 3 Adam Jones, 2 Rob Buchanan, 1 Mark Lambert
Replacements: 16 Joe Gray, 17 Owen Evans, 18 Matt Shields, 19 Stan South, 20 George Naoupu, 21 Luc Jones, 22 Ruaridh Jackson, 23 Charlie Walker
Leicester: 15 Telusa Veainu, 14 Adam Thompstone, 13 Peter Betham, 12 Maxime Mermoz, 11 JP Pietersen, 10 Freddie Burns, 9 Sam Harrison, 8 Lachlan McCaffrey, 7 Brendon O’Connor, 6 Mike Fitzgerald, 5 Dom Barrow (captain), 4 Harry Wells, 3 Greg Bateman, 2 George McGuigan, 1 Ellis Genge
Replacements: 16 Tom Youngs, 17 Riccardo Brugnara, 18 Pat Cilliers, 19 Mike Williams, 20 Luke Hamilton, 21 Jono Kitto, 22 Owen Williams, 23 Matt Smith
Referee: Dean Richards
Assistant Referees: Paul Dix, Nigel Carrick
TMO: Graham Hughes