Harlequins hoist colours as Welford Road falls again
Aviva Premiership Rugby leaders Harlequins maintained their unbeaten record with their first league win at Welford Road since 1997 and condemned Leicester to their third consecutive home defeat after a 27-18 success.
Harlequins fought back from an early 5-0 deficit to make it six wins out of six in the league this season, with tries from Sam Smith, Seb Stegmann and Joe Marler, combined with 12 points from the boot of Nick Evans, earning the visitors the spoils.
For Leicester, Boris Stankovich and replacement Scott Hamilton crossed for tries and fly-half Jeremy Staunton contributed the remaining eight points, but it was not enough to save their side. The Leicester pack will wonder how they lost the game when they had so much the better of the forward contest but the Tigers' backs were put to shame by the impressive counter-attacking efforts of their counterparts, who scored two delightful tries from scraps of possession.
It was Leicester who made the dream start however when they opened the scoring in the third minute. Two penalty awards saw the Tigers gain a line-out platform in the visitors' 22 from which they secured possession. The resulting strong forward drive saw Stankovich cross for the try which Staunton was unable to convert.
The Tigers' lead did not last long, though, as almost immediately they were hit with two splendid tries within two minutes of one another.
Harlequins produced two fine flowing movements which saw their wings, Smith and Stegmann, cross for scores, both of which Evans converted.
Leicester were then immediately dealt a further blow with their international wing, Mathew Tait, limping from the field with a leg injury to be replaced by Hamilton.
The frenetic opening to the match continued with the fourth try coming after only 20 minutes. This time it was the Tigers' turn to produce an excellent three-quarter movement which ended with Hamilton crossing for the try which Staunton converted.
The home pack were now beginning to dominate proceedings in terms of possession and territory and this superiority was almost rewarded but Alesana Tuilagi's effort was ruled no try as the wing had put a foot in touch before crossing the line.
However, Leicester were not to be denied when the Quins were penalised for not releasing, Staunton kicked a 45-metre penalty to put his side back in front at 15-14.
Yet again though, their lead was short-lived as Tigers number eight Julian Salvi was penalised for obstruction at a line-out and Evans restored the visitors' advantage with a simple penalty to leave them 17-15 ahead at the interval.
The opening exchanges of the second half saw the strength of the home pack being contrasted with the clever interplay in attack of the Quins, and it was the league leaders who collected the first score of the period when Evans kicked his second penalty after 52 minutes, although that was soon nullified with another one from Staunton.
The game had become less open with certainly the Tigers preferring the up and under to the use of hands with the next chance of a score being wasted when Evans fired wide with a penalty attempt from 30 metres.
At almost every scrum, the beleaguered Quins eight seemed to concede a penalty preventing them building up any momentum and this weakness gave the Tigers the opportunity to take the lead for the third time in the match, but Staunton could not succeed with a 45-metre penalty.
Then, from a line-out on the home 22, Harlequins produced a stunning forward drive which culminated with Marler picking up and burrowing over for the match-winning try which the impressive Evans converted to seal victory.