Nick Evans started at full-back as Harlequins handed Leicester Tigers only their second home defeat in over a year
2 November 2013, 07:27 pm ::
By Charlie Talbot-Smith
Leicester Tigers 16 Harlequins 23
Tries from Nick Easter and Matt Hopper either side of half-time saw Harlequins snatch a hard-fought 23-16 win over defending Aviva Premiership champions Leicester Tigers.
Owen Williams kicked three penalties at Welford Road and a late penalty try earned the hosts a losing bonus point but it was Quins who deservedly emerged victorious as they continued their recovery from their early season struggles.
The Tigers ended Quins' title defence last season in the play-off semi-finals but it was the London side who won both encounters during the regular season.
And this time they made the Tigers pay while Julian Salvi was in the sin bin either side of the interval to leapfrog their opponents to fifth in the table.
The Tigers' struggles continue meanwhile, they have now only won once in their last five fixtures in all competitions.
Both sides were vastly depleted by injury and international call-ups, former Gloucester Rugby centre Tim Molenaar making his debut in midfield for Quins.
And it was the London club who made the faster start, dominating both territory and possession in the opening exchanges.
But despite that strong start it was the Tigers and Williams who got the first points on the board.
The Welsh fly-half, continuing to deputise while Toby Flood is away with England, slotted penalties in the eighth and 18th minutes to open up a 6-0 lead.
The former Scarlet missed a penalty in the swirling conditions just after the half-hour mark but a nine-point lead would have flattered the hosts as Quins continued to play most of the rugby.
In the 36th minute Hopper made a fine break to set up possession deep in the Tigers' 22 and finally Conor O'Shea's side came away with something to show for their efforts as Evans, who started at full-back with Ben Botica at fly-half, slotted a penalty to halve the deficit.
Salvi was sent to the sin bin during the same incident and with the Australian powerless on the sidelines, Conor O'Shea's troops took full advantage.
They nearly had the first try of the match on 38 minutes but Evans was bundled into touch just short of the tryline down the left.
But the visitors refused to buckle and into first half injury time Easter managed to barge over by the posts, Evans converting for a 10-6 lead.
After the break with Salvi in the bin still Botica missed the chance to extend the lead as his long-range penalty drifted wide.
But Quins were clearly in the mood and Hopper danced clear in spectacular fashion, released down the left wing the outside centre cut back in to dot down virtually untouched under the posts.
A Tigers comeback was inevitable and no sooner was Salvi reintroduced than Williams slotted his third penalty of the game to close the gap to 17-9.
And the hosts kept coming, Botica's kick was charged down but a superb tackle from Ugo Monye held the Tigers short when a try seemed a near certainty.
And when Dan Bowden chipped to the corner Botica made up for his earlier error with a last-ditch tackle to deny Adam Thompstone.
Having weathered the storm Quins then went up the other end and effectively clinched the win just after the hour mark, Evans' penalty making it 20-9.
Sam Smith was introduced as well meaning Evans could switch to his preferred fly-half position late on and the Kiwi added another penalty to stretch the lead to 14 points.
But the Tigers kept fighting and in the final minute they claimed their losing bonus point as the scrum earned a penalty try that Williams converted.