Leicester came from behind for a bonus-point victory over Wasps to move to the top of the Guinness Premiership.
Trailing 8-3 shortly before half-time after Mark van Gisbergen’s second-minute try, the Tigers went in front at the break as Johne Murphy’s 40th-minute try was converted by Toby Flood for a 10-8 lead. Two second-half scores from Lote Tuqiri – the ex-Australia wing’s first Tigers tries – and a penalty try, plus a total of 14 points from Flood’s boot, secured victory at a frozen Welford Road.
Leicester valiantly overcame Arctic conditions to ensure the game went ahead, but it was visiting fly-half Danny Cipriani who set the game alight after two minutes with a break and pass to Dominic Waldouck that cut through the hosts’ defence. The ball went left to David Lemi who switched it back inside immediately for Van Gisbergen to finish. However, the full-back could not convert.
Lewis Moody was fortunate to avoid a yellow card when he deliberately prevented a Wasps attack by interfering illegally at a ruck, but Van Gisbergen missed the resulting penalty.
Leicester were handed their first scoring opportunity in the 13th minute when Wasps wing Paul Sackey was driven backwards and did not release, but Flood kicked wide. He was handed a second chance two minutes later following a mistake by Waldouck and this time, from in front of the posts, Flood put the Tigers on the scoreboard.
Wasps won a penalty in the 24th minute after Leicester’s front-row went down under pressure and Cipriani was successful with the resulting kick from halfway. Flood spurned a similar opportunity with an inaccurate effort before Wasps had the opportunity to extend their lead to 11-3. However, Cipriani turned down the three-point opportunity and kicked for the touchline, only for Wasps to then make a hash of the set-piece.
Leicester’s next serious attack saw Jordan Crane driven over, but the television match official disallowed the ‘try’. The move was the spark that saw Wasps under the cosh for the first time in the game – and after a succession of scrum problems, prop Tim Payne was sin-binned in the 37th minute.
The sixth scrum led to a deserved breakthrough for the Tigers, with Murphy scoring during the chaos on Wasps’ line and Flood converting for the hosts to take a two-point half-time lead. The scrum, with Ben Cole outstanding for Tigers, was now a serious problem for Wasps who were being driven backwards on every engagement and they conceded again three minutes after the break.
Having splintered the set-piece, Leicester moved the ball right and Tuqiri cut through the cover for his first Tigers try. Flood converted and added a penalty three minutes later. Wasps were smashed in the next scrum and due to persistent offending, conceded a penalty try which Flood converted.
The visitors had the opportunity to cut the deficit, but after good work from Cipriani and Dan Ward-Smith, Payne dropped the ball over the line when scoring seemed easier. Jeremy Staunton then freed Tuqiri for his second try after 63 minutes and the bonus-point clincher that sent Tigers top. Flood converted and the rout was complete.