Dean Richards’ Leicester reunion ended in disappointment as his Harlequins side slipped to their fourth straight defeat of the Guinness Premiership season.
Richards spent 23 years at Leicester, 18 as a player before developing into the club’s most successful director of rugby.
He delivered four successive titles and two Heineken Cups to the Welford Road trophy room before leaving under a cloud in 2003. Leicester have not won any silverware since.
After a stint in France and a year with Harlequins in the first division, tonight was the first time Richards had come up against the Tigers.
And Harlequins showed all the qualities of a side built by the former England number eight – they were physical and determined – to earn a 9-5 half-time lead.
But Leicester, who had scored after just 39 seconds through Tom Varndell, edged ahead after the interval with a try from Scott Bemand while Harlequins flanker Will Skinner was in the sin-bin.
Adrian Jarvis, the 22-year-old fly-half, booted all 15 points for Harlequins, who were without key players like captain Paul Volley and Stuart Abbott and deserved their bonus point.
Richards’ men still chase a first victory on their return to the Premiership but he will take heart from Harlequins’ response to Varndell’s early score.
Dan Hipkiss sparked the break as Leicester countered from inside their own half and then found his centre partner Sam Vesty on the inside.
Vesty looped a pass back out to the left wing where Varndell finished off the score with a trade-mark swan-dive in the corner.
Harlequins defended the gain-line resolutely and competed with determination at the breakdown to keep Leicester in check.
When in possession Harlequins were pragmatic. They lured Leicester into conceding penalties and Adrian Jarvis kicked three of them to secure a 9-5 half-time lead.
Jarvis has a chance to impress with Andrew Mehrtens out for six weeks after undergoing knee surgery and behind a doggedly determined pack the 22-year-old barely put a foot wrong.
In contrast, Leicester’s former Quins fly-half Paul Burke received little sympathy from the home fans when he missed the early conversion and hooked a 13th minute penalty wide of the posts.
For a moment Varndell threatened again but his chip past Ugo Monye slid off at an angle and Mel Dean cleared his lines.
In the battle of the speedsters, Varndell may have scored early but he made three handling errors under pressure in the first half and it was Monye’s all-round contribution that caught the eye.
Monye’s dart over half-way forced Leicester onto the back foot and when Lewis Moody was caught with his hands on the ball Jarvis booted Harlequins onto the board.
Moody responded with an angled run deep into Harlequins territory but Varndell spilled the quick pass under pressure in midfield.
Jarvis landed his second penalty to kick Harlequins into the lead and inject a real spring in their step.
Hal Luscombe, the impressive Welsh international centre, thought he had broken the Leicester line but was called back for a knock-on after juggling the pass.
Harry Ellis took a quick 22 drop-out and scampered 30 metres upfield, Harlequins heaved Leicester backwards and forced the turnover.
Jarvis pushed a drop-goal attempt wide but after secured Harlequins a 9-5 lead at the interval with a 50-metre penalty from the last kick of the half.
Harlequins’ bloody-minded performance in the first 40 minutes was reminiscent of those Richards used to get from the Tigers.
But it was no surprise that Leicester hit back soon after the interval and they were helped when former Tigers flanker Will Skinner was sin-binned for a late tackle on Burke.
Ben Kay claimed the lineout, Martin Castrogiovanni bulldozed forward and replacement scrum-half Scott Bemand sniped over from two metres out.
Quins kept pressing and after Jarvis had hit the post with one penalty he landed another off the woodwork to reduce the arrears.
Burke and Jarvis exchanged further penalties. Leicester finished camped on the Quins line.
Ollie Smith had a try ruled out by the video referee before Burke rounded off the win with a penalty from the final kick of the game.