Scrum-half Harry Ellis returned from a 10-month injury nightmare as Leicester came from behind to secure a bonus-point GUINNESS PREMIERSHIP win over Leeds.
Ellis had been out of action since rupturing the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in the Premiership semi-final win over Bristol last May before coming on a as substitute in the 59th minute.
By that time Leicester were in the driving seat after overturning a 13-point deficit thanks to scores from Jordan Crane, Tom Varndell and Johne Murphy as well as a penalty try.
Ian Humphreys added another late on as Leicester closed the gap on Gloucester at the top of the Premiership.
Tom Croft and Geordan Murphy returned for the Tigers after international duty but the struggling visitors stunned the home crowd by scoring the opening try of the afternoon after just 56 seconds.
Winning turnover ball straight from the kick-off, Leeds went through half a dozen phases before Fosi Pala’amo powered over with Alberto Di Bernardo adding the extras.
And incredibly Leeds stretched their lead on 15 minutes with a Di Bernardo penalty, who then made it 13-0 with a drop goal to stunned silence at a packed Welford Road.
Leicester needed to score quickly to kill any anxiety and they did just that on 23 minutes when Crane finished off an trademark Leicester push-over try from a five metre scrum.
Tigers pulled back to within a point of the visitors just two minutes later. Flying winger Varndell intercepted a Leeds pass on his own 22 and went round Leeds full-back Leigh Hinton as if he was not there.
Humphreys, making a rare start, made amends for a missed conversion with a penalty on 32 minutes to put Leicester ahead at 15-13.
But after Leeds winger Apo Satala had been sent to the sin bin for a high tackle on Varndell, Humphreys bombed a clear overlap in the final move of the half.
Tigers began to really assert some pressure up front after the interval and that resulted in a penalty try six minutes into the second half as Leeds’ scrum collapsed under intense pressure.
Di Bernardo nudged Leeds back into it with his second penalty of the game but Leicester stretched their lead to 27-16 on 53 minutes as Murphy’s right-wing finish secured a bonus point in the process.
The home crowd saved their biggest cheer of the day for the return of Ellis as a 59th -minute replacement.
But the game’s best moment came when Humphreys jinked past six would-be tacklers to score Leicester’s fifth try with seven minutes left. Jonny Hepworth scored with 30 seconds remaining but once again Leeds were left empty-handed.