Leicester Tigers moved back to the top of the GUINNESS PREMIERSHIP but they were far from impressive against the excellent defence of bottom club Leeds Carnegie.
Craig Newby scored the game’s only try shortly before the interval to help Leicester edge past Leeds and move back above Saracens and Northampton at the top.
However, for all their dominance of possession, they could only add nine more points, three in a second half they completely dominated.
Leeds’ defence was excellent, particularly in former Tiger Marco Wentzel and England Saxons flanker Hendre Fourie, and the losing bonus point they earned was thoroughly deserved and cuts the deficit to 11th-placed Worcester to five points.
Leicester, who had already lost at Headingley Carnegie once this season when their juniors lost a battle of the Academy prospects in the LV= Cup, were without five internationals who were playing in the England versus Italy clash in Rome.
They had the chance to impose themselves on the game as early as the fourth minute but fly-half Jeremy Staunton was off target with a penalty from the left touchline.
After a clever kick to touch from Andy Gomarsall, Leeds stole the lineout just inside the Leicester 22 and after a series of pick and drives, Ceiron Thomas gave the bottom club the lead from in front of the posts.
His second kick four minutes later was from 40 metres and was equally as accurate.
Leicester should have breached the line on 14 minutes when Jordan Crane was released in the corner but Leeds number eight Rhys Oakley shot across and forced the former Headingley favourite to knock on.
Staunton was again wide right with a penalty that could have reduced the arrears on 23 minutes but finally found his range with two penalties before the half-hour mark to tie the scores.
Leicester were dominating possession and were happy to patiently wait for their opening against characteristically resilient Leeds defence.
The opening arrived on 32 minutes when Andy Titterrell’s lineout throw was stolen and Craig Newby picked up the loose ball on the blindside and sprinted in from 50m out. Staunton missed the conversion.
The game was not without tension, as Calum Clark and Ben Kay tussled in the first half and both packs constantly squared up to each other.
It was from a collapsed scrum that Thomas cut the deficit to two points six minutes into the second half. But the Welshman missed from 40m moments later when he could have given Leeds the lead.
And Staunton punished him with a close-range penalty after a sustained spell of pressure from Leicester which restored their five-point advantage.
Stubborn Leeds defence prevented them from extending that lead further as the hosts continued to steal lineout ball and defend manfully, thwarting Leicester from driving over on three separate occasions midway through the second half.
With the route to the tryline blocked, Leicester opted to kick their way to victory, but Staunton was off target with a drop goal eight minutes from time.