Blaine Scully got Leicester Tigers off to a flying start as they kicked a three-match losing run in Aviva Premiership Rugby with victory over Harlequins.
Scully’s early try put Leicester on the front foot but for much of a contest played in tricky conditions it was a battle of two kickers, Owen Williams and Nick Evans trading blows from the tee.
Quins arrived at Welford Road off the back of their record Aviva Premiership Rugby win and they were determined not to fold, with scrum-half Karl Dickson – handed a late starting berth after Danny Care’s son Blake was born on Friday morning – dotting down to keep things interesting.
But Leicester, who have not lost four league games on the trot for more than a decade, held firm in the closing stages
Harlequins got onto the front foot early on but found themselves behind inside four minutes after the ball squirted loose in a ruck.
Ben Youngs showed great composure to spread it wide on the right and after Jamie Gibson burst into the Quins half, Scully was on his shoulder to collect the offload and cross over, Williams adding the extras.
But the visitors quickly dusted themselves off and, after a sustained period of slick possession burrowing their way into the Tigers half, Evans was handed a simple penalty to reduce the arrears.
Will Collier was soon penalised for collapsing a scrum on the halfway line and Williams’ powerful boot bisected the posts before Evans and then Williams once more added penalties in quick succession, leaving Leicester 13-6 to the good.
Mike Brown uncharacteristically fumbled under the high ball on 20 minutes and Niki Goneva collected the scraps, haring towards the Harlequins line – but a try-saving tackle from Matt Hopper sent him into touch and got the visitors out of jail.
More handling woes landed Quins in further trouble, Dave Ward knocking on Nick Easter’s offload before hands in the ruck conceded a penalty, only for Williams to slice the kick wide of the posts.
Evans followed suit with his third effort, sending a penalty too far right, before Williams missed wide left just a minute later – but the Tigers centre put an end to the run of miscues on 36 minutes after Chris Robshaw’s hands were in the ruck.
The second half kicked off with the introduction of Quins centre George Lowe – his first Aviva Premiership Rugby appearance in over a year – before Evans and Williams once again traded penalties, the latter’s in off the post.
Greasy conditions ensured handling became increasingly difficult, as did place kicking – Williams’ inconsistent showing from the tee continued with another missed effort on the hour mark.
The Tigers were not deterred and Brad Thorn led the charge on his Welford Road debut, piling in and winning a penalty as Quins failed to roll away.
Williams got back on the horse and sent the ball between the posts, opening up a 13-point lead but with nine minutes left the visitors finally found their way over the line.
Thorn conceded a penalty close to the line with a late tackle but Harlequins opted for touch and after recycling well, Dickson darted over with Evans converting.
Williams looked to put the result beyond doubt, only to miss his fourth penalty of the evening, but it wouldn’t matter as they got one over a Quins side that beat the Tigers on three occasions last season.