Vereniki Goneva’s marvellous solo effort right at the death rounded off an impressive Leicester Tigers performance as they got the defence of their Aviva Premiership crown underway with a bonus-point win over Worcester Warriors.
The Fijian Goneva, Adam Thompstone, David Mele and Jordan Crane all touched down for the reigning champions who had to overcome a spirited second-half spell from Dean Ryan’s new-look Worcester side.
Mele, who signed in the summer from Perpignan, started at nine in place of the injured Ben Youngs but after just four minutes it was a poor kick from the Frenchman that resulted in a penalty for the visitors.
Ignacio Mieres, starting his first Aviva Premiership game for Worcester since moving from Exeter Chiefs, had the chance to open the scoring but his effort went wide of the upright on what was a wayward kicking display.
Ryan Lamb instead put Leicester ahead, filling in for the injured Toby Flood, just a minute later after Worcester were penalised at the breakdown.
In the tenth minute however Lamb couldn’t convert from the kicking tee after John Andress was penalised for not rolling away and being off his feet.
The Tigers grabbed their first try of the new season through Thompstone on 13 minutes after the wing latched onto a well-executed grubber Kick from Niall Morris.
Goneva released Morris on the left and after spotting David Lemi out of position he produced a perfect kick which allowed Thompstone to score in the corner – Lamb however was unsuccessful with the extras from out on the touchline.
Andress was then again penalised for slowing the ball illegally and Lamb this time made no mistake from just inside Worcester’s half taking the score to 11-0 after 23 minutes.
On 33 minutes Worcester finally got themselves on the scoreboard as Mieres successfully converted a penalty after Dan Bowden was penalised for not rolling away.
But Leicester had the final say of the first half right on half-time when Mele crossed for his first Aviva Premiership try with Lamb adding the conversation from straight in front.
After Logovi’i Mulipola had made good ground Crane produced a great pick and go through the middle of the resulting ruck and the no.8 found the scrum-half on his shoulder with a deft offload, who had the simplest of finishes.
Worcester’s discipline had to improve in the second half but just three minutes in Mike Williams was sent to the bin for taking out Lamb with his shoulder to leave the Warriors down to 14 men.
Unsurprisingly Leicester piled on the pressure and after Tom Croft successfully collected a Tom Youngs lineout just five metres out, Crane took charge of a rolling maul and touched down.
Lamb produced an excellent kick to add two more points from out on the right-hand touchline and that extended Leicester’s lead out to 22 points.
Williams returned from the bin and Worcester got back into the game with their first try of the new season through replacement Chris Jones in the 57th minute.
After multiple phases of play courtesy of some powerful ball carrying from Jake Abbott and Jonathan Thomas, Jones picked the ball up and surged through a small lap to just reach the try line.
And the Warriors weren’t done yet as Josh Matavesi produced a brilliant solo effort – the full-back picking the ball up out on the right and producing a fantastic change in direction to fooled the Tigers’ defence.
Despite pressure on the try line from Morris and Julian Salvi the try was awarded but Mieres’ inconsistency from the tee continued as his conversion went wayward.
But just as in the first-half it was Leicester who had the last say in this encounter as Goneva weaved his way past several Worcester defenders to grab the bonus-point score for the champions at the death.
Replacement fly-half Owen Williams was then successful with the conversion on his Aviva Premiership debut with the last kick of the game as Leicester got their defence underway in dominant fashion.