Manu Tuilagi’s quickfire double proved the difference as Leicester Tigers held off a spirited Worcester Warriors side to claim a 34-26 bonus-point win at Welford Road.
The England centre crossed twice in the first 12 minutes as the Aviva Premiership finalists from the last two years threatened to run riot against the visitors who have never won at the home of the Tigers.
But a breakaway score from David Lemi after half-time as well as some dead-eyed goalkicking from Andy Goode kept them within touching distance until a penalty try and a score from lock Graham Kitchener put the result beyond doubt.
The Warriors scored a second try in the final minute through Goode but still fell agonisingly short of the losing bonus point.
Worcester’s last victory on their travels in the Aviva Premiership was on New Year’s Day 2012 at London Wasps and they certainly did not help themselves with the way they started against Richard Cockerill’s men.
Tuilagi was the beneficiary after a quick turnover on their own 22 set in motion a quite wonderful team move that saw the ball spread all the way right then back left to put the 21-year-old over in the corner with barely a minute played, Toby Flood adding the conversion.
Moments later Goode pegged them back with a penalty but before long Leicester and in particular Tuilagi were smiling again, as he barged over for his second after a searing initial break from Vereniki Goneva.
At 14-3 with only 12 minutes played Worcester looked set for a long day at the office but Goode kept the scoreboard ticking over while Flood was wide with a couple of penalty attempts of his own and at the break the Tigers only led 17-9.
But the Warriors did go into the interval down to 14 men, Chris Pennell seeing yellow on the stroke of the break.
And Leicester made their numerical advantage count immediately after the re-start, much like against London Welsh on the opening day of the season, Goneva going over to stretch the lead to 22-9 after Flood missed the conversion.
But after Pennell returned from the sin bin it was the Warriors who got the next score after a loose Tigers pass hit the deck and Lemi collected Josh Matavesi’s fly-hack to go over in the right corner.
After Goode’s successful conversion Warriors were within six points of the Tigers who looked rattled as a number of mistakes, even after Shaun Perry became the second Warrior sent to the sin bin, gifted the visitors the upper hand.
But eventually the Tigers strength told and a penalty try after a series of dominant scrums secured the bonus point before former Warrior Kitchener crossed for the home side to put the result beyond doubt, even with Goode going over right at the death for Worcester.