Leicester Tigers moved to within a point of the Aviva Premiership Rugby top four after a powerful scrummaging display saw them edge a scrappy clash with London Irish.
The Tigers pack enjoyed a dominant day at the office, winning the penalties that ultimately allowed Freddie Burns and David Mele to kick them to victory, Burns also adding a first-half drop-goal.
The Exiles arguably looked sharper in attack and improved in the second half, but the damp conditions stifled any real creativity, Shane Geraghty’s two penalties the only reward for their endeavour.
The win continues Leicester’s push for a semi-final spot, but they will be concerned by their inability to score tries, this shut-out meaning they have not crossed the whitewash for more than 300 minutes in the Premiership.
The visitors got the scoreboard ticking over after five minutes at the Madejski Stadium, Burns continuing his fine recent record from the tee by converting a difficult penalty won from a powerful Tigers scrum.
The visiting pack won an identical penalty three minutes later, and although Burns was inaccurate for the first time in eleven attempts at goal, the Leicester pack would have been encouraged by their dominant start.
The Exiles created their first notable moment after 15 minutes, Tom Guest producing a powerful midfield break by running through the attempted tackles of Graham Kitchener and Logovi’i Mulipola, but Jamie Gibson was quick to win the turnover.
Burns slotted a smart drop-goal a couple of minutes later, before another scrum infringement from the hosts allowed the former Gloucester man to push Leicester’s lead to nine points.
Geraghty enjoyed a memorable afternoon at Welford Road in September when he kicked the Exiles to their first win in the East Midlands since 2003, and he opened his account for the afternoon at the Madejski Stadium with a well-taken penalty after 29 minutes.
While Leicester’s pack enjoyed total dominance, it was the Exiles who looked more potent with ball in hand despite the sodden conditions, with Tom Fowlie providing a couple of promising breaks on his third Premiership start.
Despite the hosts beginning to build pressure, their impotence in the scrum was proving fatal, Geoff Cross sent to the sin bin after another infringement.
Burns was wayward from the tee from that penalty though, and he missed another shot at goal just before the break.
Leicester’s back three looked uncomfortable under the high ball all afternoon, and a clumsy spill from Miles Benjamin shortly after the restart looked to have resulted in an Irish try from the ensuing line-out, only for David Paice to be penalised inches from the try line.
Geraghty ensured the Exiles’ disappointment was short-lived by converting his second penalty of the afternoon, before Mele, a half-time replacement for Burns, was on target to replenish Leicester’s six-point lead at 12-6.
Long swathes of the second half passed with neither side able to fashion a try-scoring opportunity, but the hosts did come close with eight minutes remaining.
Luke Narraway found a gap in the Leicester defence, sparking a period of close-range snipes from the Irish forwards that was well marshalled by the orange-shirted horde, referee Wayne Barnes eventually awarding a penalty to the away side under their own posts.
Leicester’s inability to cross the whitewash themselves ensured they set a club record for the longest time spent without scoring a try in the Premiership, but they will be more concerned with the valuable four points they secured after some stoic late defending.
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