Laurence Pearce’s crucial second-half try saw a tenacious Leicester edge out Harlequins at Welford Road to make it two victories from two in the Aviva Premiership Rugby.
Harlequins went into the interval 13-12 ahead thanks to Jack Clifford’s score, with Leicester’s Tommy Bell edging a battle of the boots with four successful penalties from five attempts.
And despite an excellent spell from the visitors early in the second half they could not pull away, and the Tigers made them pay when Pearce crashed through before withstanding a late barrage of pressure.
It took Leicester ten minutes to open their account, when Peter Betham was held up over the line and Leicester won a penalty at the resulting scrum to take the lead through Bell.
Nick Evans levelled the scores immediately following an accidental offside, but two more Bell penalties – including one massive strike from halfway – gave Leicester the advantage.
And after the two No.10’s exchanged another couple of kicks, Harlequins finally made the breakthrough.
Leicester’s scrum was statistically the best in Aviva Premiership Rugby last season with an 87% success rate, but it misfired as a powerful effort from Quins won them a 33rd-minute penalty just five metres out.
Evans went for the corner and when Karl Dickson popped the ball up for Clifford following the lineout, he burrowed his way over the line.
And an excellent touchline conversion from Evans put Quins ahead for the first time in the game, taking the score to 13-12.
But Leicester hit back before the interval, winning a scrum penalty of their own, but Bell finally showed he was fallible from the tee as his effort came back off the post, and Evans gratefully put the ball into touch to see Quins into the interval ahead.
Conor O’Shea’s side had a four-point lead soon after the break, Evans adding yet another penalty with Leicester pinged at the breakdown, but the kicking masterclass continued with Bell also successful again moments later.
Harlequins unloaded their bench, with England internationals Joe Marler, Nick Easter and Danny Care all coming on at once.
That move immediately paid dividends with Quins winning a fourth scrum-penalty of the day, and after the kick was collected and Harlequins drove the maul 15 metres forwards, quick ball to the left wing put Charlie Walker in the clear – but the ball squirmed out of his grasp and out of play.
The Quins forwards had the momentum however, and having enjoyed 93% possession between 50 and 60 minutes, Tom Croft was penalised for not supporting his bodyweight and Evans hit his fourth penalty straight through the posts.
But when Dan Cole came in at the side, the New Zealander missed a straightforward opportunity to take the lead to seven points when he pulled his kick left.
The Tigers began to regroup with Betham trying to open the game up, although Aaron Mauger’s new-look backline was not firing on all cylinders yet.
But a brilliant kick from replacement Owen Williams put Tigers five metres away on 70 minutes, and an immense catch-and-drive saw Pearce go over for his fourth Aviva Premiership Rugby try – with Williams expertly adding the extras.
Quins hit straight back, motoring a maul towards the Leicester line, and after Sam Harrison saw yellow for stopping it illegally the visitors went for the win and kicked to the corner.
But the ball was held up and with 17-year-old scrum-half Ben White on to manage the scrum, Leicester held on for a determined victory.
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