Leicester guaranteed themselves a home semi-final in the play-offs with a comfortable 40-22 win over Harlequins at Welford Road.
The Tigers were complacent in the first half, allowing the Quins a soft 17-16 lead at the interval, but in the second they were totally dominant and the Quins were lucky to escape with the final scoreline.
Leicester were ahead within three minutes. The Quins won a line-out on halfway but Danny Care’s pass was neatly intercepted by Toby Flood, who raced away to score. The outside half added the conversion and, minutes later, a 30-metre penalty to give the Quins a nightmare start.
The home side were penalised at two scrums in their own half which allowed Quins a platform in the Leicester 22. From a scrum, Care made amends for his earlier error by breaking and kicking ahead to win the race for the touchdown, with the Leicester defence strangely hesitant. Rory Clegg converted to make it 10-7 after 10 minutes.
With 15 minutes gone the visitors were penalised at a scrum but Flood was unable to take advantage, sending his lengthy kick wide. However, the Tigers maintained the pressure thanks to a clever kick from Geordan Murphy and were rewarded when Flood kicked another penalty after 23 minutes.
Quins were struggling to stem the attacking force of the Tigers with the visitors giving away frequent penalties. A yellow card for Quins seemed on the cards as they continued to offend, with Flood adding another simple penalty.
Leicester were then shocked as, totally against the run of play, Quins produced a 10-point scoring burst to give them a surprising 17-16 interval lead. Firstly David Strettle and Care combined to send George Lowe away for a try which Clegg converted, then Lowe produced a strong run to set up a ruck in the home 22 from which Clegg put his side ahead with a neat drop-goal.
Leicester began the second half strongly, with both wings coming close in the opening moments before the referee’s patience was finally exhausted and he sent Quins flanker Chris Robshaw to the sin bin. Flood kicked the resulting penalty and minutes later added the conversion to a try from Matt Smith after Johne Murphy had produced a splendid run to set it up.
Robshaw’s absence proved costly for his side as Leicester extended their lead when Ben Youngs took a quickly taken tap penalty to score, with Flood converting to give Leicester a 33-17 lead after 50 minutes. Robshaw returned but still his side had difficulty in breaking out of their half, with Flood narrowly denied after an excellent break from the stand-off.
The one-way traffic for the Tigers and the crippling penalty count for Quins continued and, after a succession of scrums in the visitors’ 22, Leicester were awarded a penalty try to secure their bonus point. Flood converted to give him a match tally of 20 points.
In the dying minutes Quins at long last emerged from their own half for replacement hooker, Joe Marler, to pick up a consolation try.