Leicester’s Tuilagi brothers made light of the Tigers’ international withdrawals with two tries that helped them strengthen their position at the top of the Aviva Premiership Rugby table with a 15-9 success at Leeds.
England Saxons cap Manu scored a first-half try while his Samoa international elder brother Alesana sealed the win with a second-half score. Jeremy Staunton added five points with the boot as Leicester moved six points clear of Saracens at the top.
Leeds remain rooted to the foot of the table but can take heart from a game performance, highlighted by a strong second-half pack effort and three penalties for new fly-half recruit Adrian Jarvis that earned them a losing bonus point and pulled them to within three points of second-bottom Newcastle.
Leicester were shorn of five internationals who featured at Twickenham yesterday, including England’s dynamic half-back partnership of Ben Youngs and Toby Flood, and Italy prop Martin Castrogiovanni. Leeds were without Hendre Fourie and Steve Thompson, but with their relatively shallow squad, it was a more difficult void to fill.
And so it proved as Leicester ran in their first try after just three minutes. Alesana Tuilagi broke down the left and offloaded to Anthony Allen, whose misplaced pass to the right was nevertheless picked up by Manu Tuilagi who charged in from 15 metres, Staunton converting.
Staunton then kicked one and missed one penalty attempt as the grey shirts of the Tigers enjoyed complete domination of the opening 20 minutes.
Leeds, though, fought back and reduced the deficit through Jarvis, a recent recruit from Bristol, who after seeing his initial long-range penalty strike the upright, was grateful for the following-up play of Tom Denton who forced another penalty which the fly-half converted.
Jarvis cut the advantage further as Leeds brushed off the cobwebs of the earlier exchanges as the pitch deteriorated with the pouring rain. They came out stronger in the the second half and presented Jarvis with his third successful penalty kick after a 40-metre driving maul.
Alfie To’oala was proving Leeds’s ferocious line-breaker in the back row in the absence of Fourie and he almost drove the hosts into space as the Aviva Premiership Rugby pacesetters struggled in the slick conditions. However, for all Leeds’ effort Leicester had the killer touch and they scored their second try within seconds of winning a penalty in their own half.
Scott Hamilton broke down the left from a line-out and played in Alesana Tuilagi who bulldozed over Leigh Hinton to score in the corner, Staunton’s conversion hit the upright to leave Leeds within six points.
Alesana Tuilagi was sent to the sin-bin for lashing out at Marco Wentzel, with Leeds’s captain also yellow carded for kicking out at the Leicester wing. And although the hosts pushed late on for a score Leicester’s defence hung on for victory.