A second-half try double powered Leicester Tigers into a five-point lead at the top of the GUINNESS PREMIERSHIP and spoiled the Welford Road return of Harlequins Director of Rugby Dean Richards.
Quins trailed 9-6 at the break after having the majority of the possession in a poor first half and Leicester shook them off with second-half tries from Seru Rabeni and Dan Hipkiss and 17 points from Andy Goode’s boot on his return to the side after missing seven weeks with a hamstring strain.
Richards spent 23 years at Leicester as a player and coach – masterminding Tigers’ domination of the professional era after being appointed director of rugby in 1998.
He led Tigers to seven trophies in four years – including back-to-back Heineken Cups and four successive Premiership titles – before leaving in 2004.
He has rebuilt his career at Harlequins after a brief spell in France and they came to Welford Road having won seven of their last eight games in all competitions after losing their opening five games of the season.
That spell included a 21-15 defeat against Leicester that was Tigers’ seventh successive win over Quins in all competitions, but their resurgence has boosted hopes of securing a play-off place.
Both sides were boosted by the return of internationals for the return fixture.
Leicester responded to the loss of their three-year unbeaten home record to Northampton by bringing Julian White back into the front row, while Martin Corry, Harry Ellis, George Chuter and Louis Deacon were on the bench.
Quins welcomed back David Strettle on the wing after his try-scoring debut for England in the defeat against Ireland.
Andrew Jarvis and Goode swapped penalties in the opening 11 minutes to leave the scores locked at 3-3.
Jarvis missed a simple 13th-minute penalty after his up and under had forced the error, but Quins kept the pressure on.
Leicester defended well in their 22 and then took the lead in the 22nd minute with a 45-metre penalty from Goode.
But Leicester’s line-out was sloppy – they lost three inside the opening quarter – and that almost proved costly in the 27th minute.
Jarvis kicked into touch five metres from Leicester’s line and James Buckland’s throw was picked up by Quins lock Ollie Kohn.
He looked certain to score, but Leicester kept him out.
Jarvis levelled the scores with his second penalty after 35 minutes and Goode replied two minutes later to put Leicester into a 9-6 lead that they held until the break.
Leicester brought on Chuter and Corry at the break and they were soon in the thick of the action as Tigers went on the attack.
They put together several phases of pressure after Nick Easter’s pass went astray – edging closer and closer to the Quins line until winger Rabeni stretched to ground the ball in the right-hand corner in the 45th minute.
The try was awarded after examination of the television reply and Goode missed the difficult conversion to leave Leicester 14-6 ahead.
Strettle was replaced moments later to add to Quins’ problems, but they regrouped and Jordan Turner-Hall ploughed over after Mike Brown’s sparkling run.
Jarvis added the 48th-minute conversion to trim the gap to a point.
Leicester hit back immediately. It took three players to bring down powerhouse winger Alesani Tuilagi and Hipkiss picked up 20 metres from the line and accelerated over.
Goode’s conversion made it 21-13 after 49 minutes and Jarvis missed the chance to reduce the lead when he missed a penalty three minutes later.
He was on target after 55 minutes, but Quins were dealt a blow moments later when Brown was yellow carded.
Goode belted over the resulting penalty to open up a 24-16 advantage but Jarvis replied to keep Quins in touch at five points behind going into the final quarter.
Goode re-established Leicester’s eight-point advantage with a 70th-minute penalty and there was no way back for Quins.
But Jarvis secured a losing bonus point with a last-minute penalty.