Leicester head coach Marcelo Loffreda enjoyed victory over Leeds at Headingley Carnegie in his first GUINNESS PREMIERSHIP match in charge of the reigning champions.
Argentina’s World Cup sumpremo made England flanker Lewis Moody Tigers’ captain for the first time and the move paid off as the visitors outmuscled their opponents in tricky conditions.
Leicester led at the break through Tom Varndell’s 34th-minute try after Andy Goode had twice cancelled out Alberto Di Bernardo penalties. Inside centre Tom Youngs, making his first start of the season, crossed in the 48th minute and Varndell claimed his second try late on.
Mike MacDonald and Vili Ma’asi returned to Leeds’ front row the side while Rhys Oakley started at number eight as Alex Moreno came in at tighthead prop for Leicester.
Leeds fly-half Di Bernardo gave the hosts a seventh-minute lead with a penalty from the right of the posts after Tigers lock Ben Kay entered at the side of a ruck. But Di Bernardo’s opposite number Goode put the Tigers level minutes later from the left of the sticks after Leeds were guilty of the same infringement.
Di Bernardo restored Leeds’ advantage after 16 minutes from a central position before home scrum-half Joe Bedford did well to clear his lines after Tom Croft’s crunching tackle on the outside half.
Goode again levelled proceedings in the 25th minute with a straightforward kick after Leeds failed to roll away in the tackle. Leeds wasted a useful attacking position when Di Bernardo kicked a penalty to the right corner but the visitors stole the lineout ball and Goode cleared their lines.
Leicester went in front for the first time six minutes before the break when Apo Satala could not gather Goode’s cross-field kick and Varndell collected the loose ball for a simple touchdown in the left corner. Goode added the touchline conversion.
An ambitious Di Bernardo penalty attempt from inside his own half fell just short on the stroke of half-time.
Goode extended the Tigers’ lead five minutes after the break with a penalty from just inside his half. And the visitors took control minutes later when Goode moved the ball right inside Leeds’ 22 to Sam Vesty who found Youngs on an inside angle and the centre had just enough momentum to score.
Goode failed with a tricky conversion attempt as back row forward Jon Dunbar returned from a hamstring injury, replacing flanker Danny Paul.
The hosts immediately responded with a period of pressure after Di Bernardo kicked a penalty to the right corner and Satala was held up just short of the lineout as Leicester resisted the initial onslaught.
Stuart Lancaster’s side continued to threaten but could not break down Leicester’s resolute defence which had shut out Edinburgh in the Heineken Cup last weekend.
New skipper Moody was replaced by Luke Abraham just before the hour but it made little difference to visitors as another Goode penalty extended their lead further in the 71st minute.
Varndell ran onto Vesty’s through-kick in the last minute to score in the right corner but Goode failed with the conversion.