London Irish 9-31 Leicester, Aviva Premiership
Tigers claim bonus-point win
December 22, 2012
Leicester keep pressure on Premiership leaders%]
Leicester Tigers continued to keep pace with the Aviva Premiership frontrunners as they secured a bonus-point 31-9 victory over London Irish at the Madejski Stadium.
The Tigers built up an early 14-0 lead and seemed in control but they allowed a battling Irish side a foothold in the game through three penalties from Ian Humphreys. A penalty from Toby Flood and two late converted tries gave Leicester a flattering final scoreline in their favour.
Flood and Geordan Murphy, making his 200th Premiership appearance, were included in the Tigers starting line-up for the first time in over six weeks.
The opening exchanges were evenly contested but lacked notable incident, apart from one crunching high tackle by former Irish player Adam Thompstone on Topsy Ojo which earned Irish a penalty.
It was a piece of great awareness from Flood that allowed Leicester to open the scoring after 11 minutes. On halfway Marland Yarde was penalised for not releasing, and Flood immediately grabbed the ball, rushed to the mark and booted the ball 50 metres across the field where Niall Morris was lurking.
The wing collected a favourable bounce, stepped inside a defender and just held off a despairing Tom Homer tackle for the try, which Flood converted. Leicester became the dominant force but it was Irish who had the next opportunity for points.
On halfway Tom Youngs threw too long at a line-out and the ball went loose. Ojo was on it in a flash, hacking it 55 metres, and would have won the race but the ball ran into the in-goal area.
London Irish's Jonathan Joseph can't prevent Leicester's Niall Morris from touching down © Getty Images
Back came the Tigers and on the half-hour they scored their second try. At a scrum 10 metres out from the Irish line, the hosts were placed under severe pressure and conceded a penalty try which Flood converted.
The Tigers nearly suffered a blow as Tom Youngs was extremely fortunate not to receive a yellow card for thundering recklessly into a ruck in an attempt to clear out Irish players. He escaped with a warning from referee Luke Pearce.
Just before half-time Ian Humphreys put the Irish on the scoreboard with a simple penalty to leave them 14-3 adrift at the interval.
Early in the second half, Irish were given further hope when firstly Ben Youngs was sent to the bin for not being the required 10 metres away when tackling Darren Allinson, who had quickly taken a penalty, and then Humphreys reduced the lead with two penalties in quick succession.
Leicester were rattled but Youngs returned with no further damage to the scoreboard and the Tigers introduced Geoff Purling in place of Graham Kitchener.
A slashing break from Sailosi Tagicakibau threatened further damage to Leicester but the hosts carelessly conceded a penalty allowing the Tigers to relieve the pressure and it remained at 14-9 going into the final quarter.
With 12 minutes remaining, Flood earned the visitors some breathing space with a long-range penalty and three minutes later he had a similar chance but this time the ball rebounded back off the crossbar.
Leicester sealed victory with a second penalty try. Morris broke away from on halfway and kicked ahead. He would have secured the try himself but was taken out by Irish replacement Jamie Gibson, who was yellow-carded before Flood added the conversion.
With the last movement of the game, Flood made a neat break to send Morris on a 50 metre run to the line for Leicester's bonus-point try.
London Irish director of rugby Brian Smith said: "I'm really disappointed as we came up short again. I'm proud of the boys' effort and we deserved a bonus point, so to come away with nothing was harsh."
Smith's Leicester counterpart, Richard Cockerill, agreed the scoreline was not an accurate reflection of the game.
"We were fortunate," Cockerill said. "The boys scrambled well but they [London Irish] played pretty well today and they deserved a bit more.
"We were really good in the first half and had several opportunities but we didn't take them. We then sat back and waited for things to happen which was disappointing, but it's five points on the road."
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