Leicester end losing streak against Harlequins

Leicester Tigers ended their three match Aviva Premiership losing streak by beating former Champions Harlequins 22-16 at Welford Road on Friday night.

Leicester controlled the territory and weather better and ended with the result
that will no doubt ease the pressure on Director of Rugby Richard Cockerill.

Jamie Gibson lead from the front, blocking multiple clearance kicks as Leicester’s
dogged, pragmatic approach set them back on the road to victory in the driving
rain.

No wonder Brad Thorn was licking his lips in these conditions. The kicking
game of Freddie Burns and Owen Williams was simply better.

Neither team exactly entered this one in peak form. Leicester’s injury woes
are now well documented, even generating a scathing defence of the Tigers methods
from Richard Cockerill, but the casualties have coincided with three straight
losses.

Harlequins meanwhile have won three of their first five games, not a terrible
start, but the implosion at home to Saracens three weeks ago will take some
time to shift from the mind.

There’s no doubting that the visitors handled the slippery conditions worse
than Leicester, but concern over Joe Marler’s temperament as Quins captain is
becoming a serious issue.

The Tigers gradually clawed their way under his skin. It took his side 67 minutes
to breach the Leicester 22.

It’s hard to remember the last time Leicester seemed weak but they have felt
prime for the taking in recent times; London Irish achieved only a second ever
win at the ground in over 100 years the last time Leicester ran out at Welford
Road.

Early on though the tone was different. Quins weren’t allowed to leave their
half, a glimpse of Leicester’s trademark suffocation of the opposition shining
through in the opening quarter.

You would tend to bet your house on Mike Brown under the high ball, but on
more than one occasion he was caught out – the second instance nearly costing
his side dearly had it not been for Matt Hopper’s outstanding try-saving tackle
on Vereniki Goneva.

Blaine Scully’s try was a much simpler affair. Ben Youngs began a string of
passes that put Jamie Gibson into enough space to draw the last man and put
the American away, although the final pass was contentious at best.

Two penalties from Nick Evans kept Harlequins relatively in touch, but the
loss of hooker Joe Gray to a knee injury was a further blow following Danny
Care’s withdrawal earlier in the day to attend the birth of his son.

Owen Williams and Evans battled it out off the tee with both missing attempts,
although the young Welshman’s efforts were nearly all from long range. A closer
effort was successful to have Leicester 16-6 ahead at half-time.

The two kickers were at it again with penalties to kick off the second half,
the onus on securing territory taking the thrill out of a clash that was growing
increasingly nervy. Marcos Ayerza’s introduction brought easily the loudest
cheer.

19-9 isn’t insurmountable but it felt like a huge ask for Harlequins with the
weather worsening, Williams edging another attempt wide for his third miss.

Williams’ next strike though was good before Quins finally found some territory,
gambling with a penalty into the corner.

It paid off handsomely, Karl Dickson going over with Evans’ conversion cutting
the gap to six.

A penalty might have relieved the new pressure on Leicester but Williams again
was wide, leaving Harlequins within a converted try.

Brown, uncharacteristically unreliable, put a clearance kick out on the full
with three minutes left to give Leicester the position to go for the kill. Burns’
makeshift drop goal attempt was not the answer.

Harlequi

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