Leicester Tigers scored a vital Aviva Premiership win with a 33-18 triumph over Harlequins at Welford Road on Saturday.
Quins were making their 100th visit to Welford Road, dating back to 1895, and looking for a first win on Tigers turf since November 2013.
They got off to a flying start with a try in the opening moments of the Round 15 fixture, only for Matt Toomua to push Tigers in front with a couple of penalties.
Quins took the lead again at the start of the second half with a try from Luke Wallace before Toomua crafted a fine solo try to put the home side’s noses back in front.
Graham Kitchener added a second just moments later, though a score from Quins kept it tight until Toomua added a late penalty to put some daylight between the teams and then finally Adam Thompstone added a third try with the clock already beyond 80 minutes.
In team news announced on Friday, Tigers brought Gareth Owen and Jonah Holmes into the backline, with Toomua at fly-half.
Tigers had won the three most recent meetings of the teams, including the Round 4 clash in September at The Stoop when Greg Bateman, Telusa Veainu and Jonny May were on the scoresheet. George Ford also kicked 16 points in a 31-28 victory.
Quins fly-half Marcus Smith got the game under way and the visitors had a dream start with a try inside three minutes from wing Alofa Alofa.
Tigers lost possession with a knock-on in the centre of the pitch and Quins moved quickly to the right where Alofa was able to run in. Fly-half Smith missed the kick but Quins had a five-point advantage.
The crowd may have been uneasy after three home defeats in the league already this season but they were quickly on their feet after a break by Manu Tuilagi from inside the Tigers half and then a blockbusting run from prop Bateman, who scored such a fine solo try in the reverse fixture at The Stoop earlier in the season.
Bateman’s break did bring a penalty, but Toomua struck the inside of the post and saw the ball drop forwards for Aaron Morris to clear to touch.
A second opportunity followed almost immediately with Kyle Sinckler penalised and this time Toomua knocked over the three-pointer.
Toomua was heavily involved in the next attack, grubbing a kick in behind the Quins defence and, although Morris gathered, he was hit by Thompstone on the kickchase and had to dot down behind his own tryline.
From the scrum, Tuilagi almost carried possession and the defender back over the line but then Tom Youngs was held up. Referee Wayne Barnes was already playing advantage, however, and play restarted with a penalty in favour of the home team.
Toomua took the kick from just to the right of the posts and put Tigers 6-5 in front with 18 minutes played
Quins prop Lewis Boyce, who had received physio attention on a couple of occasions in the opening 20 minutes, was replaced by Mark Lambert as the visitors had put-in at a scrum on halfway but referee Barnes blew for a free-kick in Tigers' favour.
From the re-set scrum, Tigers looked to make a breakthrough in midfield but Jamie Roberts forced a knock-on as he caught up with Tuilagi.
Mike Williams then produced a vital tackle around the ankles of Morris just as a gap opened on the edge of the Tigers 22. But the home side were forced on to the defensive for several minutes with Toomua and Tuilagi prominent in shutting out the Quins attack.
Holmes had a first sniff of an opportunity on the left touchline, but just couldn’t get a clean hold of a cheeky kick from Veainu.
Quins quickly turned defence into attack with Roberts making the break, though the crowd felt a pass from Luke Wallace on the left had gone forward before Owen made a try-saving tackle on Sinckler, rolling the prop on to his back as he crossed the tryline.
Play restarted with a five-metre scrum and Quins were rewarded with a penalty which Smith put through the posts for an 8-6 advantage with eight minutes remaining in the half.
A run from Brendon O’Connor on the right flank had Tigers on the attack again but the chance was lost in the midfield and Quins were able to clear after being awarded a penalty at the breakdown.
The high tempo continued as Smith was caught as he tried to run out from his own 22, and then a hit from Tuilagi forced a handling error near to the touchline which kept Tigers in visitors’ territory.
Tigers put together some impressive phases thanks to quick clears and a number of forceful carries near the Quins line but still they could not find the breakthrough, though fly-half Smith was sent to the sin bin as he intercepted a pass just in front of his own line.
Toomua kicked the resulting penalty to put Tigers 9-8 in front at half-time.
With no changes to the line-ups at half-time Tigers got the second period under way with a kick deep into Quins territory, but Morris and then Tim Visser made runs to get 14-man Quins on the attack before Tigers forced a knock-on from Sinckler.
A high tackle on Tuilagi brought a penalty which Toomua pushed down the right touchline, only for Tigers to lose the ball in contact after the lineout.
Quins enjoyed multiple phases in possession, keeping the ball moving and finally claiming the score through Wallace in the right-hand corner. Smith was back on the field in time to take the conversion but he was unable to add the two points.
Tom Youngs, who made been a key defender for Tigers, made way for Tatafu Polota-Nau as the game restarted with Quins 13-9 in front on 50 minutes.
Carries from front-row duo Bateman and Logo Mulipola got Tigers into the Quins 22, but another spilled ball ended the pressure before Mike Fitzgerald managed to charge down a clearing kick. A home penalty followed as Tigers searched for the breakthrough but, despite setting up a lineout drive, they were held out and Quins managed to rip ball free just five metres from their own tryline.
A home try finally came on 59 minutes with a superb piece of individual skill from Toomua, showing a perfect dummy on the edge of the 22 and bursting through the gap to score his second of the season. The Australian added the conversion for a 16-13 lead.
More followed as Toomua continued to pull the strings with a chip in behind the defence and, when the favourable bounce was grabbed by Kalamafoni, his forward colleague Kitchener arrived to to score, rolling over the line from close range. The conversion stretched the lead to 23-13.
The home crowd increased the noise as the team upped the tempo, and a massive cheer greeted the work at a breakdown which led to a penalty on halfway.
But after the lineout drill allowed Tigers to spread play on the left, ball fell loose once more and Quins cleared from their scrum put-in.
The visitors won a scrum penalty on halfway and Smith kicked out on the left, though Thompstone made a valiant effort to keep the ball in, slapping it against official Luke Pearce, it was still a Quins throw and they made it count as lock Charlie Matthews scored from the drive to the corner.
Smith was wayward with his conversion attempt as the Tigers lead was cut to 23-18 as the game entered its last 10 minutes.
Another handling error in attack gave Quins another opportunity to clear just as Tigers were building momentum. But the Tigers scrum produced a big heave and was rewarded with a penalty, which Toomua thumped through the posts to make it 26-18. Vitally, the kick pushed the hosts more than one score in front with just three minutes left on the clock.
Another penalty followed and this time Tigers went to the corner but, after a clean take, ball was lost. Quins were penned in near to their line, though, and paid the price when Thompstone coolly picked off a pass to intercept and run in unopposed. Toomua added the kick with the clock well past the 80-minute mark to seal the victory.
Next home game
Tigers are back at Welford Road on Sunday, March 25 against Wasps. It's a 3pm kick-off and tickets are on general sale. See you then.
Thank you for your support
Tigers were roared to victory by a fantastic crowd of 23,647. Thank you to all of the Tigers Family for your support, wherever you were following the game.
All over at Welford Road
Tigers return to winning ways, scoring three second-half tries through Toomua, Kitchener and Thompstone to beat Harlequins 33-18.
Last kick conversion
Toomua adds the conversion with the last kick to put the icing on the cake.
Try time for Tigers!
Quins are still in the hunt for two bonus points and trying to play from their own 22. But Adam Thompstone reads Dave Ward's pass and intercepts to score next to the posts.
... however Tigers again knock-on, this time at the lineout, and the put-in goes to Quins. Harry Simmons comes on for Harrison.
Another penalty for Tigers
Tigers win another penalty on the Quins 22. This time Toomua is going to the corner ...
Tigers extend their lead
Toomua lands the penalty and Tigers lead by more than a score with four minutes remaining.
Huge scrum for Tigers
The Tigers pack drives Quins off their ball and wins the penalty. Toomua opts for the posts ...
Knock-ons hurting Tigers
Toomua is pulling the strings and moving Tigers around the pitch. But another knock-on, this time from Wells, sees the attack end. Bateman gets a huge ovation as he comes off for Michele Rizzo.
Stop in play
After another hectic period in the game there is a stop in play as players on each side get running repairs. Play will restart with a Tigers penalty on halfway after Wallace cleared out from in front of the ruck.
Quins are back in it
Quins drag themselves back into the game with a third try. Tigers cannot defend the lineout drive and Matthews finishes. Tigers lead 23-18.
Smiles from the officials
Luke Pearce smiles as Thompstone attempts to keep Smith's penalty in play, the ball going out off the assistant. But it had already crossed the plane.
Replacements for both sides
Mat Tait on for Owen for Tigers. Gabriel Ibitoye on for Visser for Quins.
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Pat Cilliers and Harry Wells on for Logovi'i Mulipola and Mike Fitzgerald.
Sione swoops for Tigers
Tiiigggeeerrrsss rings round the stadium as Kalamafoni wins a holding-on penalty on halfway. Toomua puts it into the Quins 22.
Toomua converts the score, and from being behind less than five minutes ago Tigers now lead by 10 points.
It's two in two minutes!
Welford Road is roaring now as Tigers make it two tries in two minutes. Toomua's kick bounces perfectly for Sione Kalamafoni, Kitchener follows up and forces his way over.
Toomua converts his own try to huge relief around Welford Road. It puts Tigers 16-13 ahead.
Try time for Toomua
Tigers have their first try and it's Toomua. Tigers keep possession, work the Quins defence and Toomua shows his class by ghosting through a gap 25m out to score by the posts. Lovely try.
Change in the back row
Luke Hamilton is on in place of Mike Williams.
... Tigers set up the drive, but they cannot control the ball and it is lost forward. Scrum to Quins 5m from their line.
Tigers go through the phases and look to have made a berak with Mike Fitzgerald, but he was stripped. Kitchener blocks the clearance and Tigers win the penalty. Toomua puts it to the corner ...
First Tigers replacement
Tatafu Polota-Nau comes on for the skipper Youngs.
Quins score a second try
Quins show plenty of patience to put together more than 20 phases of possession. It ends with Luke Wallace diving for the corner where Holmes makes the tackle but cannot stop him dotting down. Smith, back on from his yellow card, misses the conversion. Quins lead 13-9.
Tigers hold firm
Tigers force Sinckler into the knock-on and Tuilagi is taken out by a high tackle by Visser. But Tigers knock-on themselves as they try to attack again from the resulting lineout.
It's a hectic start to the second half as Quins attack from deep, Tigers counter attack and Quins come back again. They have it now in the Leicester 22.
SECOND HALF UNDERWAY!
We're back for the second-half action at Welford Road.
Tigers lead at the break
Tigers hold a one-point lead at half-time thanks to three Toomu penalties. Quins have the only try of the game through Alofa early on. Quins will start the second half a man down with Morris in the sin bin.
Tigers turnover Sinckler and Veainu kicks into the Quins 22. Holmes makes the chase and pins Morris, but Quins team-mates get to him to secure the ball.
Tigers lead again
Toomua takes the simple three points and punishes Quins further. Tigers lead 9-8 with Smith in the bin and a couple of minutes to half-time.
Quins down to 14 men
Tigers hammer away at the Quins line and go close numerous times. Tigers work an overlap, Smith flies up and intercepts but is called offside by referee Barnes. He see yellow.
Tigers pinged again
Brendon O'Connor makes yards down the right, but Youngs is pinged for holding on at the next phase and Quins ease the pressure.
Quins lead again
The first penalty of the game against Tigers, and it comes at a scrum on their 5m line. Smith kicks it to move the visitors 8-6 ahead.
Super defence from Owen
Tigers somehow keep Quins out as they break the length of the field through Roberts. They keep it alive and Sinckler looks set to score but Owen makes the tackle and wraps him up over the line.
Relief for Quins
Veainu slides a delicate grubber through that stays infield for Holmes. Kitto plays the ball on the floor but referee Wayne Barnes rules Holmes had knocked on.
Scrappy and tense
There is a lot of tension around Welford Road and it is reflected on the pitch, where handling errors are preventing either team find their rhythm.
Lewis Boyce, the young Quins prop, comes off after receiving treatment. Mark Lambert comes on.
Tigers take the lead
Toomua opts to kick for the posts, and nudges Tigers into a one-point lead.
Tigers turn up the heat
Tuilagi crashes onto the ball from the scrum but is stopped short. Charlie Matthews goes offside, Youngs claims the try but is held up. Play comes back for the penalty .. what will Tigers do?
Brilliant kick chase by Adam Thompstone catches Aarom Morris as he collects Toomua's wonderfully-weighted kick through. Thommo takes Morris over his own tryline. Tigers have the 5m scrum put-in.
Tigers are on the board
Toomua makes no mistake this time with his penalty and Tigers are on the scoreboard. They trail 5-3.
Another penalty Tigers
Tigers get the lineout drive moving, when it goes to ground Kyle Sinckler fails to roll and Toomua has another kick at goal from a similar angle on the right ...
Bateman on the hoof
Bateman almost recreates his try from earlier in the season at Quins. He flies through a gap into the Quins 22 and is stopped by last-man Jono Kitto. It all started on the Tigers 22, where Toomua's pass cuts out Joe Marchant and Manu Tuilagi made 30m down the left.
Good Tigers defence
Tigers stand up well in defence on midfield, and force Smith to kick to his wing. Tim Visser knocks on and Tigers have the put in.
There is concern for Veainu, who receives treatment after trying to make the tackle. But he is okay as Marcus Smith kicks his conversion across the posts. It stays 5-0 to Quins.
Early try for Quins
Quins strike first. Jamie Roberts fixes last man Holmes down the left and finds Alofa Alofa, who dives in at the corner.
Toomua strikes a post with his first kick at goal, and Quins gather. Lineout to Tigers on the Quins 22.
Harlequins get the game underway, with Tigers attacking the Robin Hood Stand end of the ground.
And here come the Tigers
Led out by Tom Youngs, the Tigers receive a massive roar from another huge Welford Road crowd. Come on you Tigers boys!
Here come Quins
This afternoon's visitors from Harlequins are first out, led by their back-rower Dave Ward
Two minute warning
Charge your glasses, get the snacks in, we're two minutes away from kick off at Welford Road.
Spire Man of the Match voting
Don’t forget you can vote for your Spire Man of the Match, exclusively through the Official Tigers App. Voting opens at half-time and closes a minute before full-time #LEIvHAR
News from the academy
The academy today secured top spot in the Northern Conference of the U18 Academy League with a 47-7 victory over Newcastle Falcons. Well done boys.
We know you might not believe is so here is a photo of sunshine at Welford Road!
We've had a bit of everything so far, but the rain shower of 30 minutes ago have moved on and Welford Road is currently bathed in weak February sunshine. Ideal rugby conditions, some might say!
Team news from Welford Road. Matt Toomua makes his first start at 10, and Jonah Holmes comes in for Nick Malouf on the wing.
Home sweet home
Welcome back to Welford Road for this Aviva Premiership Round 15 clash with Harlequins. It's a huge one for both teams!