Leicester Tigers closed the extended 2019/20 season with a 26-32 defeat against Harlequins at Welford Road on Sunday.
A Gallagher Premiership campaign which began in October 2019 finally came to a close behind closed doors with a third home defeat since the restart in August.
Tigers got an early score through Tom Youngs, but an interception try from Alex Dombrandt got Quins back in the game and, when Joe Marchant stretched out to score on the 40-minute mark, they went in at the break 17-11 ahead chasing a third successive away win in Gallagher Premiership action.
Nemani Nadolo’s try and a touchline conversion from George Ford put Tigers in front again at the start of the second half, but the lead was snatched back by the visitors with another Marchant score and James Lang scored a fourth to stretch the lead to 11 points.
Matt Scott claimed his first try for the club to set up the prospect of a fightback in the closing 10 minutes and Kobus van Wyk almost had a dream debut as he stretched out to dot down in the corner before the referee checked to see a foot in touch and the final chance had gone.
Tigers knew they would end the season in 11th place in the table for a second successive season even before Chris Robshaw led out the visitors in his 300th and final game for Quins.
Kicking off towards the Mattioli Woods Stand end in autumnal sunshine after a day-and-a-half of rainfall, Tigers survived an early scare when Quins thought they’d scored through hooker George Hood following a one-two at the front of a lineout. But, after checking the replays, referee Matthew Carley confirmed the ball had been passed forward.
After a 40-metre break by Ben Youngs on the right wing was stopped by Aaron Morris just as the scrum-half could see the tryline, it was his older brother Tom who provided the opening score of the day.
First, Luke Wallace won a turnover penalty on the right and, although Tommy Reffell was stopped a fraction short of the line from a maul, another penalty award allowed Tigers to set up a second lineout drive and this time the captain safely steered the pack over. George Ford, though, screwed his conversion wide.
Full-back Aaron Morris fielded a Youngs box-kick and, after hammering his clearing kick 60 metres upfield, Quins enjoyed a good spell of possession until Tommy Reffell won a penalty with his work over the ball.
But then No8 Alex Dombrandt picked off the pass from scrum-half Ben Youngs and had a clear 50-metre run for the visitors’ opening score. The conversion by Brett Herron gave them the lead.
Ford put Tigers ahead again with a 40-metre penalty, won with Hanro Liebenberg’s work on the floor, and he immediately repeated the dose to make it 11-7.
Herron responded with a penalty from the left to bring Quins to within one point entering the last 10 minutes of the half and Quins closed the opening period in Tigers territory with back-to-back penalties on the left.
Although a superb lineout steal from Wells kept them out at first, they returned with ball in the backline to go in ahead at half-time after a smart finish from Marchant in the corner and touchline conversion from Herron.
Morris left the field after a collision with Kini Murimurivalu, to be replaced by Premiership debutant Louis Lynagh, the son of Wallabies legend Michael.
Moments later, Tigers were in front again after a touch of quality from two international backs. First, Nemani Nadolo forced his way into the left-hand corner, beating two defenders and planting the ball one-handed just inside the whitewash for his second try in eight days, and then Ford added a conversion from the touchline to make it 18-17.
The lead lasted just four minutes as a break from Herron, support from Nathan Earle and then quick ball to the right gave Marchant his second try of the day. Herron’s conversion made it 18-24 with half an hour remaining in the game and the season.
And they inflicted further damage with a counter-attack try, flooding forward on the right where Ford stopped Dombrandt, and opening up to the left for James Lang to dive over. Although Herron pushed his kick across the posts, Quins sat 29-18 in front.
A scrum penalty gave Ford a kick from 30 metres to make it 21-28 with more than 20 minutes still to play but Herron cancelled it out with his own shot from the left to take their advantage back up to 11 points.
Nadolo threatened a repeat of his earlier heroics as he latched on to Freddie Steward’s excellent aerial catch, but this time he was stopped 20 metres out and then Scott was taken into touch as he looked for the offload.
Steward and Nadolo linked again soon afterwards on the left, the big Fijian taking defenders with him before passing inside. But, as Ford looked for support alongside, the offside Quins prop Jordan Els blocked his path and was yellow-carded.
After setting the platform from a scrum, Tigers immediately took retribution as Scott ran in his first try for the club on the right to make it 26-32, though Ford’s conversion kick was just off-target.
Van Wyk showed good judgment and sound handling to claim a high ball which almost set up a fourth try for Tigers, with Nadolo playing ball to the left and Jaco Taute’s inside ball just escaping Scott’s grasp with the line in sight.
A penalty against Quins as they recycled ball on halfway provided the opening for another attack which ended with Van Wyk diving into the right-hand corner. But replays showed a foot in touch as he stretched out.
There were fewer than five minutes left on the clock with Tigers looking for one more scoring chance, only to be penalised for obstruction midfield, and the visitors were able to take down the clock in possession until spilling into touch with just 30 seconds left on the clock. Then, as Tigers made one final charge, their rivals managed to rip possession for Lynagh to kick to touch and bring the game to a close.
THANK YOU FOR YOUR SUPPORT
Thank you to every member of the Tigers Family for your support this afternoon and, indeed, in this extraordinary season. It does not go unnoticed.
Now, we need you more than ever.
We hope to see you at Welford Road again soon. Until then, goodbye.
FULL TIME | 26-32
Harlequins boot the ball into the empty stands to call time on Round 22, and Tigers will have to make do with a consolation bonus point.
Blake Enever, newly on to the field, claims the lineout with the clock in the red.
The Leicester line braces for one last thrust from the visitors on the edge of the home 22.
BACK TO 15
Harlequins return to a full complement as Els returns from the sin bin.
TMO | NO TRY
...but the replays show a foot in touch, and Tigers will have to make do with contesting the lineout.
TRY NUMBER FOUR?
Kobus van Wyk gets on the end of a neat Tigers move to dot down on his debut. But we'll go to the big screen...
TO THE CORNER...
Alex Dombrandt flies off his feet at the ruck and gives George Ford the opportunity to look for touch.
Freddie Steward sets up a brilliant Tigers break, again down the left, as Jaco Taute turns on the burners, but the last pass inside goes awry. Argh.
Matthew Carley has a word with the two front rows as he resets a scrum in the Harlequins half.
LIEBENBERG BREAKS FREE
Harlequins come away from a scrum in Tigers 22 with the ball, but when it pops up like a bar of soap it's No8 Hanro Liebenberg who grabs it and takes the initiative to split the defensive line before laying it up for Ben Youngs. Nice.
The conversion is missed and Quins have a six-point lead.
SCOTT OVER | 26-32
...but it's not needed. Matt Scott is the man on the overlap as Tigers score try number three of the afternoon.
Liebenberg picks and goes from the back of a solid Tigers scrum, and the arm is back up on the home side...
YELLOW CARD | JORDAN ELS
...but the attack is snuffed out illegally by Jordan Els, who is shown a yellow card.
Nadolo makes an almost identical run down the left, and this time even makes another few metres, and he offloads to George Ford.
TWO QUINS CHANGES
Tom Lawday and Tevita Cavubati both join the Quins pack.
...and Quins have a let off when the referee's whistle peeps in their favour on the five-metre line. Fristrating.
Matt Scott runs a brilliant support line on Nadolo's shoulder as the big Fijian is eventually tangled on the left, but the centre is later put into touch.
SMITH FOR REFFELL
One Tigers Academy graduate replaces another as Tommy Reffell makes way for Thom Smith in the Tigers back row.
TWO KNOCK ONS
Robshaw knocks on in his swansong appearance, but it's only after an initial knock forward from Freddie Steward, so the Londoners will have the scrum.
Harlequins take the opportunity to change both of their props in the water break, with Marc Thomas and Wilco Louw now both on the field.
QUINS PENALTY | 21-32
Herron extends the visitors' lead with another successful penalty kick.
PLAY BROUGHT BACK
Danny Care thought he was away and under the posts, then ... but play is brought back for a kick at goal after Tigers concede at the breakdown.
THREE-POINTER | 21-29
Ford stems the tide of Quins points with a solid three-pointer from the tee.
SHOT AT GOAL
Tigers win a scrum penalty - despite Robshaw almost intercepting the ball out the back - and Ford points to the posts.
...Jaco Taute is on, too, for Kini Murimurivalu at outside centre.
CLARE FOR YOUNGS
Tom Youngs is replaced by Charlie Clare in the home front row.
The conversion is missed, though, as the sun comes out at Welford Road.
BONUS-POINT SCORE | 18-29
The Londoners go from coast to coast after a break down the right from Dombrandt is eventually finished by James Lang on the left.
Leatigaga bundles through the Harlequins line, and it's Kobus van Wyk who makes some more metres when the ball is shipped out to the right.
TWO MORE POINTS | 18-24
Herron splits the posts with the conversion kick and Quins are back in front by six points.
QUINS RESPOND | 18-22
Tommy Reffell does well to cover off a Harlequins break towards the posts, but the ball is recycled and it's Marchant who grounds it in the corner.
EXTRAS ADDED | 18-17
Ford makes the conversion from the touchline and nudges Tigers back in front.
TRY AWARDED! | 16-17
After a long TMO check Nemani Nadolo has his first try at Welford Road - and it's a beauty! Tigers back within one point.
TMO | NADOLO FLIES IN!
Nemani Nadolo could be in for his first score at Welford Road here, after flying down the touchline and then dotting down mid-air in the left-hand corner.
A brilliant score if it's awarded, but we'll go to the TMO...
Louis Lynagh - son of Australia great Michael - is on for his Premiership debut as he replaces a slightly dazed Aaron Morris.
Dan Cole leaves the field, to be replaced by Nephi Leatigaga.
Tigers can't quite break the line, though, and Ford has to attempt the chip, which bobbles over the tryline to gift Quins a 22 drop out.
TIGERS PLOUGH FORWARD
Some strong runs from Nadolo, Murimurivalu and Ellis Genge get Tigers on the front foot early in this second half.
SECOND HALF IS GO
We're back underway for the final 40 minutes of the season.
HALF TIME | 11-17
Tigers take control for most of a hard-fought first half at Welford Road, but it's Harlequins who have the lead at the break.
TOUCHLINE CONVERSION | 11-17
Brett Herron adds two more points on the stroke of half time.
MARCHANT REACHES OUT | 11-15
Harlequins pull the trigger with a slick backs move to the right, and it's Joe Marchant who reaches out with the one-handed finish to score.
Cometh the hour, cometh the man. Harry Wells defuses the threat with some handy work on the floor and Ben Youngs makes ground with the kick to touch.
Quins win a lineout on the edge of Tigers 22 and then a penalty at the breakdown, which Andre 'The Giant' Esterhuizen picks-and-goes from the floor, and he's up to the five-metre line.
Wells can't claim the lineout on halfway and the ball ends up in Quins hands, with Joe Marchant bursting down the right only to be tapped into touch by Nadolo. Close.
Tigers have a scrum and then a reset to defend on their five-metre line, but first Genge and then Cole draw the setpiece penalty and Ford can get the ball downfield and into touch.
Quins break through their backs with a dangerous training-ground move, but the final pass out to Nathan Earle is too much for the wing and it's fumbled into touch. Let off.
Nadolo draws in two - make that three - defenders as he makes the latest break down his left wing, and the ball is snapped back quickly into midfield.
But it's Dan Cole who is pinged on the ground for a penalty at ruck-time, and Harlequins have the pressure relieved for them.
QUICK REPONSE | 11-10
The visitors respond with a successful penalty kick of their own from Herron.
SHOT AT GOAL
Harry Wells is unfortunate, though, to give away the penalty at the next ruck and Herron will have a shot at goal.
VAN WYK HITS HARD
Harlequins have a throw of their own on the edge of the Tigers 22, but as they pull Nathan Earle in off his wing he is met - hard - by home debutant Kobus van Wyk.
AND ANOTHER! | 11-7
Ford keeps the scoreboard ticking over with a near-identical penalty kick, which takes Tigers' tally to 11 points.
More great work from Wallace, in combination with Tom Youngs, hits back the man in the tackle and then secures the ball on the ground.
Ford will have another kick at goal, about three metres from his last...
TIGERS PENALTY | 8-7
Ford responds with three points from the tee which gives Tigers the slenderest of leads.
...but Tigers soon have the ball back as Harlequins scuff possession on the floor through Morris, and Ford calls for the tee.
George Ford runs out of options with his backline as Harlequins press over halfway, so goes to the boot, but it's visiting full-back Aaron Morris who fields it and kicks back downfield to find touch.
GREEN CLIMBS HIGHEST
Tigers skipper Youngs picks out Calum Green at the latest lineout, and eventually it's Kini Murimurivalu who gets his head down with ball in hand on the right-hand side.
BACK IN THE ZONE
Harry Wells continues to make a real menace of himself across the park, ripping the ball away at the latest restart to give Tigers some crucial possession in Halrequins' 22.
CONVERSION ADDED | 5-7
Brett Herron adds the extras from the tee and Harlequins have a two-point lead.
INTERCEPTION SCORE | 5-5
Alex Dombrandt goes against the run of play and intercepts a Tigers pass to charge in for a Harlequins score.
Harlequins make a half break through some interplay between Brett Herron and Alex Dombrandt, but the green, white and red defensive line is just too quick for the visitors.
Genge breaks through the first tackle to get Tigers over halfway and Ben Youngs can fizz the ball out quickly to his backs.
Not a vintage kick from George Ford, and the conversion is missed.
TIGERS CRASH OVER | 5-0
...and it's there! Tigers have the first points of the match as Tom Youngs crashes over after a couple of phases of pressure on the Harlequins line.
PENALTY TO TIGERS
Replays are inconclusive on the grounding, but Tigers do win the penalty. They'll have a second bit of the cherry...
TMO | TIGERS SCORE?!
Harlequins may have expected the usual set-and-maul from Tigers, but Hanro Liebenberg takes the ball at the front and crashes over the line ... referee Matthew Carley wants to have a look at this ...
Play is soon back to the right, and it's Luke Wallace who makes the turnover against his former employers. Nice.
Ford thinks about the posts, but he kicks to the corner...
BACK THREE PLAY
Freddie Steward into the match with a decent chase of his high ball back to Quins, and then it's Nadolo's turn to make some ground on this left-hand side.
More evidence of the difficult conditions - despite no rain falling at present - as Ellis Genge knocks on in midfield, but he'll have a chance to make amends at the scrum.
DOWN THE WING!
Tigers shift the momentum with a strong break down the right first through Harry Wells and then with the electric pace of Ben Youngs, who is forced into touch about 10 metres out.
The Tigers pack stand strong at the setpiece to build a platform for a trademark touchfinder from George Ford.
TMO | HARLEQUINS TRY?
Harlequins build pressure of their own, though, with a five-metre lineout where hooker George Head touches down after a neat one-two. But replays show an obvious forward pass, and Tigers are off the hook.
But Tigers win a penalty to build a lineout on the edge of the Harlequins 22, and they put the ball through the hands quickly to draw in Kobus van Wyk on his Tigers debut.
There's an early knock on in the Harlequins half, and Nemani Nadolo takes a slip on the slick turf as he attempts to hoof the ball back towards the visitors.
KICK OFF FROM WELFORD ROAD
George Ford puts boot to ball and gets Round 22 of the Gallagher Premiership underway at Welford Road.
SMOKE ON THE WATER
Tom Youngs leads Tigers on to the field for the final time in the 2019/20 season.
ROBBO’S LAST DANCE
Former England captain Chris Robshaw leads out Harlequins for his 300th and final appearance for the London club.
FIVE MINUTES TO GO | FINAL TEAM CHECKS
Just moments to go until the last game in an extraordinary 13-month season. Here’s a final check on the teams for this afternoon’s clash.
Leicester Tigers: 15 Steward, 14 Van Wyk, 13 Murimurivalu, 12 Scott, 11 Nadolo, 10 Ford, 9 B Youngs; 1 Genge, 2 T Youngs (c), 3 Cole, 4 Wells, 5 Green, 6 Wallace, 7 Reffell, 8 Liebenberg.
Replacements: 16 Clare, 17 Bower, 18 Leatigaga, 19 Enever, 20 Smith, 21 Van Poortvliet, 22 Henry, 23 Taute.
Harlequins: 15 Morris, 14 Marchant, 13 Lang, 12 Esterhuizen, 11 Earle, 10 Herron, 9 Care; 1 Els, 2 Head, 3 Kerrod, 4 Lamb, 5 Young, 6 Robshaw (c), 7 Evans, 8 Dombrandt.
Replacements: 16 Musk, 17 Thomas, 18 Louw, 19 Cavubati, 20 Lawday, 21 Landajo, 22 Tapuai, 23 Lynagh.
SUPPORT FROM HOME
We really wish you were here. Welford Road just isn’t the same without the roar of the Tigers Family.
But you can support from your sofa – or wherever you’re following from – by using #TigersAtHome across social media, and we’ll share some of our favourites.
COME ON TIGERS!
TEAM TALK | BORTHWICK LOOKS FOR ‘STEP FORWARD’
Steve Borthwick is urging his Tigers players to produce their best performance of the season in Round 22 this afternoon.
Talking exclusively to LTTV after announcing his selection for the weekend, the head coach said: “I believe this is a very exciting team and we are all looking forward to Sunday’s game.
“The team selected needs to deliver a full 80-minute effort and step forward our level of performance. This must be the best performance of our season.
“This is a game built on pressure, Harlequins take their opportunities when presented with them and we must learn from our recent fixtures, quickly, to ensure we are prepared for Sunday.”
CONFIRMED TEAM NEWS | ANOTHER NEW TIGER
Kobus van Wyk will make his Leicester Tigers debut in this afternoon’s final-day fixture.
The South African starts on the wing as one of 15 changes to the matchday squad which travelled to Bristol in midweek.
He is joined in the back three by Nemani Nadolo and Freddie Steward, while Kini Murimurivalu moves into the midfield alongside Matt Scott. George Ford and Ben Youngs resume their familiar half-back pairing.
Tom Youngs leads the side from the front row, flanked by Ellis Genge and Dan Cole, while Harry Wells moves into the second row alongside Calum Green in the absence of the injured Tomás Lavanini.
Luke Wallace is the only member of the forward pack retained from Round 21 and is included at blindside flanker with Tommy Reffell at openside and Hanro Liebenberg at No8.
See the full match line-ups by clicking here.
MATCH PREVIEW | A FINISH ON HOME SOIL
Leicester Tigers bring the elongated 2019/20 Gallagher Premiership season to a close this afternoon with a home game against Harlequins.
After defeat at Bristol Bears in midweek, coupled with wins for both London Irish and Worcester Warriors, Tigers know they will finish the season in 11th place in the table, above already-relegated Saracens.
Visitors Harlequins can finish no higher than sixth or lower than eighth, meaning they are still in a qualifying place for next season’s European Champions Cup.
The Londoners have won back-to-back fixtures on the road in Premiership Rugby but have not won three in succession on their travels since season 2012/13.
Tigers’ last home game was the derby win over Northampton Saints last month and they have lost just twice at Welford Road in 2020, against Bath and Sale Sharks since the restart of the season in August.
See all the important facts and stats in our full match preview here.
WELCOME TO MATCHDAY LIVE!
We’re LIVE from Welford Road for Leicester Tigers’ final Gallagher Premiership match of the season (3.00pm).
Follow all the action with our Matchday Live coverage, right here on the Tigers App and LeicesterTigers.com.