Leicester Tigers claimed a bonus-point 35-29 win over Harlequins in Round 19 of the Gallagher Premiership season at Mattioli Woods Welford Road on Saturday afternoon with Ellis Genge scoring two of the tries.
The game produced five tries in the opening 25 minutes as Tigers led 21-12 and they stretched that to 29-12 by half-time with Genge’s second score securing the bonus point in the 40th minute.
But Quins had the better of the scoring in the second half and were still pressing forward with the clock past the 80-minute mark as they trailed by just six points.
Matt Scott and Tom Youngs scored either side of Genge early on before Tigers crucially survived without conceding a point during a period down to 13 men and the prop returned from his yellow card to notch his second score at the close of the first half.
With 17 tries in the previous three games and more than 500 points in 18 league rounds, Quins arrived with the chance to go into the top two in the table and their second-half attack illustrated their threat as they finished the day with five tries and two bonus points despite defeat to Tigers for the first time since Christmas 2018.
On a mild but overcast afternoon, Tigers kicked off towards the Robin Hood Stand end and had to wait only four minutes for a breakthrough.
After Scott had won an initial penalty over the ball, the centre was able to provide the finish for the try. It began with a lineout drive which took play fully 20 metres upfield and quick recycling after carries by Nemani Nadolo and Guy Porter, which provided the chance for Ford's perfect delayed pass as Scott hit a gap to attack to the left of the posts.
When Quins were whistled again for contact in the air at a lineout, Ford pushed play into the left-hand corner and this time, ball off the top allowed Jasper Wiese to charge for the line, but Quins closed him out before conceding another penalty.
Genge took the tap and support arrived in time to help drive him over the line as Ford added the extras to make it 14-0 on 12 minutes.
Calum Green made a confident catch at the restart but Quins regained possession and showed good hands and support lines to free Joe Marchant towards the line and he put Nathan Earle in to score though Marcus Smith pushed the conversion wide.
A tackle from Nemani Nadolo gained turnover ball as Tigers threatened again, but TMO intervention highlighted a late tackle in midfield and Quins had the penalty. Harry Wells read the lineout throw, though, to steal ball and Ford soon had another chance to gain territory with another penalty.
His perfect kick reached touch just a handful of metres from the left corner flag and the forwards made the most of the opportunity, with skipper Youngs steering the drive and then barging over the line for his fifth try of the season. Ford’s kick made it 21-5 with 20 minutes gone.
Tigers soaked up pressure after the game’s first scrum on 22 minutes but then stole ball back on the floor, only to be blown for offside in chasing a clearing kick and being hauled all the way back to their own five-metre line.
The kick to the corner gave Quins a chance to set up a drive and, when it was stopped just short, referee Luke Pearce - who will be in charge of the Heineken Champions Cup Final next weekend - awarded a penalty try for collapsing the maul to make it 21-12.
Tigers restarted a man short with Dan Cole sin-binned as he was identified as the culprit.
Smith and half-back partner Danny Care then attempted to play out from behind their own line and when the clearing kick lacked distance, Tigers had a chance to maintain pressure through a series of phases which ended with a deliberate knock-on in defence by Earle as Scott looked for Nemani Nadolo on the left.
Earle departed to the sin-bin but TMO Tom Foley called the referee’s attention to a previous ruck clearance by Tigers and, after numerous replays, Genge was yellow-carded for contact with the head and Earle called back on to the field as Quins were given the penalty.
It left Tigers with 13 men but, with Quins trying to play from deep, Reffell won another breakdown penalty and, although Ben Youngs was stopped as he went for a quick tap 15 metres out, the visitors were blown again and this time Ford kicked the points while also helping to take down the clock on the yellow cards.
When Quins used two penalties to build position in attack, Tigers stood firm and forced ball loose on their own five-metre line.
Cole returned in time for the scrum, though Nadolo had to make way to get Luan de Bruin on to the field on the other side of the front row before Tigers could clear their lines.
Genge and Nadolo returned with their team-mates having come through the period of both sin bins without conceding a point and they were quickly back into action, carrying strongly in attack as Genge got on the ball for a second time, forcing his way over the line for the bonus-point score with just a few seconds left of the first half. Ford’s kick drifted wide with Tigers 29-12 in front as the left the field.
Steve Borthwick's men started the second half with Scott and Nadolo threatening in attack and Ford adding another kick to make it 32-12, though it was to be their final score until the closing moments.
Hanro Liebenberg replaced Wiese on 50 minutes and then Tigers sent on a complete new front row but, after losing set-piece ball, Steward had to gather ball back on his own line after a Quins break upfield.
The visitors remained on the attack, Alex Dombrandt linking up with Marchant out wide on the left before the wing claimed his side's third try when pressure from the forwards gave Smith space to chip to the left-hand corner. The conversion made it 32-19 on 55 minutes.
Spells of rain tested both footing and handling skills in the remainder of the game, with Nadolo again winning ball after a dominant tackle on halfay and then Joe Heyes pressuring Smith after charging down a kick to keep Quins pinned back.
A knock-on from Smith's big kick clear also brought a set-piece penalty which he pushed into the right-hand corner. Although Tigers' lineout defence barged the maul towards touch, ball just stayed in play and the visitors were eventually able to work play to the corner where Earle dived in for their fourth try and a bonus point although Smith pushed the kick wide with his side eight points down with eight minutes left to play.
half-back replacements Zack Henry and Richard Wigglesworth hunted down Marchant as he caught high ball in defence and they were rewarded with a penalty and the fly-half added the three points from 22 metres out to stretch the advantage to 35-24.
Quins were still not done, though, and scored a fifth try in the left corner from Luke Northmore after a sweeping break led by Tyrone Green and Martin Landajo. Smith failed to add the extras with the score at 35-29 and fewer than four minutes left to play.
A penalty in their own half gave Quins a chance to get forward again and there was less than a minute remaining when they had a scrum put-in which led to an offside penalty 30 metres out.
They played to touch but when they opened up to play in midfield, Kini Murimurivalu clamped on to the man on the floor and won the penalty which made the five-point win complete.