Leicester Tigers returned to winning ways in the Aviva Premiership with a hard-fought 19-15 victory over London Irish at Welford Road.
Tigers scored three tries to claim a first win in seven domestic and European fixtures.
They trailed to Joe Cokanasiga’s first-half score before tries either side of half-time swept them into the lead. Matt Toomua finished off Brendon O’Connor’s break for his first try in Tigers colours before Jonny May squeezed his way over for the second shortly after the restart.
Manu Tuilagi dived over from close range to give Tigers hope of a bonus point, but former Tiger Alex Lewington made it a nervous finale and earned Irish a losing point of their own with a try at the corner.
Tigers made one change to the starting XV with O’Connor coming in for Luke Hamilton in the back row. Harry Thacker came onto the bench following injury to Tom Youngs, while Greg Bateman returned from his injury lay-off to take his place among the replacements.
Centre Manu Tuilagi made his 100th appearance for the Tigers, while hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau made his first start at Welford Road. Irish included former Tigers Greig Tonks, Lewington and Seb de Chaves in their matchday 23.
Tigers began brightly with captain George Ford showing excellent awareness and a change of pace to break the Irish line and take Tigers into the Exiles 22. Tigers secured quick ball but Toomua’s pass for Malouf drifted forwards and the attack came to an end.
Irish had a lineout from which to launch their first attack, but Ofisa Treviranus knocked-on as he charged onto Blair Cowan’s pass. Ford forced the pass to launch a counterattack but as Alex Lewington intercepted play came back for the scrum.
Tigers were unable to exit from the scrum, however, and May was pinged for not releasing to give Irish the first shot at goal. Tonks was wide with his kick as the scores remained level after 10 minutes.
It put wind in the visitors’ sails and Cokanasiga broke a couple of tackles with an angled run that had Tigers scrambling in defence. Irish poured forwards but Adam Thompstone knocked on as he tackled James Marshall to halt the danger.
It was a cagey period as the game reached the end of the first quarter, with both teams kicking for territory.
But Irish, thanks to a maul penalty, got the better of the exchanges with Tonks finding touch on the 22. Polota-Nau read the overthrow and mopped up but Tigers were unable to clear. Ford was hassled into a mistake by Treviranus, Cokanasiga kicked through and held off Thompstone to get to the ball in-goal. Tonks’s conversion struck a post as Irish led 5-0.
Tigers replied with a period of pressure in the Irish 22. Malouf was stopped 5m short, but Tigers had an offside penalty. Ford shaped to go for touch but tapped and went. Sione Kalamafoni was stopped just short before the ball was shipped wide where Thompstone was tackled into touch as he reached for the corner.
Toomua was the next to show for Tigers. He glided through a gap and was halted by Tonks and Franco van der Merwe before O’Connor knocked on as he tried to pick up at the breakdown.
It was all Tigers at this stage and May’s sharp thinking caught Irish cold at a ruck. However, Tigers were unable to get to May in numbers and with Irish disrupting the ball, the chance went away.
Eventually the pressure told and Toomua crossed for Tigers’ opening try. And when it came the relief around Welford Road was palpable. O’Connor made the initial break and his offload out the back found Toomua’s supporting line for his first try for the club. Ford added the conversion to give Tigers the lead and take his points tally for the season past 100.
Tigers led 7-5 at the break and they made a flying start to the second half with a try inside two minutes. A lineout in the Irish 22 gave them a platform to attack, Williams’s run sucked in a couple of defenders and he found May, who still had work to do as he squeezed between two defenders to score at the right-hand corner. It went unconverted as Tigers led 12-5.
But it was Irish who scored next. Fly-half Marshall made the initial break that had Tigers under stress in defence and Tuilagi conceded the penalty playing the ball on the floor. Tonks’s kick found its way inside the post to cut Tigers’ lead to 12-8 after 57 minutes.
Tigers brought on Bateman, Thacker and Valentino Mapapalangi to replace Logovi’i Mulipola, Polota-Nau and Williams before the restart.
Irish began to infringe in defence, allowing Ford to kick into their 22. And when Tigers threatened the line through Kalamafoni he was hit with a no-arms tackle by Saia Fainga’a to concede another penalty. Tigers went again, but again Irish stood firm and wrapped up Kitchener in a maul to win the turnover.
But Tigers kept coming and thought they had scored a try from another 5m lineout. Kitchener’s clever play off the top allowed Ben Youngs to send Tuilagi crashing through but he was stopped just short. Kalamafoni followed up but the TMO ruled that he was held up over the line.
Tigers continued to press and created another chance, but this time Ford and Toomua overplayed and Thompstone was closed down.
They kept possession, however, and eventually made the pressure tell. With Tigers driving at the heart of the Irish defence, Tuilagi dived over the top of a pile of bodies to score under the posts. Ford converted to put Tigers 19-8 ahead.
Irish swept to the other end and responded immediately with their second try. Lewington was presented with the ball on the left touchline where he held off Ford to score at the corner. Tonks converted to cut the lead to 19-15 with five minutes to go.
Tigers had one last chance to claim the bonus-point try with a 5m penalty lineout in injury time. However, Cole was pinged as he joined the maul.
Instead, Irish tapped and went and then won another penalty for an off-the-ball tackle to kick up to halfway. Tigers overturned possession in a frenetic finale and Mathew Tait and Malouf combined to take Tigers back into the Irish half. However, Mapapalangi’s knock-on 30m out brought the attack and the game to an end.
THANK YOU FOR JOINING US
We hope you enjoyed today's coverage, wherever you were following along, and look forward to bringing you all the action again next week LIVE from Castres in Round 5 of this season's Champions Cup.
MAY VOTED MAN OF THE MATCH
As voted by Tigers supporters via the club's Mobile App, Jonny May is the Spire Man of the Match with 40% of votes.
TIGERS WIN IT AT WELFORD ROAD
Referee Karl Dickson blows full-time at Welford Road and the home side return to the winners list with a four-point victory over London Irish.
PENALTY AGAIN GIVEN TO IRISH
Harry Thacker penalised now, ruled to have tackled an Irish attacker 'off the ball' and the visitors kick for touch and find it on half-way
Dan Cole ruled to have obstructed Irish at the maul and a penalty is blown the visitors way.
BACK TO BACK CHANCES
Tigers given another penalty as Irish captain Mike Coman is ruled offside at the maul.
Ford finds touch again for another Leicester line-out.
NO ARMS IN THAT ONE!
A late, silly error from Irish No.8 Ofisa Treviranus with a no-arms tackle gifts the home side a chance to find touch 10 out with a line-out.
IRISH CLEAR THEIR END
The London side clear the ball from inside their 22 after a free-kick was awarded at the scrum.
FORWARD PASS FROM TIGERS
An inside, no-look pass from Sam Harrison is ruled forward and Irish will feed a scrum inside their own 22 zone.
IRISH FIND TOUCH ON THE FULL
A potentially costly error from Irish as the kick up field but, too deep and too wide as it sails over the touch-line on the full.
Tigers line-out 23m out.
Greig Tonks adds the points from out wide and closes the gap to just four points at Welford Road with as many minutes remaining.
IRISH RE-GATHER RE-START
A re-gathered re-start from the visitors sees them on the attack deep inside the Tigers half.
TRY - LONDON IRISH
Irish winger Alex Lewington finds the try-line after bumping off two Tigers players in his march towards the line.
TIGERS SWAP SCRUM-HALVES
Sam Harrison is in to the match as he replaces Ben Youngs at scrum-half.
George Ford adds the extra two points quickly, from in front and stretches the lead to 11 points with 8 minutes remaining.
TRY - MANU TUILAGI
In his 100th appearance for the club, Manu Tuilagi crashes his way over under the posts after several phases for the home side just metres out.
PHASE AFTER PHASE...
The Leicester Tigers frustrating fans and themselves as they work slowly towards the Irish line.
TIGERS MARCH ON
Phase by phase, the home side work their way forward towards the Irish line.
NO TRY - HELD UP
The decision is NO TRY, much to the disgust of the home crowd, and it is held up.
Tigers scrum feed 5 out from the Irish line.
TRY - YES OR NO?
We're heading to the TMO again after multiple phases from the Tigers off their line-out sees them burrow over ... or have they?
ANOTHER CHANCE FOR TIGERS
A midfield penalty just two phases after the line-out, against Irish, hand Tigers another chance for points and they choose to find touch again.
IRISH FIND TOUCH
The Exiles choose to clear their line and clear deep and over the sideline.
The visitors replace scrum-half Scott Steele with Brendan McKibbin.
CHANCE NOT TAKEN
The visitors manage to weather the storm from Tigers and end their attack just metres out, trapping the ball inside the maul and winning themselves a scrum 5 out from their own line.
MORE AND MORE MAULING
We love a good maul and so too does today's Tigers team as they form another from the line-out just 5m out.
ANOTHER ADVANTAGE NOT USED
An off-the-ball and no arms tackle from the visitors hooker Saia Faingaa hands Tigers another penalty in front of the posts and Ford opts to kick for the corner for a line-out.
TIGERS DRIVE FORWARD
The Tigers drive forward with a beautifully set-up maul off the line-out and the crowd are right behind them!
Back-to-back advantages for penalties and one is blown, giving Tigers territory as they find touch 5m out for a line-out.
CHIP AND CHASE
George Ford with a brilliant bit of individual skill to kick and re-gather, playing with a penalty advantage.
TIGERS DEFENCE HOLDS
Irish forced in to an error near the Tigers 22 as they knock-on and hand the home side a scrum to start their attack deep in their half.
BREAK IN PLAY ... AGAIN
Tigers captain George Ford is making his feelings clear to the match officials over the many, many breaks in play for Irish players seeking medical attention. "Is it tactical Sir?," Ford continues to say.
THREE CHANGES FOR TIGERS
Harry Thacker, Greg Bateman and Valentino Mapapalangi are in to the game as they replace Tatafu Polota-Nau, Logovi'i Mulipola and Mike Williams.
PENALTY GOAL - IRISH
Greig Tonks adds three points to the visitors score and closes the Tigers lead to just four points, 12-8.
The centurion is penalised for playing the ball off his feet at a ruck, inside his teams 22, and Irish have pointed to the posts for a shot at three points.
MARSHALL SLIPS THROUGH
The Irish fly-half finds a gap and races 30m up field to see the visitors in to the Tigers 22.
WHO WILL BE TODAY'S MAN OF THE MATCH?
HALF-CHANCE FOR TIGERS
Matt Toomua with a half-break through the Irish line and offload for Nick Malouf but it's forward and in to touch. Irish will feed the scrum on the half-way line.
IRISH LINE OUT ON HALF WAY
Mike Fitzgerald steals the line-put from Irish on half-way
TIGERS COACH HIGH IN ENERGY
Matt O'Connor is not far from the Matchday LIVE Team here at Welford Road and we can tell you, even if he wasn't we would hear him. He is certainly riding the wave with his players today!
IRISH MAKE EARLY CHANGES
Ben Franks, Ollie Hoskins and Max Northcote-Green are in to the game as they replace Gordon Reid, Petrus du Plessis and Blair Cowan.
MISTAKE IN THE MIDDLE OF THE FIELD
Ben Youngs knocks on after a popped ball from Mike Fitzgerald and it will be an Irish scrum on half-way.
HOME CROWD FIRED UP
The Tigers Family have found their voice in the second-half as their team do the same on field.
HIGH TACKLE FROM KALAMAFONI
A high-tackle sees Irish gifted a chance to kick for touch and find territory but they don't and it's Tigers who re-start their attack now inside their own 22.
KNOCK-ON FROM TIGERS
A dropped ball out wide hands the ball back to Irish inside their own 22 but, Tigers look strong early on in the second-half and willing to play wide.
We're all set for a cracker of a half here if this continues!
IRISH TURNOVER AND CLEAR
A strong turnover from Blair Cowan ends the Tigers attack, before the visitors clear from the first phase down field.
Jonny May with a brilliant kick-return sees Tigers play from their first phase near the Tigers 22.
Irish find touch on the full from the kick-off and Tigers will feed the scrum on half-way.
TRY - JONNY MAY
Early points from Tigers with Jonny May scoring in the corner after a quick move of the ball to the right-hand side pays off and the fullback pushes his way over.
TMO CALLED UPON EARLY
A quick-shift to the right-hand side of the pitch sees Tigers go over in the corner through fullback Jonny May but, we're looking at a knock-on in the midfield.
Tigers gifted metres up field with a penalty at the line-out giving George Ford an opportunity kick for touch, finding it 5 ou from the Irish line.
WE'RE UNDERWAY IN THE SECOND HALF
George Ford gets the second-half underway at Welford Road with a long, deep kick.
Irish return serve with a touch-finder, setting up a Leicester line-out just inside the visitors side of half-way.
TIGERS LEAD AT THE BREAK
The home side take a two-point, 7-5 lead over London Irish in to the changing rooms at the half-time break here at Welford Road.
TERRITORY BATTLE TO CLOSE OUT THE HALF
Both sides looking to find space and room for potential last points in the opening chapter of this battle but, nothing comes of it.
FORD CLEARS THE DECKS
After a scramble at the back following a charge down on the first attempt, George Ford finds touch on half-way.
George Ford adds the extra two points, taking Tigers in to the lead 7-5 over Irish with just three minutes remaining in the first half.
TRY - MATT TOOMUA
Matt Toomua goes over after a brilliant offload from Brendon O'Connor, who broke through the Irish defence 15m out and found the trailing Australian in support.
TIGERS ON THE MARCH INSIDE IRISH 22
The home side working their way in to an attacking zone now, slowly but surely edging towards the Irish line.
JONNY MAY IS AWAY!
Filling in for Ben Youngs at scrum-half, who took their hit up before, Jonny May races 50m down field!
IRISH BEING FORCED BACK
The visitors are forced in to kicking the ball away as the Tigers defence is forcing them backwards in their attack.
TURNOVER FROM TIGERS
Manu Tuilagi forces a turnover at the ruck and the arm goes out from Referee Karl Dickson for advantage.
The ball moves wide from Tigers on their first phase, inside the Irish half and Dan Cole knocks on.
However, we don't go back for the penalty? Very strange one as no advantage is taken at all from Tigers.
AERIAL PING PONG
It's a game of end-to-end, kick and chase from both sides so far in this match as they trade boots down field.
IRISH AGAIN OPT FOR TERRITORY
Another decision to chase territory from the visitors as they clear their own line, sending the ball deep in to the Tigers half through the boot.
RE-SET SCRUMS THE THEME OF THE DAY
Doesn't look like we will have too many first set scrum feeds today as we re-set another.
TOOMUA SLICES THROUGH
Matt Toomua shows his class in fooling the Irish defence with a dummy before slicing his way through the line to race up field 20m.
The Australian is taken down and appears to have knocked on, despite it looking back, and it will be a scrum feed to the visitors on their own 22m line.
IRISH PLAYING IT SAFE
The visitors clear their decks again just two phases from the scrum, kicking in touch for a Tigers line-out 10m inside the Irish side of half-way.
IRISH MARCHING THEIR WAY UP FIELD
The visitors find touch just outside their own 22 and Tigers hand them it straight back with a line-out ruled not to be straight.
THOMMO IN TO TOUCH
Adam Thompstone is taken in to touch, despite a superman like dive for the try-line in the corner.
Tigers first real chance to score and they can't manage to cross the chalk.
Offside from Irish in defence of the their try-line and Tigers go quick, tapping and heading for the try-line through Sione Kalamafoni.
TIGERS ATTACK IRISH LINE
From the line-out, Tigers move the ball wide with side to side action putting Irish under pressure on their own line.
IRISH SEND IT BACK STRAIGHT AWAY
The visitors send it back to Tigers early on in their phases from the re-start and a penalty comes to the home side just two phases in to their attack for George Ford to find touch 5 out from Irish line.
TRY - IRISH
The try is awarded after a lengthy check from the TMO and the opening score of the game goes the way of Joe Cokanasiga in strange circumstances.
The conversion attempt is unsuccessful from Tonks and we are now 21 minutes in to 2018 and Irish lead Tigers by five.
CHECKING FOR IRISH TRY
A potential try for Irish here after what appeared to be a knock on from Saia Faingaa in the tackle on George Ford was chased down by Joe Cokanasiga.
TATAFU GETS WELFORD ROAD UP
The newest Tiger in Leicester gets the home crowd on their feet as he makes a 20 yard break up field, showing his strength!
IRISH WASTE ANOTHER CHANCE
Another wasted opportunity for the visitors today as they cough up possession inside the Tigers 22, knocking on.
BREAK IN PLAY FOR BLOOD
Another break in play for blood on an Irish player.
Tough opening to 2018!
END TO END ACTION
Both sides looking to play a territory game so far, kicking for positioning has been the dominant fixture so far.
IRISH OPT FOR TERRITORY
The visitors opt for territory and send it deep after a few phases off the scrum.
Jonny May takes well at the back and kicks equally so for the Crumbie touch-line, which he doesn't find. Irish run it back but are dragged in to touch by Adam Thompstone, who then goes quickly from touch.
The ball shifts to the right for George Ford, who kicks deep for the East touch-line, which it bounces over.
RE-SET .. AND SET AGAIN
Mulipola and Du Plessis continue a battle already building atmosphere today as the scrum again is forced to re-set from a fault on their side of it.
UP, UP AND AWAY THOMMO GOES
George Ford again opts to kick for territorial gain as he sends an up-and-under to the sky for a flying Adam Thompstone to chase but, the Tigers winger knocks on under pressure in an attempt to re-gather and it will be an Irish scrum just inside their own side of the half-way line.
TURNOVER FROM BRENDON
In his return to action after a lengthy period watching on, Brendon O'Connor makes immediate impact with a brilliant steal and forces a turnover for Tigers to attack from their own side of half-way.
Throw is deemed not straight by Referee Dickson and Irish will feed a scrum 10m inside the Tigers half.
STRONG SCRUM - TIGERS
Logovi'i Mulipola gets the better of former Springbok prop Petrus du Plessis as the Irish tight-head is penalised. Tigers penalty.
George Ford finds touch near half-way.
Adam Thompstone comes in from his wing to shut down the Irish attack and in the process of making the tackle, the Tigers winger knocks on.
Irish scrum 10 out from the home teams line.
STRONG RETURN FROM LEWINGTON
Irish speedsters Alex Lewington with a brilliant kick-return, dancing and weaving his way up the Welford Road pitch nearly 40m to find the visitors inside the attacking zone at the first phase.
TONKS CAN'T CONVERT
A missed chance at opening the scoring from Irish as former Tiger Greig Tonks sends the penalty attempt wide of the posts.
Tigers 22m drop out.
TIGERS GIFT IRISH CHANCE
A handful of phases from their own scrum on their 22, Tigers are penalised for not releasing and give Irish an opportunity at the opening points of the game from the tee.
KNOCK-ON FROM IRISH
Despite the handy position on the field, Irish come away with nothing from a first visit to the Tigers 22 as they knock-on at the first ruck from the line-out.
George Ford moves the ball quickly to the right with a long pass for Jonny May, which is intercepted but we go back for the initial drop from Irish. Tigers scrum on their 22.
OH SO CLOSE FOR THOMPSTONE
Adam Thompstone is gifted a brilliant inside ball from a set piece move off the Tigers line-out on half-way and just coughs it up, knocking on.
The bouncing ball hits a Tigers hand and offside is ruled, handing Irish a gift of 40m up field with a penalty kick to the touch-line.
TO THE SKY THIS TIME
George Ford this time sends it to the sky after the Tigers again find themselves in possession inside their own half, following a London Irish clearance.
A strong chase by Matt Toomua forces a scramble but Irish evade the defence and set up to clear from the next ruck again.
END TO END ACTION
The ball is kicked in to touch on the bounce by George Ford just shy of the Irish 22m line, after the visitors clear their own decks from the initial scrum.
FORWARD PASS RULED
An exciting attack ends out wide and inside the visitors 22 as Tigers shift it quickly to Nick Malouf's wing but, the last pass is called forward and the London Irish side will feed the first scrum.
SIDE TO SIDE THEY GO
The Tigers shift the ball side to side after receiving the kick-off, moving forwards slightly towards the half-way line, before George Ford dummies and ducks his way through the line to race 35m before being caught inside the Irish 22m line.
KICK-OFF IN 2018
London Irish fly-half James Marshall gets the 2018 season underway for his side and the Leicester Tigers.
TIGERS ARE ON THE TURF
George Ford leads out the Tigers side for today's clash, with a huge reception from the home crowd.
London Irish will kick-off with the visitors running towards the Mattioli Woods Stand.
EXILES ENTER THE FIELD
London Irish make their way on to the historic Welford Road pitch.
LET'S GET IT STARTED
As the famous Black Eyed Peas tune plays through the Welford Road speakers, it is certainly echoing the thoughts of many in the stadium as the atmosphere builds for this clash.
THINGS ARE HEATING UP HERE
Welford Road warm-ups are underway as both sides prepare for today's clash in Round 13 of the Aviva Premiership.
It's a clearly more intense looking preparation for the Tigers today, with a very vocal coaching staff watching over the session.
TEAM NEWS - TIGERS
No changes have been made to the Tigers squad from that of the one named on Friday, with only change to last week's team coming in the form of Brendon O'Connor in to the Team at open-side flanker in place of Luke Hamilton.
The only other changes from the squad that faced Exeter on New Year's Eve sees Harry Thacker and Greg Bateman on to the bench.
15 Jonny May, 14 Nick Malouf, 13 Manu Tuilagi, 12 Matt Toomua, 11 Adam Thompstone, 10 George Ford (c), 9 Ben Youngs
1 Logovi’i Mulipola, 2 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 3 Dan Cole, 4 Mike Fitzgerald, 5 Graham Kitchener, 6 Mike Williams, 7 Brendon O’Connor, 8 Sione Kalamafoni
16 Harry Thacker, 17 Kyle Traynor, 18 Greg Bateman, 19 Harry Wells, 20 Valentino Mapapalangi, 21 Sam Harrison, 22 Joe Ford, 23 Mathew Tait
TEAM NEWS - IRISH
One change has been made to the London Irish squad named yesterday afternoon, with Blair Cowan promoted from the bench in to the starting side at open-side flanker.
15 Greig Tonks, 14 Joe Cokanasiga, 13 Tom Fowlie, 12 Johnny Williams, 11 Alex Lewington, 10 James Marshall, 9 Scott Steele
1 Gordon Reid, 2 Saia Fainga’a, 3 Petrus du Plessis, 4 Franco van der Merwe, 5 Teofilo Paulo, 6 Mike Coman (c), 7 Blair Cowan, 8 Ofisa Treviranus
16 Tom Woolstencroft, 17 Ben Franks, 18 Ollie Hoskins, 19 Sebastian De Chaves, 20 Max Northcote-Green, 21 Brendan McKibbin, 22 Theo Brophy Clews, 23 Aseli Tikoirotuma
NUMERO UNO AT HOME
A FIRST FOR THE NEWEST TIGER IN TOWN
The newest member of the #TigersFamily, Tatafu Polota-Nau, will make his debut start at Welford Road today.
In just his fourth appearance for the club, after initially appearing off the bench against Munster in this season's Champions Cup, the Australian international hooker is already making an impact on the field with his hard-hitting approach in both attack and defence.
Can he help drive the Tigers pack forward today against The Exiles? We shall see!
MILESTONE MATCH FOR MANU
RAISE THE BAT, MANU TUILAGI
What a special day it is for Manu Tuilagi, as the international centre celebrates his 100th appearance for the #TigersFamily.
How will the rampage centre, who has been unfortunate with injury in recent seasons, make an impact in today's game?
He has been warming in to it in recent weeks after returning from injury against Munster in the European clash at Welford Road and we're predicting will again show improvement today!!
Sitting in 9th spot after 12 matches, the Tigers are certainly in a place they're not used on the Aviva Premiership Ladder.
How will they go in today's fixture though? Will the Leicester lads be able to return themselves to the winners list when they face-off with the current 12th placed side in the all-English competition?
WE'RE LIVE FROM WELFORD ROAD
Welcome to today's Matchday LIVE coverage of the Aviva Premiership action between Leicester Tigers and London Irish.
A must-win fixture for both teams is the talk! Who will walk away with the points?