Leicester Tigers scored seven tries in a bonus-point 47-28 victory over London Irish in the Gallagher Premiership at Mattioli Woods Welford Road on Saturday.
The try bonus point was secured in the opening half, with a fourth score coming courtesy of a penalty try as the Irish tried illegally to stop a drive from the forwards, and Tigers added three more tries after the break to secure the five league points.
The Exiles, Premiership Rugby’s top tryscorers, added to their total in the opening minutes but Tigers responded with four tries before half-time, the latter two coming after Curtis Rona had been red-carded for a high tackle, to lead 26-16 at the break.
After Tommy Reffell added the fifth try, Nemani Nadolo claimed his second of the day and then Chris Ashton added his 90th Premiership score and first for top-of-the-table Tigers against an Irish side beaten just once previously in 2022.
Hanro Liebenberg led out a Tigers team short of five players with England, though Joe Heyes returned from the national team camp to start in the front row and there was a return to the starting line-up for Harry Wells and Jasper Wiese.
Exiles boss Declan Kidney called Will Goodrick-Clarke, Marcel van der Merwe and Albert Tuisue into the forward pack following last week’s 43-12 win over Worcester and named six forwards on their eight-man bench
Freddie Burns led the Tigers on to the pitch in his 200th Premiership appearance, but it was the visitors who quickly got on the scoreboard with a try from Benhard van Rensberg, latching on to strong work near the tryline and an offload from Agustin Creevy to push over near the posts. Jackson added the conversion of their 70th Premiership try of the season for a 7-0 lead just three minutes in.
An early run by Nemani Nadolo into the Irish defensive line brought a penalty and when Tigers played from the set-piece on the left, he was there again to burst through and dive in under the posts. Burns levelled the scores with the conversion.
Irish sense another opportunity soon afterwards as Curtis Rona played to the right but Ollie Hassell-Collins over-ran the ball slightly and knocked forward.
A quick lineout down the right gave Julian Montoya a chance to build some attacking possession but Irish defensive work eventually forced ball loose and they were able to clear.
Nadolo was back on the ball after Wiese’s carry through midfield, but spilled possession as Irish clawed their way back, only for Matt Scott to win a penalty on the floor as they tried to break out again.
Scrum pressure on the Irish five-metre line had No8 Albert Tuisue momentarily in trouble before support arrived and Nick Phipps was able to clear.
When Irish tried to build possession midway inside their own half again, Matt Scott picked off the pass and was able to run in to score. Burns could not add the extras this time but Tigers were in front for the first time at 12-5 on 21 minutes.
Burns nearly repeated Scott’s interception but Arundell was able to break with support left and right, only for the final pass outside to escape Hassell-Collins in a big let-off for Tigers.
Referee Karl Dickson marched Tigers back an extra 10 and a penalty award just on halfway and Jackson pushed play to the right-hand corner. Tigers worked hard in defence to win a turnover, though play came back for an offside penalty at close range and this time Jackson pointed to the posts.
Wiese’s charge upfield was halted by a combined hit from Tuisue and Curtis Rona, and referee Dickson called the TMO into action before showing a red card to centre Rona.
Tigers played the resulting penalty to the corner but lost lineout ball and Irish kicked up to halfway.
They were quickly back on their own line, though, as Montoya carried strongly and then Tigers played to the left where Nadolo attracted the defenders and offloaded for Potter in support to score. Burns added the conversion kick from wide on the left to make it 19-10.
Jackson added a three-pointer almost from the restart but Tigers were quickly on the attack again when Burns jabbed a kick to the left corner and Nadolo wrapped up wing Lucio Cinto as he gathered a metre out and took him over the tryline.
The five-metre scrum brought a penalty in Tigers’ favour and this time, with backs joining the forwards in the drive to the line, referee Dickson ran under the posts to award a penalty try as Tigers stretched the lead to 26-13 just short of half-time.
Jackson closed the half with another penalty, and the visitors opened the second half just as they had in the first, with a try.
It came from a break by Hassell-Collins down the left, with Arundell making the final run-in. Jackson was unable to add the extras with the score at 26-21.
The 13 men were on the attack again with a penalty into the corner but this time, as they set up the drive, Liebenberg emerged with the ball and Tigers could clear.
Scott made way for Matias Moroni on 47 minutes and he was soon into the action, winning a penalty and then carrying on the left as Tigers built steadily.
With a penalty advantage, Burns pushed a kick through near the posts and Reffell read it perfectly to win the race to dot down and the conversion made it 33-21.
Try number six followed with Moroni’s cleever play and pass releasing Nadolo who provided the finish and when Burns added the conversion the lead reached 19 points at 40-21.
Irish, who had been on the defensive for a while, looked sharp in attack once more around the hour mark but replacement Chris Ashton read Jackson’s final pass out wide and was able to block its path to Hassell-Collins on the touchline.
The visitors kept playing for numerous phases before a whistle in the Tigers’ favour well inside their own 22, though Bryce Hegarty when had to show precise judgement in claming a kick almost back on his own tryline.
Jackson over-struck a penalty down the right as the ball went out in-goal, allowing Tigers to gain territory which eventually brought another whistle from Dickson.
Burns turned down the kick at goal to go to the right-hand corner and they kept it close with the clock ticking into the last 10 minutes until finally a long pass to the left found Ashton and he picked his way to the line for a first Tigers score.
After Burns added the conversion, Irish grabbed their third try of the afternoon from a lineout drive in the left corner, replacement hooker Matt Cornish the scorer until a pile of bodies and Jackson kicked the conversion to make it 47-28.
Olly Robinson won turnover ball in the Irish 22 but when Tigers were blocked out, Nadolo was sin-binned with just two minutes remaining after a deliberate knock-on inside the opposition half, but there was no further scoring.