Leicester Tigers beat London Irish 33-31 as the teams shared 10 tries at Mattioli Woods Welford Road on Sunday.
In the first Gallagher Premiership game at home since the start of October, Tigers were 26-7 in front in the first half in the Round 11 contest, but had to survive a big fightback to take the points.
A try from Julián Montoya on his return from the autumn internationals provided a with just two minutes played and Tigers added three more in the opening half an hour through Richard Wigglesworth, Harry Potter and Tommy Reffell.
Irish had two of their own before the break, the second of which was a penalty try which also cost a yellow card for Olly Cracknell as Tigers reached the break 26-14 in front.
But two tries in four minutes from the visitors threatened to turn the game on its head as Irish brought the scores level with half an hour still to play and, after one more try each, it remained tight at 33-31 entering the final quarter before the outcome was finally settled.
Montoya was among five senior players welcomed back by Steve Borthwick from international duties, while Ollie Chessum returned after eight weeks on the sidelines.
Nemani Nadolo, who scored twice in this fixture last season, ran out for his 43rd and final appearance for the club before his return to Australia and earned a tremendous reception from the crowd on his way on and off the field.
The teams joined tributes to former Scotland and Lions lock Doddie Weir ahead of kick-off on a mild afternoon at Mattioli Woods Welford Road and Tigers were first on the attack and on the scoreboard.
Olly Cracknell scythed his way through the defensive line to win a penalty 22 metres out and, after going to the corner, the No8 was back on the ball before Montoya picked up at the back of a ruck and found his way over to score. Freddie Burns made it a seven-point score in front of the biggest home crowd of the season so far.
An offside in kickchase gave Irish an exit and Paddy Jackson judged his kick well into the right-hand corner for attacking position. Quick hands gave them a chance but lock Api Ratuniyawara was held up.
Within a few minutes, Irish had another opportunity and, when the lineout drive was held up, one more pass found Ratuniyawara and he had enough power to get over the line. The conversion from Jackson levelled the scores.
Tigers, though, quickly celebrated a second try, with scrum-half Wigglesworth sneaking around the blindside of a lineout drive to dive in, though the TMO did review several times before confirming.
Anthony Watson moved through the gears in a break from deep and, although Irish covered in defence, a sliced kick from full-back Tom Parton restricted their advance and Burns judged a prod into the corner perfectly before the whistle went against the home team at a maul.
Another piece of opportunism brought a third try as Tigers defended hard and, when Irish were forced into an error, Matt Scott reacted to pick up loose ball, break to halfway and then, assessing what was in front of him, measured his kick perfectly for Potter to chase. His midfield partner won the footrace, gathered possession and slid in for the score.
The conversion took Burns past 1,500 Premiership points and gave Tigers a 19-7 lead on 25 minutes.
He was back on the tee again after the bonus-point try from Reffell, scored following Irish indiscipline.
From a lineout penalty on halfway, Burns belted play into the left-hand corner just five metres short of the tryline and his colleagues made the most of the position, pushing the defence back and then gaining another penalty which set up a drive for Reffell to add the finish on the half-hour mark.
Tom Pearson led an Irish attack from the restart but, after beating the first tackler, he was penalised in possession as Reffell contested on the floor. But the Tigers flanker was penalised moments later with Irish backing their set-piece in the corner to provide a response.
Although Cracknell got under the final push by Pearson, the referee and TMO consulted replays before judging he had pulled down the maul short of the tryline and therefore awarded a seven-point score and sent the Tigers man to the sin bin.
Tigers began the second half still a man down, adding Nadolo to the forward pack to cover Cracknell's absence, but the Fiji international left the field to a big reception on 47 minutes, replaced by Guy Porter.
The England man had barely taken his place on the field before Irish claimed a third try, using another penalty to get Matt Rogerson over the line, and they added a fourth just moments later as Pearson smuggled possession in his own half and Ollie Hassell-Collins raced clear on the left touchline. Jackson was off-target, though, with the conversion with scores level at 26-26.
Chessum made his return alongside Jasper Wiese from the bench and the South African made an instant impact, carrying over the tryline from a period of pressure and Burns added the kick for a seven-point lead.
But Irish broke away again on the left, Hassell-Collins chasing his own kick ahead and then the support arriving to recycle ball for Pearson to pick up and beat the last defenders to score. Jackson missed the kick with two points between the teams.
A scrum penalty gave Tigers an opportunity on the right but they had to go back before going forward, finally settling for a drop goal shot but Burns pushed it right of the posts. The fly-half also missed a long-range penalty from a scrum penalty on halfway.
A combination of George Martin and Reffell stopped Irish progress in Tigers territory and then the forward pack resisted a lineout drive to wrap up the ball and their opponents to protect that narrow advantage.
Composure among the forwards negotiated the closing minutes, gaining penalties and territory as play reached the Irish five-metre line before finally bringing the game to an end with five points banked.
Leicester Tigers 33-31 London Irish
Teams shared 10 tries as Tigers take the 5 points.
Jackson misses conversion kick with Tigers 33-31 ahead on 62min.
Irish break up the left, hack ball ahead and recover possession for Tom Pearson to score his second of the day. It's 5-5 on tries, 33-31 on the scoreboard.
Welcome back to Ollie Chessum too, on for Cal Green.
Excellent conversion kick by Burns makes it 33-26 on 58mins.
Tigers steady the ship with a try from replacement Jasper Wiese.
Irish have broken away for their 4th score, Hassell-Collins going from halfway on the to left. Jackson off target with conversion with scores level at 26-26.
Matt Rogerson scores for Irish, 26-19 on 48min
Jackson converts to cut the gap to 26-21.
Big reception for Nemani Nadolo as he departs, replaced by Guy Porter.
Leicester Tigers 26-14 London Irish.
Tries from Julian Montoya, Richard Wigglesworth, Harry Potter and Tommy Reffell for Tigers. Ratuniyarawa and a Penalty Try for Irish.
No8 Olly Cracknell judged to have brought down the maul on the tryline and is sin-binned.
Penalty try awarded to London Irish as they set up maul drive to the line, 26-14
Burns adds the conversion from wide on the left for a 26-7 lead.
Try No4 is from Tommy Reffell after pressure in the left-hand corner following a pinpoint penalty by Burns. 24-7.
Freddie Burns kicks to conversion to move past 1,500 points in his Premiership career. 19-7.
Harry Potter races on to Matt Scott's clever kick to score try No3. 17-7 on 24min
Richard Wigglesworth has scored a real opportunist try, sneaking around a lineout drive to dive in and score. 12-5. Burns off target with the conversion kick.
Paddy Jackson adds the conversion and it's 7-7 on 13min.
Api Ratuniyawara used his reach to get to the tryline for Irish, 7-5
Burns converts the Montoya try, Tigers lead 7-0 on 3min
TRY TIME for Julian Montoya after a big start from the Tigers.
KICK-OFF | Leicester Tigers v London Irish
The home team will get the game started. Tigers are in green shirts, playing towards the Mattioli Woods Stand end in the first half. Here we go…
There will be pre-match tribute paid ahead of kick-off this afternoon to Doddie Weir.
LONDON IRISH: 15 Tom Parton, 14 Ben Loader, 13 Will Joseph, 12 Benhard van Rensburg, 11 Ollie Hassell-Collins, 10 Paddy Jackson, 9 Joe Powell, 1 Facundo Gigena, 2 Agustin Creevy, 3 Lovejoy Chawatama, 4 Api Ratuniyarawa, 5 Chunya Munga, 6 Matt Rogerson (c), 7 Tom Pearson, 8 So’otala Fa’aso’o.
REPLACEMENTS: 16 Mike Willemse, 17 Danilo Fischetti, 18 Oliver Hoskins, 19 Josh Caulfield, 20 Juan Martin Gonzalez, 21 Chandler Cunningham-South, 22 Ben White, 23 Luca Morisi.
HOW TIGERS LINE-UP
STARTING XV: 15 Anthony Watson , 14 Chris Ashton , 13 Harry Potter , 12 Matt Scott , 11 Nemani Nadolo , 10 Freddie Burns , 9 Richard Wigglesworth (vc) ; 1 James Whitcombe , 2 Julián Montoya (vc) , 3 Dan Cole , 4 George Martin , 5 Calum Green , 6 Hanro Liebenberg (c) , 7 Tommy Reffell , 8 Olly Cracknell 
REPLACEMENTS: 16 Charlie Clare , 17 Francois van Wyk , 18 Joe Heyes , 19 Ollie Chessum , 20 Jasper Wiese , 21 Sam Edwards , 22 Charlie Atkinson , 23 Guy Porter 
MATCH PREVIEW | Leicester Tigers v London Irish
Leicester Tigers host a Gallagher Premiership fixture for the first time in 50 days as London Irish come to Mattioli Woods Welford Road this afternoon.
Scheduled league dates with Wasps and Worcester Warriors have both been cancelled since Tigers last played at home in league competition against Sale Sharks back on October 8 – in a game which ended a 14-match winning run in the competition at home.
Tigers have won their last three league meetings with Irish, including a 47-28 victory in this fixture last season when Nemani Nadolo scored two of the seven tries. The Fijian wing makes his 43rd and final appearance for the club today before his return to Australia with the NSW Waratahs.
Head coach Steve Borthwick includes five players returning from the international period in his 23, including Julián Montoya and Jasper Wiese, while Ollie Chessum returns from injury.
Matt Scott, who lines up alongside Harry Potter at centre, says: “Whenever you watch a London Irish game, it tends to be very entertaining. They have individuals who thrive in broken-field play, Paddy Jackson controls everything at 10. Like us, they’ve not played a lot recently either and will be really excited to come and play us.”
Declan Kidney, irish director of rugby, added: "An away fixture to Leicester Tigers is always an exciting prospect. We know the style of rugby that they will want to play, and it will be up to us to counter that.”
Referee is Anthony Woodthorpe, in his 17th Premiership appointment.
UP WITH THE ACTION
Wherever you are today, you can keep up to date with the Tigers action from the Gallagher Premiership fixture against London Irish with Matchday Live on the Tigers App and website at www.leicestertigers.com. Kick-off is at 3.00pm.