London Irish scored a bonus-point victory over Leicester Tigers on a disappointing afternoon for Geordan Murphy’s men at the Madejski Stadium on Sunday.
The teams occupied the bottom two places in the Gallagher Premiership table after Saturday’s results in Round 4 and tries from Ollie Hoskins and Ben Loader in the first 20 minutes put Irish on their way to a 36-11 triumph.
In a first half punctuated by penalties and scrums, Tigers registered just two penalty kicks from Tom Hardwick before a controversial score from Ruan Botha in added time made it 22-6 in favour of the hosts at the break.
The second period continued in a similar fractious and disjointed manner with Waisake Naholo adding a fourth try for the hosts and then Tom Parton the fifth as Tigers failed to register a point until Jonah Holmes dotted down in the final play.
Back-rower Jordan Taufua made his Tigers debut but Hanro Liebenberg and Tatafu Polota-Nau joined Tommy Reffell, Will Spencer, Kyle Eastmond and full-back Telusa Veainu, who was injured in the win over Gloucester in Round 3, on the sidelines. Sam Aspland-Robinson was ruled out on the day of the game too, with Ifereimi Boladau coming on to the bench.
Tigers, wearing the club’s fluoro-red alternate kit and poppy armbands in this Remembrance Sunday fixture, got the game under way and had immediate advantage from a knock-on but were kept out in the area around the Irish 22-metre line.
Irish eventually made their way out and earned three penalties on the right side before creating a breakthrough score for prop Hoskins from a lineout drive.
Hardwick then kicked his opening points with a penalty given for offside 35 metres out.
After failing to exit cleanly from the restart, Tigers were again blown for offside on the blindside of a ruck and defended another close-range lineout before Irish were held up on the tryline.
At the intervention of the television match official, though, Tigers were awarded a penalty for a neck-roll on Guy Thompson.
But they cleared only 20 metres upfield, and then spilled ball at the lineout which proved costly as Irish attacked from the scrum to score a second try through wing Loader. Stephen Myler’s conversion made it 12-3 with a quarter of the game played.
Greg Bateman and flanker Thompson combined in attack and this time infringed on the floor and Hardwick added the kick from 20 metres to pull his team within a score at 12-6.
The period approaching half-time was going to be crucial and Myler supplied another three points with a 40-metre penalty to stretch the lead two minutes from the break.
But worse was to follow for the visitors as Tigers lost ball in attack with 40 minutes already elapsed and Irish quickly countered to allow Botha to force his way over on the left.
Referee Doyle was called back to check for a potential forward pass and TMO Sean Davey believed the ball had left the hand of the Irish player three yards short of his own 22 and was caught on the line. But, after watching the replays, the officials on the field called it flat and went with the original verdict of a try. Myler added the kick to make it 22-6.
Tigers began the second period with Facundo Gigena and Ifereimi Boladau on for Bateman and Taufua.
The whistle continued to punctuate proceedings with Irish receiving a warning from Doyle for repeated infringements in the corner. After three separate lineout drives, they kept Tigers out, but gave away two more penalties near halfway with Tigers in possession.
Ferocious defence hit another lineout drive in the same corner before a flare-up among the forwards which brought another talking-to from the referee for both captains.
Tomas Lavanini joined the pack on 55 minutes with play bogged down between set-pieces in the central third of the field and Tigers created their best opportunity when Forsyth burst through on an arc in midfield but the chance went begging when he missed Holmes with the pass inside.
Then, when Tigers lost ball under a high kick on their 22, Irish quickly switched play with a kick out to Naholo, who managed to dot down under pressure from Holmes in the corner for their bonus-point score. Myler struck the conversion well to make it 29-6 on 66 minutes.
Irish saw out the last few minutes with 14 men when replacement Matt Rogerson received a yellow card for 'team offences' but they held out a promising Tigers attack in the corner and were then penalised for barging Lavanini over a ruck as they defended their own line.
Tigers kept them pinned back, but then conceded a fifth try when they spilled ball 20 metres out and Irish replacement Tom Parton raced away 80 metres to dive in under the posts. Nick Phipps added the kick to stretch the lead.
Holmes grabbed his team’s first points since the opening half-hour when he slid into the left-hand corner in the last attack of the game, but Hardwick was just short of the near post with his conversion kick.