Leicester Tigers made it four wins from four games in the Champions Cup with a 17-6 victory over Munster Rugby at Welford Road on Sunday afternoon.
Tigers scored a try in each half as they consolidated their position at the top of Pool 4 with a second victory over the Irish province in a week.
Tigers, who won 31-19 at Munster's Thomond Park last week, fell behind to Ian Keatley’s penalty before Ed Slater forced his way over from close range to give Tigers the lead for the first time on 23 minutes.
Winger Vereniki Goneva settled the game with the second try 13 minutes from time when he finished off a neat break by Peter Betham.
But the win was built on Tigers’ defence, which prevented Munster scoring a single point in the second half. It was typified by Telusa Veainu’s lung-busting run and tackle on Francis Saili that prevented the Munster centre scoring a length-of-the-field try, and saw Leicester deny their visitors a match point in the battle for quarter-final qualification.
Betham and Freddie Burns returned to the Tigers team. Betham lined up alongside Matt Smith at centre while Burns came in for Owen Williams at fly-half.
There were no changes among the forwards, while Tom Croft recovered from illness to take a place among the replacements in the only other change to last week's line-up.
Munster made a change at prop with the injured BJ Botha replaced by John Ryan. The visitors were forced into a change before kick-off when Donnacha Ryan was ruled out through illness. He was replaced in the second row by Mark Chisholm with Billy Holland coming onto the bench.
The game kicked off in a wonderful atmosphere and Tigers looked to make the early running, moving the ball to the wide channels where Ed Slater and Telusa Veainu tested the Munster defence.
But it was Munster who enjoyed the best of the early exchanges. They had a good shape to their first attack and created space on the left for Chisholm to make ground. He went into contact with men outside him but won a penalty at the ruck. Keatley landed the penalty to give Munster a 3-0 lead.
Munster pressed again through their captain CJ Stander, but he knocked on as a gap looked to have opened in the Tigers defence. It then took a good tackle by Betham to halt Denis Hurley’s threatening break on halfway.
Munster’s early possession earned them a second penalty but Keatley was wide with his kick to leave Tigers 3-0 down after 14 minutes.
The game was played at a breakneck speed, with the tackle area fiercely contested. Ben Youngs kept his cool as the muck and bullets flew, wrapping round Lachlan McCaffrey and sending Telusa Veainu through a gap into the Munster 22 where the full-back was stopped by Keatley’s high tackle.
Referee Jerome Garces awarded a penalty only but from the lineout Tigers surged into the lead. The Tigers forwards drove the ball up to the line and Slater forced his way over for his first try of the season. Burns’s conversion gave Leicester a 7-3 lead.
At the other end, Tigers sacked a Munster lineout drive and then won a penalty as their defence stood firm close to the line.
A lovely offload by Betham on halfway opened the Munster defence and when he rejoined the attack his arcing run look set to take him over at the right corner but he passed inside to Thompstone who was shepherded into traffic.
Tigers did extend their lead four minutes before half-time when Burns landed a penalty from the left. Graham Kitchener was replaced by Dom Barrow before the game restarted.
Tigers finished the half with 14 men, Barrow was yellow-carded for being offside as Munster recycled quick ball in midfield. Keatley landed the penalty to leave Tigers 10-6 ahead at the break.
Munster threatened early in the second half when Saili burst through a couple of tackles and into the Leicester 22. He was stopped by Betham before McCaffrey stole possession for Burns to find touch.
Munster continued to press and created an overlap on the left but Conor Murray forced the issue and his last pass to James Cronin went forward.
The visitors were awarded a penalty at the first scrum of the second half but Keatley was wide with his kick before Barrow returned to the action.
Tigers turned over Keith Earls on his 22 to spark their first attack of the half. Fitzgerald took up possession but was tackled by last-man Andrew Conway. Tigers poured forwards but were pinged for holding on a couple of phases later.
At the other end, Adam Thompstone did well to field Simon Zebo’s kick with three Munster players bearing down on him and buy time for his teammates to get round him.
Burns was then wide with a penalty after opposite number Keatley went offside at a defensive ruck, before Betham's run into the Munster was halted by Saili, who bundled him into touch.
Replacement flanker Tom Croft made a mess of the lineout and Earls’s hurried clearance gave Tigers a lineout 10m out. Tigers had Munster under huge pressure at the lineout and looked certain to score at the left but Denis Hurley knocked-on as he tackled Burns with Matt Smith and Vereniki Goneva unmarked outside.
Referee Garces awarded the scrum only, with Tigers fans calling for a penalty try.
Veainu then showed a stunning turn of pace to catch Saili as the Munster centre ran the length of the field after swooping on a loose pass. Veainu somehow got across to make the tackle, Saili offloaded to Earls but Thompstone had tracked his run and won a holding-on penalty in the shadow of his posts.
It was a match-winning intervention, and Tigers took full advantage by scoring at the other end moments later.
Betham, who was a constant threat, carved another opening in the Munster defence, and when he was tackled he passed off the ground for the supporting Goneva to score by the posts. Burns’s conversion gave Tigers a 17-6 lead with 13 minutes left.
Last-man Veainu, the Heineken Man-of-the-Match, then produced another excellent tackle to stop CJ Stander before Slater’s work at the breakdown won another holding-on penalty to underline the effectiveness of their defence..
HT ScoreHalf Time Score
LEI 10-6 MUN
FT ScoreFull Time Score
LEI 17-6 MUN
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