Leicester Tigers ran in seven tries in a 47-12 victory over Benetton Treviso in a pre-season fixture at Welford Road on Friday evening.
Scores from Logovi’i Mulipola, George McGuigan, Matt Smith and Dominic Ryan gave Tigers a 26-12 lead at half-time in a keen contest, with Ellis Genge and a double from Ben White after the break allowing Matt O’Connor’s team to back up on the win over Ospreys in their pre-season opener a week earlier.
Head coach O’Connor included a batch of the Tigers’ summer signings in his extended squad, with Ryan, Jonah Holmes, Joe Ford, Sione Kalamafoni and Nick Malouf all given the opportunity to run out at Welford Road for the first time.
Matt Toomua, who has not played since suffering a knee injury in just his second game for the club against Racing 92 last October, made a welcome return, with Mulipola and Tom Brady also back from injury.
The visitors included Tigers academy graduate Tiziano Pasquali who was called up to Italy’s senior squad for the first time during the summer.
Tigers had to wait until the eighth minute to build some phases of possession and made the breakthrough on the quarter-hour thanks to Mulipola, quickly followed by a try from front-row colleague McGuigan.
Some smart handling along the backline threatened a score on the right, with Charlie Thacker taking play close to the line before Mulipola forced his way over a couple of phases later. Ford added the extras for a 7-0 lead.
From the restart Tigers won a penalty near halfway and, after Ford had kicked to the left, McGuigan steered the drive over the line, acknowledging the role of his team-mates as he emerged from the bottom of the heap.
Treviso responded with a try from centre Ignacio Brex, winning the race to a chip in behind the Tigers defence in a smart move on the right. International fly-half Tommaso Allan put the conversion narrowly wide of the right-hand post.
But Tigers provided an immediate reply as Ford made full use of a penalty advantage to chip over the Italian defence. Brady raced in to claim possession and produced an instant pass to Smith, on hand to force his way over. Ford landed the conversion to make it 19-5 with half an hour gone.
The see-saw contest continued with a second try for Treviso, courtesy of lock Federico Ruzza to the right of the posts, and this time Allan made no mistake with the kick to cut the deficit to a single score.
It was the home side’s turn to be tested in defence, but Tigers stood up well in the forwards and made their hits out wide to keep their rivals out.
Club captain Tom Youngs earned a big reception from the home crowd when he entered the action on 38 minutes, replacing McGuigan, and he almost added the fourth try after a rampaging run by Kalamafoni and a shark break from Sam Harrison.
When Youngs took play up to the line, Tigers recycled quickly and Ryan this time was on hand to dot down. Ford added the kick in the final action of the half as Tigers stretched the lead to 26-12.
Toomua made his playing return at the start of the second half as one of a number of changes for Tigers, with Genge, Telusa Veainu and Dom Barrow among the others as the players emerged to rainfall.
Treviso, though, enjoyed the bulk of possession in the opening stages before Tigers started to regain momentum.
A series of carries close to the line, including two each for Genge and Fred Tuilagi, almost broke Treviso resistance but, when Holmes just ran out of space on the left, the home side regained possession and this time Genge carried over the line with support from the forward pack. Ford sent over his fourth conversion to make it 33-12 on the hour mark.
Tuilagi was again prominent in the build-up to the sixth score, with Ben Betts also carrying strongly before White darted off the back of a ruck to dot down. Ford landed the conversion from wide on the left before making way for replacement Tom Hardwick with Tigers 40-12 ahead.
And White added his second from another close-range dart with just two minutes remaining, allowing Toomua to claim his first points for the club with the conversion.
Tigers resume pre-season action with another home fixture against the Ospreys next Friday (August 25) before the Aviva Premiership opener against Bath Rugby at Welford Road on Sunday, September 3. Match tickets are on general sale now. Book in person at Welford Road, phone 0116 319 8888 (option 2) (open 9.00am-5.00pm daily and up to kick-off on Friday). Or book online any time.