Leicester Tigers scored six tries in a 46-17 victory over London Irish in the final warm-up game ahead of the new season.at Welford Road on Friday evening.
Tigers claimed five first-half scores to lead 29-3 at the break with newcomers David Denton and Will Spencer among the scorers.
Another two tries followed after the break, though Tigers also had to get through work in defence, particularly against the Irish forward pack.
New signings Spencer and Kyle Eastmond made an early impression with their defensive work, though a heavy shower ahead of kick-off did not help handling in the early stages.
Telusa Veainu, though, showed a safe pair of hands from a couple of early Irish kicks while Manu Tuilagi, in his first outing of the summer, got his hands on the ball as Tigers built phase-play in the opening quarter which gained its first reward with a George Ford penalty which broke the deadlock on eight minutes.
The breakthrough try came three minutes later, with Jonny May set free by the Tigers backline to dive in near the posts.
Ben Youngs spotted numbers on the right and pinged a pass out wide, with Veainu and then Youngs again involved before popping the pass for May who had come in off the right wing. Ford’s conversion made it 10-0.
Irish turned down a kick at the posts to go the left-hand corner with a penalty on 14 minutes and had a second opportunity when Tigers were adjudged to have pulled down their maul five metres short of the line. This time, though, the defence managed to wrap up possession and earned put-in at a scrum on the five-metre line. Tigers then juggled ball on their own line but were fortunate that Irish knocked-on as they scrapped for possession.
Irish remained camped in Tigers territory and got on the scoreboard with a Greig Tonks penalty as the game reached the 20-minute mark.
Good footwork from Veainu threatened the defensive line 10 metres inside the Irish half but, just as space began to open up, Tigers were whistled for a knock-on at the breakdown.
A carry from David Denton took play up towards the Irish 22 and there was a sniff of a chance out wide with Spencer trying to find Adam Thompstone but the ball just spilled loose.
Tonga prop David Feao made his first appearance on the half-hour mark and Mike Williams joined the back row, and both were immediately into the action as a big heave won a scrum penalty and then both played their part in an attack which brought a second try, with Denton forcing his way over to the left of the posts. Ford chipped the conversion over to make it 17-3.
A third try followed quickly and had the home crowd on their feet as Eastmond broke tackles on halfway and then took on the last line of defence before finding Ben Youngs with a tidy offload 20 metres out and the scrum-half ran in to score. Ford’s extras made it 24-3 on 34 minutes.
Eastmond was immediately involved again, finding centre partner Tuilagi in midfield and the big England international left two defenders on the ground as he broke free. When Youngs sent play to the right and Ford chipped for Thompstone, second-rower Spencer was able to force his way over the line to score on his first Tigers appearance. Ford was off the mark with the conversion attempt but the lead had reached 29-3 with five minutes remaining in the half.
Matt Smith joined the backline for the start of the second half after Tuilagi had got an important half under his belt.
A big forward drive on the right provided a solid platform for the Tigers backline to get moving in the first attack of the half but, with the referee playing advantage May was blocked just short of the line. Play came back for the penalty and Ford added the three points from in front of the posts.
But it was the visitors who grabbed the first try of the half, showing patience in possession to put hooker Dave Porecki in under the posts. Stephen Myler, a summer signing from Northampton, added the conversion.
Spencer and Dan Cole got through an hour’s work in the Tigers pack before making way, while Irish changed their entire pack in one burst.
Jonah Holmes replaced May on the wing on 62 minutes and his first touch of the ball was scoring from a break on the right, with Ford adding the conversion to make it 39-10.
Eastmond’s night’s work was done and he received a warm round of applause from the crowd as he made way as both coaching tams continued to spread gametime through their ranks.
A Denton charge gave Tigers forward impetus one again but Valentino Mapapalangi was penalised as he crawled towards the tryline following a big forward drive.
Tigers were then forced into defence, with the forwards making their tackles on Irish’s ball-carriers almost within touching distance of the tryline. A drive in the corner was then repelled but referee Adam Leal blew gain and Irish had another chance to set up their maul and, after keeping out the initial push, Irish kept ball and scored on the right, with Tom Stephenson credited with the final push. Myler added the kick to make it 39-17 with five minutes left to play.
England Under-20s cap Jordan Olowofela then showed his elusive and powerful running, stepping inside two defenders to run in for try number six and replacement Joe Ford kicked the conversion.
Irish, though, retained their appetite in attack, with the forward carrying strongly and Tigers lost Harry Wells and Mapapalangi to yellow cards before the visitors missed a lineout throw in the final action of the game.