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.
That's pre-season over. Tigers are back at Welford Road on Saturday, September 8 for the first home game of the Gallagher Premiership. Match tickets are on sale now. See you there!
LeoVegas Man of the Match
Tigers fans vote Eastmond their LeoVegas Man of the Match after an eye-catching first appearance in Tigers colours at Welford Road. Well played Kyle.
That's the game
Irish knock on at the lineout and Harrison gleefully boots the ball into touch. Tigers finish pre-season with a 46-17 victory.
Another yellow ...
... now Mapapalangi is yellow carded for another lineout offence. Tigers down to 13 in added time ...
Yellow for Wells
Tigers will end the game with 14 men as Wells infringes at a defensive lineout. This a test for the Tigers defence.
Happy Tigers fans
That try will send the Tigers Family home with a smile on their face as Joe Ford adds the conversion. Tigers lead 46-17 with seconds remaining.
Crackerjack try for Olowofela
Left, right, foot on the gas, through a gap and over. That was some try by Jordan Olowofela, Tigers' sixth of the night. Well worth looking for our highlights package on LTTV!
Myler on the mark
Myler adds a simple conversion to cut the Tigers lead to 39-17 going into the closing stages.
Irish have their try
The Irish pressure finally tells and Irish cross for their second try. It is Tom Stephenson who spins out of Gigena's tackle to score.
Tigers put together a solid defensive set to keep Irish at bay on their line. It ends with a high tackle against Harrison, and Irish go to the corner ...
Yet more replacements!
The Tigers replacements keep on coming. Olowofela, Worth, Gigena and Joe Ford on for Thompstone, Veainu, Ma'afu and George Ford. We think!
Tino goes close
Mapapalangi is inches short of the line, but is pinged for a triple movement ...
Ovation for Eastmond
The Terrace gives Eastmond a huge ovation as he leaves the field, replaced by Tom Hardwick. Sam Harrison on for Youngs and Tino Mapapalangi on for Kalamafoni. In the meantime, Ford has kicked the extras!
What a substitution!
Jonah Holmes scores with his first touch. Veainu's kick causes confusion in the Irish defence and Holmes receives possession for the easiest of tries.
The replacements keep coming
You can tell it's a pre-season game as both teams rings the changes. Holmes now on for May.
Here come the Irish cavalry!
Irish introduce eight players from the bench, including former Tiger Seb de Chaves.
Front row replacements
Lovely reception for Cole and Spencer as they leave the field, replaced by Gaston Cortes and Wells. Former Tiger Pat Cilliers is on for Irish too.
Smith smashing into things
Matt Smith is rolling back the years and smashing into everything in defence and attack. It's great to see from the experienced centre.
Welcome back to Jimmy Stevens, the former Tigers hooker, who has replaced Tom Youngs in the front row.
Myler makes no mistake
Myler, with his first involvement, lands the conversion to leave Tigers 32-10 ahead.
Irish go over
Irish eyes are smiling as Ben Meehan puts hooker Dave Porecki through a gap and under the posts.
Former Saint Stephen Myler makes a return to Welford Road as an Irish replacement. McKibbin also on.
LeoVegas Man of the Match voting open
Vote for your LeoVegas Man of the Match now on the Tigers app.
First points of the half
May is unable to make the most of a penalty advantage, and is tackled in the corner. Play comes back for an offside penalty bang in front, which Ford lands. 32-3.
Tigers shuffle the pack
Reffell is back on, this time for Harry Wells. Williams moves from the back row into the second row.
After an effective 40 minutes, Manu Tuilagi has been replaced at half-time by Matt Smith in a tactical swap.
Let's go again
The second-half is underway with Tigers attacking the Robin Hood Stand end of the ground
That's the half
An entertaining half comes to an end with Tigers leading 29-3 thanks to tries from May, Ben Youngs, Denton and Spencer.
Pre-season test for everyone!
It's a good pre-season workout for the Tigers press team too as we try to keep up with the try-scoring on the pitch
It's raining tries
Will Spencer now gets in on the act. Tuilagi's bulldozing run gets the move going, Ford spots Adam Thompstone in space on the right with a neat kick, he pops the pass back inside for Spencer to force his way over for a third try in five minutes.
More on the try
Tigers counterattacked from their own line through Veainu and May. Eastmond then burst through a gap around halfway, motored away and as he was tackled by last-man Tonks somehow found Ben Youngs for a run to the line. Ford converts.
What. A. Try!
Ben Youngs has Tigers' third, but it owed so much to Eastmond and his quick feet!
Ford has a simple kick to complete the score and move Tigers 17-3 ahead.
Denton is at the heart of things as he pushes Youngs up to 5m and, two phases later, the Scotland international drives over to score with a couple of defenders hanging off him.
Sunset at Welford Road
Welford Road looks a picture this evening with the sun setting behind the Robin Hood Stand
Denton dents the defence
David Denton latches into Ford's short pass and makes around 15m with defenders hanging off him. First replacements of the evening for Tigers, it's tactical, with Mike Williams and David Feao on for Tommy Reffell and Ma'afu
Share your images
There's a break in play for running repairs. And the Irish water carrier looks a dead ringer for former Tigers winger Tom Brady.
Coley is back!
Dan Cole does what Dan Cole does and wins the scrum penalty against Gordon Reid. But Ford kicks the penalty dead, and Cole will have to do it all again!
Slick Tigers handling
Tigers move their attack from one flank to the other with some lovely handling. But an error at the base of a ruck by Ben Youngs gives Irish the scrum.
Unidentified flying boot
Matt Rogerson, the Irish No8, has lost his boot, which was last seen flying towards the Tigers 10m line with the help of a Leicester hand! But Irish have a penalty for offside and Tonks puts their first points on the board.
Back come Irish
Ford can't find touch with his kick, and lovely skill by Greig Tonks finds Luke McLean for the Exiles to attack again.
To me, to you
Kyle Eastmond was robbed of possession as he tried to run clear, but Irish knock-on as they gather before Tigers knock the ball back. We'll restart with another scrum
Tigers win the turnover
Campese Ma'afu feeling the love from his teammates as Tigers halt the drive and prevent the ball being released. 5m scrum to Tigers.
Tigers collapse the maul and Irish go to the corner again.
Sione Kalamafoni is pinged for a side entry, and Irish kick to 5m. Here is a test of the maul defence.
Ford looks good from the tee as he adds the extras. Tigers lead 10-0.
May on the Mark
A lovely backs try by the Tigers stretches the lead. Ben Youngs's pass cut out a couple of defenders and found Veainu, he fixed his man and passed inside for Youngs to ship it on and May to score under the posts. Lovely stuff.
Points on the board
Tigers have an early three-point lead as Ford smacks the penalty over.
Tuilagi is back
Manu Tuilagi announces his return to action with a huge carry on the Irish 22. The Exiles are pinged at the ruck and Ford points to the posts ...
Four minutes in and it's a first scrum, though Tigers feel they should have a penalty for the catch in front of the knock-on. But Tigers do get the verdict at the scrum. Ford kicks into Irish territory
A huge collision as Will Spencer and Teofilo Paulo meet in midfield for the first time in the game. They are both big units!
George Ford gets us going, with Tigers attacking the Mattioli Woods Stand end of the ground. Come on you Tigers!
And here come the Tigers
... led by Tom Youngs, the Tigers are out on to the Welford Road pitch. Good luck boys!
Here come Irish
Our visitors London Irish are first on to the pitch ...
Warm-ups are over
The Tigers head back into the changing rooms after completing their warm-up. London Irish are already in theirs. Kick-off is moments away.
Hear from the gaffer
Matt O'Connor has spoken to LTTV ahead of this evening's return to Welford Road. Hear from now.
Matt O'Connor has named his team for this evening's final pre-season fixture against London Irish. Ben White is in for Harry Simmonds on the bench.
TIGERS TEAM CHANGE
Tigers head coach Matt O'Connor has made one change to the 31-man squad named on Thursday, with England U20s captain Ben White coming in to the side on the bench in place of Harry Simmons.
We're back! 119 days since the last time they were ticking over, the Welford Road turnstiles are turning again as gates open for tonight's pre-season fixture against London Irish! It just feels right...
NOT LONG NOW...
We are less than 10 minutes from the first turnstile turning this season, with gates opening at 6.15pm this evening ahead of our 7.45pm kick off in this pre-season fixture!
The Junior Tigers Club is open in the Final Whistle at Welford Road, for youngsters keen to start their matchday early. Head on over and enter via the Holland & Barrett Stand side of the stadium.
HOME SWEET HOME!
The grass is cut, lines are drawn, bars stocked and pies in the oven. Rugby is back at Welford Road and we couldn't be more excited for our first run out in front of the Tigers Family tonight against London Irish!