Leicester Tigers Development XV secured a bonus-point 42-7 win over Worcester Cavaliers in Sunday’s Premiership ‘A’ League fixture at Welford Road.
Tries from Tom Brady – just three minutes into his comeback appearance after injury – and No8 Fred Tuilagi, both converted by Tom Hardwick, gave Tigers a 14-point lead at half-time.
Cavaliers finally got on the board on 57 minutes before replacement hooker Harry Mahoney restored the 14-point gap for Tigers and then 17-year-old Henri Lavin provided the bonus-point score as Tigers finished strongly. Mahoney grabbed his second before teenage lock Cameron Jordan provided a final score in the closing seconds of the game as Tigers made it three wins from four games in the northern conference.
George Worth ran out as captain in the ‘A’ League for the first time, with Argentina international prop Facundo Gigena making his first appearance for the club and England Under-18s tighthead Joe Heyes making his first start at this level.
Brady, without a game since injuring an ankle in pre-season, provided the opening score of a chilly afternoon, arriving in support of a quick break from Jordan Olowofela on the right wing and beating the covering defence to dive in under the posts. Hardwick added the conversion for a seven-point lead.
Hardwick’s break and a follow-up from Charlie Thacker provided the impetus for a second try approaching the 20-minute mark, with Tigers patiently hitting their runners from a series of rucks before No8 Tuilagi forced his way over to the right of the posts. Hardwick added a second conversion to make it 14-0 at the end of the first quarter.
Tigers then had to stand up to a number of phases of play from the visitors, though most of them were around the halfway mark, before Cavaliers knocked-on after setting up a lineout drive from a penalty on their right.
The second quarter was played mostly in neutral territory, both sides searching for gaps and both defences standing up to the task.
Harry Simmons showed his pace to halt a break from Luke Baldwin’s tap penalty near halfway, the Tigers scrum-half chasing down his man and then getting back to his feet to contest the ball and win a penalty. But Tigers were unable to build from there, spilling ball at the lineout on halfway just as they looked for a platform for attack and the opening period ended with Tigers 14 points to the good.
The second half began with Ben White on for Simmons at scrum-half and Tigers enjoying the majority of possession, though mostly inside their own half. And they had an escape when centre Max Stelling found a gap 30 metres out and threatened the line. But his grub-kick forward evaded the grasp of Howe who knocked on just a handful of metres short of the tryline.
Cavaliers then created a half-chance on their left, with former Tigers academy player Perry Humphreys hoping to find left wing Alex Hearle with a kick in behind the defence but White got back to get his hands to the ball first, though the knock-on gave Worcester another opportunity from the scrum. This time, though, the Tigers defence stood firm, with Thacker producing a particularly well timed hit to stop the threat out wide.
Tigers were finding it hard to get out of their own half and Worcester finally found a breakthrough on 57 minutes when scrum-half Baldwin’s footwork took him up towards the line and lock Darren Barry arrived to score. Sam Olver added the conversion from just to the left of the posts, cutting the deficit to seven points.
When Tigers finally made it up to the Cavaliers 22, entering the final quarter, Olver was able to win a penalty with his work at the breakdown and the visitors were back on to the front foot, kicking down their left flank but Tigers worked well in the defensive lineout to frustrate the visitors again and get put-in at a scrum.
Further aggressive work off the ball in the Cavaliers half earned another scrum put-in 35 metres out led to a third try for Tigers. Carrying strongly in a central position, replacement hooker Harry Mahoney squirmed out of pone tackle and then still had the pace to get to the line with the Cavaliers defence splintered.
After Hardwick added the conversion, a burst from White almost provided a fourth score but he was brought down 10 metres out and then prop Owen Hills showed a clean pair of heels to the defence, only to see Mahoney shut out just short of the line.
But respite for the visitors did not last long as flanker Henri Lavin managed to wriggle out of a tackle to dot down the bonus-point score to the right of the posts and Hardwick made it four from four conversion attempts as the lead reached 28-7.
Mahoney showed his finishing ability again moments later, beating two defenders tight to the right touchline and reaching out to score in the corner before Hardwick added the extras and put the contest out of Worcester’s reach.
There was still time for another debutant, who turned 18 earlier this month, providing the final push for the line after some patient close-range work from Tigers. Replacement Joe Carolan, from Loughborough University, added the kick to close the game.