Three penalties from Billy Twelvetrees gave Tigers a 9-3 lead at half-time at the Madejski Stadium on Saturday – the least their dominance of territory and possession deserved – before Thomas Waldrom claimed a score and a penalty try secured the points.
The victory took Tigers over Irish and into second place in the table, while the 23-14 verdict also deprived their hosts of a bonus point.
“It gives us the confidence that we can go away and win, and that was very important, especially against a good Irish side,” said Tigers director of rugby Richard Cockerill.
“It is a significant win for us, our first away from home in the Aviva Premiership, and that is really important fact in going to Perpignan next week but also just because we have taken the points against a side above us in the table.
“Away from home, any win is really valuable. And Irish are a good side, they are one of the teams to beat.”
After 10 rounds of Aviva Premiership action, Tigers are six points behind leaders Northampton Saints, but have nudged ahead of Irish, Saracens and Gloucester in recent weeks.
“I said to the players on Thursday that they should be grateful to the boys in the squad who have been here through the autumn internationals,” said Cockerill. “When the Test boys went away we were fifth in the table and when they come back we were third.
“Now this win consolidates our top-four place going into Europe next week.”
Tigers dominated the first half against Irish, but their hosts enjoyed their best spell at the start of the second period, scoring a try through wing Topsy Ojo and were just two points in arrears as the game reached its last 10 minutes before Tigers got a big push on at a scrum to claim the penalty try.
“We started really well and put them under pressure, we had a lot of territory and the set-piece was really good,” added Cockerill. “But in the early part of the second half we didn’t have the ball and when we got it back we kicked it away and they are dangerous playing at you like that.
“But I thought our defence and our edge up front just swung it for us.”
Tigers’ next Aviva Premiership action is against Sale Sharks at Welford Road on December 27, followed by a first trip to Exeter Chiefs on January 2 and the derby against Northampton Saints at home a week later. Tickets are available now from the Tigers ticket office. Call the hotline on 0844 856 1880, call in at Welford Road or book online.