Leicester ran out comfortable 31-9 winners over London Irish at the Madejski Stadium.
Leicester were unconvincing but ultimately ran out comfortable 31-9 winners over London Irish at the Madejski Stadium.
Last Updated: 22/12/12 6:43pm
The Tigers built up an early 14-0 lead and seemed in control but they allowed a battling Irish side a foothold in the game through three penalties from Ian Humphreys.
But a penalty from Toby Flood and two late converted tries gave the scoreline a falttering look for the visitors as they eased clear in the closing stages.
The opening exchanges were evenly contested but lacked notable incident, apart from one crunching high tackle by former Irish player Adam Thompstone on Topsy Ojo which earned Irish a penalty.
It was a piece of great awareness from Flood that allowed Leicester to open the scoring after 11 minutes - on halfway Marland Yarde was penalised for not releasing, and Flood immediately grabbed the ball, rushed to the mark and booted the ball 50 metres across the field where Niall Morris was lurking.
The winger collected a favourable bounce, stepped inside a defender and just held off a despairing Tom Homer tackle for the try, which Flood converted.
The Tigers notched their second try on the half-hour courtesy of their formidable pack, the hosts' scrum crumbling under pressure 10 metres from their line leading referee Luke Pearce to award a penalty try which Flood converted.
Just before half-time Humphreys put the Irish on the scoreboard with a simple penalty to leave them 14-3 adrift at the interval.
Hope for Irish
Early in the second half, Irish were given further hope when firstly Ben Youngs was sent to the bin for not being the required 10 metres away when tackling Darren Allinson, who had quickly taken a penalty, and then Humphreys reduced the lead with two penalties in quick succession.
Leicester were rattled but Youngs returned with no further damage to the scoreboard and the Tigers introduced Geoff Parling in place of Graham Kitchener.
A slashing break from Sailosi Tagicakibau threatened further damage to Leicester but the hosts carelessly conceded a penalty allowing the Tigers to relieve the pressure and it remained at 14-9 going into the final quarter.
With 12 minutes remaining, Flood earned the visitors some breathing space with a long-range penalty and three minutes later he had a similar chance but this time the ball rebounded back off the crossbar.
Leicester sealed victory with a second penalty try. Morris broke away from on halfway and kicked ahead - he would have secured the try himself but was taken out by Irish replacement Jamie Gibson, who was yellow-carded, before Flood added the conversion.
With the last movement of the game, Flood made a neat break to send Morris on a 50-metre run to the line for Leicester's bonus-point try.