Leicester leave it late
Leicester grabbed a dramatic 32-23 win over London Irish at Welford Road to finish on top of the Aviva Premiership table.
Last Updated: 07/05/11 6:43pm
Leicester left it late to seal top spot in the Aviva Premiership, scoring four tries in the final 12 minutes to grab a dramatic 32-23 win over London Irish.
The Exiles looked set to register a rare away triumph at Welford Road when they led 23-8 thanks to two intercept tries from Topsy Ojo and Tom Homer's boot.
However the reigning champions hit back in stunning fashion to grab a bonus-point victory that means they, and not Saracens, finish at the summit.
Horacio Agulla, Anthony Allen and Tom Croft all crossed in a grandstand finale before Alesana Tuilagi's 12th try of the campaign sealed the result - and a mouth-watering home semi-final against Northampton to boot.
Up until their stunning scoring spree the Tigers had looked anything but table-toppers in a game littered with handling errors and poor decision-making.
They had taken an early lead thanks to a Toby Flood penalty, only for Homer to reply for the visitors with three points of his own.
Needing a positive result themselves to be certain of a top-six finish, the Exiles hit the front when Ojo intercepted Flood's hopeful pass and raced 50 metres to score under the posts.
Homer's conversion made it 10-3 and although Matty Smith did cross to cut the gap to two points, Leicester were struggling to get out of neutral, never mind hit top gear.
Alesana Tuilagi failed to hang on to a short pass when he looked set to go over, while Croft's inability to finish off a glorious chance left the normally vocal home fans stunned into silence.
With Flood also missing a kickable penalty just before the half hour, the home team went in at the break scratching their heads at how they were behind.
A second Homer penalty had made it 13-8 at the interval before Ojo received his second gift at the start of the second half, the winger this time swooping on a loose ball to gallop clear to complete his brace.
Homer converted from right in front of the uprights and then added a further three points after 68 minutes to open up a sizeable 15-point cushion.
Leicester, though, were in no mood to finish the regular season with a whimper. Showing true champion spirit, they climbed off the canvas to floor their rivals.
Replacement winger Agulla raced in on the right to begin the comeback, and just three minutes later a try by impressive centre Allen left his side just three points adrift with Flood's conversion.
Croft finally put the Tigers back in front when he waltzed through to the line before Alesana Tuilagi put the icing on the cake, showing tremendous pace to get clear down the left in the final minute for a score that Flood converted.
The Exiles were left devastated to have let such a healthy lead slip, although Harlequins' loss to Sarries means they can take a crumb of comfort from a place in next year's Heineken Cup.