Irish savour win in Tigers' den
Shane Geraghty booted a 78th-minute penalty to end London Irish's long wait for a win at the home of 10-times Premiership champions Leicester Tigers.
The centre's easy kick earned the Irish a 22-19 win, their first Premiership victory at Welford Road since 2003, and also ended a run of 10 matches without a win in all competitions against Leicester.
After Owen Williams kicked a massive 55-metre penalty to level the scores at 19-19 in the 70th minute, the match looked to be heading for a draw and a valuable two points for the Tigers after last week's thrashing at Bath.
But with time running out, referee Greg Garner awarded a controversial penalty which was greeted by boos from the Welford Road crowd.
Geraghty kicked 17 points in all, Irish's solitary try coming from prop Halani Aulika, while Vereniki Goneva scored for Leicester. Freddie Burns added 11 points with the boot. Geraghty and Leicester number eight Jordan Crane both received yellow cards.
Leicester boss Richard Cockerill hinted he might go into the transfer market after last week's record 45-0 defeat at Bath, due to an injury crisis that has robbed him of almost half his 45-man squad.
He called on a side which again had an unfamiliar look to show some "steel and backbone" against an Irish side that had a shocking record at Welford Road.
With first-choice centres Manu Tuilagi and Anthony Allen out, Goneva moved to outside centre, allowing winger Miles Benjamin to make his first start of the season.
Flanker Kieran Low made his first start of the season for Irish who had much the better of a poor first half and turned round 13-6 up thanks to the try by prop Aulika and a conversion and two penalties from Geraghty.
Fly-half Freddie Burns kicked two penalties for Leicester but also missed two from long range.
Geraghty put the Irish ahead with his first penalty in the fifth minute and five minutes later the visitors thought they had scored when Alex Lewington put fellow winger James Short over, only to see the try chalked off for obstruction by number eight Luke Narraway.
Burns missed penalties either side of a successful one for Geraghty and it took a fine tackle by Leicester winger Blaine Scully to stop Blair Cowan scoring after the flanker had split the Tigers defence with a fine run from halfway.
Cowan was lucky to escape a yellow card when he appeared to punch Leicester flanker Jamie Gibson during a melee, and after consulting the TMO the referee reversed the penalty he had given to Irish and warned Cowan and both captains.
Burns finally put Leicester on the scoreboard with a 29th-minute penalty but they failed to collect the restart, Lewington plucking the ball out of the air and launching an attack that led to the visitors' try.
After Lewington had been forced into touch just short of the line, Leicester messed up their line-out. The Irish however won theirs through former Tigers lock George Skivington and the forwards drove Aulika over for an easy try, which Geraghty converted.
Geraghty, however, played little further part in the half. He was yellow-carded for handling in a ruck near his own posts, allowing Burns to slot an easy penalty.
Irish fly-half Chris Noakes missed a long-range penalty and centre Fergus Mulchrone failed to capitalise on an interception on his own line, throwing a speculative pass into thin air just past halfway, near half-time.
Eight minutes after the break Burns reduced the deficit with his third penalty.
Aulika wasted a chance when knocking on within sight of the Leicester posts before Geraghty slotted another penalty to make it 16-9.
Leicester equalised minutes later when Goneva caught the Irish napping, picking up at the base of a ruck and sprinting 15 metres to score while the Irish watched Ben Youngs organise his attackers. Burns kicked the conversion.
Yet Geraghty put the Irish back in front again with another penalty after Crane had been sin-binned for dangerous play.
Burns missed a long-range penalty and such was Leicester's desperation that centre Owen Williams then attempted one from five metres inside his own half - and it sailed over.
But two minutes from time Burns clinched victory for Irish with a simple penalty after Mathew Tait had been penalised for handling on the floor.