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Laurence Pearce's late try earns Leicester hard-fought victory over Harlequins

Published 25/10/2015

Laurence Pearce dived over for a crucial late try for Leicester at Welford Road
Laurence Pearce dived over for a crucial late try for Leicester at Welford Road

A late try by replacement Laurence Pearce saved Leicester's blushes against Harlequins in their first home Aviva Premiership match of the season.

Trailing 19-15 with eight minutes left, the Tigers - who had lost just one of their previous 18 home games - looked on course for a defeat at Welford Road until Pearce got on the end of a maul following a line-out.

Owen Williams added the conversion and, while Quins almost scored at the other end straight away, Leicester held out for a 22-19 triumph to maintain their 100 per cent start to the campaign.

Leicester's other points came from fly-half Tommy Bell, who kicked five penalties, while Jack Clifford scored a try for Quins and Nick Evans kicked the other points. Leicester's Sam Harrison was sin-binned near the end.

The hosts, kicking away from the new £9million stand taking shape on the site of the old clubhouse, had the better of an average first half but still turned round 13-12 down.

Bell kept the Tigers' noses in front for most of the half with four penalties, including one from just inside his own half.

But Quins launched a grandstand finish to the half to score the only try, adding to two penalties from fly-half Evans. It came from flanker Jack Clifford, who squeezed over from a metre from the line after a line-out, and was converted by Evans.

The 36th-minute try followed five minutes of sustained pressure which started when hooker Dave Ward picked a great line through the Leicester defence and made a beeline for the posts.

It took some great defence to keep him out and, while the Tigers also stopped scrum-half Karl Dickson on the line and survived a scrum in the corner, the pressure told in the end.

Leicester had suffered a blow after just five minutes when they lost centre Seremaia Bai, who came off second best in a clash with Quins' giant number eight Mat Luamanu - a 20-stone New Zealand Junior World Cup winner who signed from Benetton Treviso. He was replaced by Williams.

The Tigers created the best chances of the half, thanks in the main to the lively scrum-half Harrison and centre Peter Betham, a 26-year-old New Zealander who signed from the Australian Super Rugby side the Waratahs.

Betham, one of four signings making their home debuts, made dents in the Quins defence on several occasions but the visitors' scrambling defence kept their line intact.

Bell kicked penalties in the 10th, 14th, 19th and 28th minutes, while Evans replied with penalties in the 12th and 22nd minutes.

Evans and Bell swapped penalties shortly after the interval and, after Leicester had introduced England prop Dan Cole, Quins made five changes, including England trio Danny Care, Joe Marler and Nick Easter.

Quins, who dominated the third quarter, should have scored moments later following a bulldozing rolling maul which splintered the Leicester defence, but a poor pass evaded winger Charlie Walker.

Evans' 57th-minute long-range penalty put Quins 19-15 ahead but he missed a much easier one from the 22 a few minutes later.

Marler was warned by the referee after a slightly late tackle on Williams but escaped the yellow card demanded by the crowd.

Leicester lost Bell with an injury and failed to capitalise on their only chance of the half after hammering away at the Quins line.

With eight minutes left Leicester conjured up a try out of nothing thanks to a fabulous kick to the corner from a penalty by Williams. Tom Croft won the line-out and replacement Pearce touched down just inside the line of a shortened in-goal area on an enlarged pitch. Williams converted to make it 22-19.

Quins almost scored from a rolling maul which resulted in a yellow card for Harrison, but Leicester just held out.

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