Leicester return to winning ways with seven-try thrashing of London Irish
Leicester bounced back from three successive defeats by thrashing Aviva Premiership strugglers London Irish 47-20 at Welford Road.
The Tigers got back on track for the top four with a seven-try demolition of the bottom club, who scored three second-half tries in response.
The win meant Leicester avoided the ignominy of four straight defeats for the first time since the World Cup season of 2003-04 when boss Dean Richards was sacked.
They dominated the match from first whistle to last, scoring tries through Adam Thompstone (two), Harry Thacker, Lachlan McCaffrey, Jono Kitto, Tom Croft and debutant Jean de Villiers. Freddie Burns kicked five conversions and Tommy Bell one.
The Irish, who have yet to earn a point away from home, replied with tries from David Paice, Joe Trayfoot and Andrew Fenby. Theo Brophy Clews kicked a penalty and Shane Geraghty a conversion.
South Africa's World Cup-winning centre De Villiers, having recovered from a broken jaw, made his Leicester debut alongside England's Manu Tuilagi in midfield.
Kiwi scrum-half Kitto made his first start for the Tigers who lost England hooker Tom Youngs before the start, his place going to Thacker. Lock Dom Barrow returned after a two-week ban.
London Irish made two changes to the side that lost to Exeter, Scotland internationals Sean Maitland and Blair Cowan coming in.
Leicester boss Richard Cockerill called for his side to show 'character across the board' after three successive defeats and the Tigers responded with a convincing first-half performance, which earned them four tries, a bonus point, and a 26-3 lead.
The hosts totally dominated the half and set the tone from the start when they turned down an easy penalty in favour of going for a try from a line-out and drive.
From their third line-out they scored their first try, full-back Mathew Tait putting Thompstone over in the right corner after a simple backs move. Burns missed the conversion, but it was the only of the six he had in the match.
In the 10th minute Irish fly-half Brophy Clews pulled back three points with a penalty but seven minutes later Thacker stormed under the posts for Leicester's second try after a clever move.
Leicester got their third try in the 31st minute after Tuilagi and Kitto had caused havoc in the Irish defence.
From a line-out Kitto threw out a long pass to McCaffrey who shrugged off a tackle from Brophy Clews to go under the posts..
And just seconds from the half-time whistle the Tigers got their fourth, Burns making a break before finding lock Mike Fitzgerald who put Kitto over.
Leicester scored their fifth try 12 minutes after the restart and again it came from a line-out. The forwards drove the ball on and after some slick handling by the backs De Villiers found flanker Tom Croft on the charge with a fantastic one-handed inside pass. Another successful Burns conversion made it 33-3.
Three minutes later Kitto thought he had got his second after a fine break by Thompstone but the referee ruled it out for a forward pass after looking at the replay just as Burns was taking the conversion.
The Irish finally broke Leicester's defence in the 58th minute after Maitland had put them in an attacking position with a 50-metre counter-attack. They made the most of it with hooker Paice scoring from short range. Replacement fly-half Geraghty missed the conversion.
A De Villiers solo try, awarded after the referee had watched another replay, and a Burns conversion in the 67th minute put Leicester 40-8 ahead before Thompstone crossed for the Tigers' seventh score 10 minutes from time.
Although the game was long gone, Irish finished with a flourish and scored two late tries through replacement Trayfoot and Fenby, who went over straight from a scrum in stoppage time.