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Tommy Bell makes the difference as Tigers win Premiership opener at London Irish

Published 18/10/2015

Jebb Sinclair's try was in vain for London Irish, who were beaten by Leicester in the Aviva Premiership.
Jebb Sinclair's try was in vain for London Irish, who were beaten by Leicester in the Aviva Premiership.

Tommy Bell's excellent kicking gave Leicester a winning start to their Aviva Premiership season at the Madejski Stadium.

Bell kicked seven penalties and converted Peter Betham's interception try as Tigers finished the stronger, winning 28-16.

There was little between the teams and it was a game that Irish will believe that they could have won - but too many handling errors proved costly and ultimately they came away without even a bonus point.

Jebb Sinclair was the Irish tryscorer, with Chris Noakes kicking three penalties and a conversion.

Halani Aulika returned from World Cup duty with Tonga to start for Irish with new signings Rob McCusker and Matt Symons making their debuts in the pack.

For Leicester, Freddie Burns was an absentee, having broken his jaw last week. Bell replaced him at fly-half, with Betham, Greg Bateman, Mike Williams, Mike Fitzgerald and Lachlan McCaffrey all making their Premiership debuts for the Tigers.

Bell kicked Leicester into an early lead with a penalty but Noakes missed one for the Irish before Tigers scored the first try.

After 10 minutes, Betham easily intercepted a telegraphed pass from Noakes to race 50 metres to score, with Bell converting.

Noakes partially atoned for his error by putting Irish on the scoreboard with a successful penalty but this was nullified by one from Bell, giving Tigers a 13-3 lead at the end of the first quarter.

The hosts soon suffered a further setback when wing Topsy Ojo was yellow carded for a dangerous challenge on Laurence Pearce.

Despite playing against 14 men, Irish surprised their opponents by driving a line-out over, with Sinclair being credited with the touchdown.

Bell kicked his third penalty before Ojo returned from the bin with no real damage done to Irish's chances in his absence.

Back to 15 men, Irish dominated the last 10 minutes of the first half as they camped in the Tigers 22.

However, the hosts lacked the precision to make it really count and their only reward was a second penalty from Noakes before Bell added another to leave Irish trailing 19-13 at the interval.

After the restart, Noakes reduced the arrears with his third penalty, before Bell was narrowly wide with an effort from inside his own half.

Irish continued to be marginally the better side but the inexperienced three-quarter line kept making handling errors.

Eoin Griffin delighted the home support with a brilliant 40-metre clean break before being hauled down inches from the tryline by some last-ditch tackles.

Tigers suffered a blow when they lost prop Logovi'i Mulipola with a leg injury - but they overcame this to edge further ahead with a fifth Bell penalty.

Leicester looked to have extended their lead when replacement Opeti Fonua crashed over the line - only for the TMO to rule no try with the number eight having lost the ball.

Owen Williams came on for the Tigers for his first action since being injured last February, before Bell's last two penalties sealed Leicester's win.

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