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Tigers edge past Irish


Miles Benjamin scored the opening try of the game for Leicester

Miles Benjamin scored the opening try of the game for Leicester

Miles Benjamin scored the opening try of the game for Leicester

Leicester kicked off their LV= Cup campaign with a hard-fought 17-16 victory over London Irish at the Madejski Stadium.

The Tigers were second best in terms of territory and possession for much of the match, but they took their chances to secure the win.

Miles Benjamin and Robert Barbieri scored their two tries, with Tommy Bell converting both and kicking a penalty.

Irish will wonder how they lost, such was their superiority, but they lacked the control to break down a stubborn Leicester defence. It was not until the 75th minute that they scored their only try through Guy Armitage, and had to rely on three penalties and a conversion from Myles Dorrian for the rest of their points.

Leicester selected a very inexperienced side with the inclusion of four debutants. Only Benjamin reappeared from last week's starting line-up against Scarlets, while scrum-half Sam Harrison was captain for the first time.

On paper, Irish appeared much stronger with Luke Narraway, Jebb Sinclair, and Leo Halavatau all included in an experienced pack with Topsy Ojo leading the team from full-back.

Leicester took the lead within the first minute through a penalty from Bell but it was Irish who dominated the opening 15 minutes.

They secured a platform in the opposition 22 and placed the Tigers under considerable pressure with a number of driving line-outs. The hosts were awarded a number of kickable penalties but chose attacking line-outs, which ultimately came to nothing.

A penalty try could have been given, such was the frequency of the Tigers' offending, but Leicester did pick up a yellow card when former Irish wing Adam Thompstone was sent to the bin for killing the ball.

However, a botched line-out saw Irish carelessly concede a penalty and the pressure was temporarily relieved. Despite this, Irish continued to be the dominant force in the first 20 minutes but they could not make that advantage count and it remained 3-0 to the visitors of the first quarter.

Thompstone returned, and, totally against the run of play, Tigers scored the first try of the game. Oli Bryant made a neat break to send Benjamin on a 35-metre run to the line for the try which Bell converted.

A penalty from Dorrian gave Irish their first points but, despite controlling the first half, the home side trailed 10-3 at the interval.

Early in the second half Dorrian had another chance for the Irish but his penalty attempt fell well short. Bell missed a similar chance for the visitors before Irish reduced the arrears.

A kick and chase from Darren Allinson put the Leicester defence on the back foot and they conceded a penalty, with Tom Bristow being sin-binned. Dorrian made no mistake with the kick and another minutes later to bring the Irish to within one point.

In quick succession Leicester lost front-row replacements Harry Thacker and Riccardo Brugnara through injury, but Bristow returned to shore up the visitors for the final period.

With 12 minutes to go, Leicester scored a crucial try when Barbieri burst away from a maul 45 metres out to score with Bell converting.

Despite this setback, Irish continued to batter the Tigers' defence and were rewarded when Armitage forced his way over for the try which Dorrian converted but Leicester held on for victory.