Planet Rugby

Tigers back on the horse

12th September 2009 16:55

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Matt Smith: Winning Tiger

Leicester responded to their opening day defeat with a 15-9 victory over Harlequins at the Twickenham Stoop.

The 'Bloodgate' scandal may officially be over for Quins but that did not stop the Tigers from putting the boot in as fly-half Jeremy Staunton kicked them to the Guinness Premiership win.

Staunton struck five penalties to three from Nick Evans as the defending champions rebounded from their unexpected defeat to Sale Sharks on the opening day of the new season.

Harlequins' efforts at rebuilding their reputation on the field have now started with two defeats and, judging by the attendance at the Twickenham Stoop, they still have a long way to travel.

The Rugby Football Union's disciplinary chief Judge Jeff Blackett finally drew a line under the Bloodgate saga last night when he decided against laying further charges, largely because he felt the game had suffered enough.

Harlequins chief executive Mark Evans wrote a message of apology in the match programme and vowed the club would redouble their efforts to mend a "battered reputation".

The banner in the LV Stand proclaiming Harlequins as the "Pride of London" is no longer a label, as it was as times last year, but an aspiration.

Those efforts stalled last weekend when George Robson was sent off just 46 seconds into the season-opening defeat to Wasps and Quins will be equally frustrated at not taking their chance on Saturday.

With Robson unavailable, Harlequins started with new signing Lewis Stevenson alongside Jim Evans in the second row while Leicester welcomed Lions Harry Ellis and Tom Croft back into the side.

It was a gorgeous day for running rugby but despite flashes for Quins from Ugo Monye and Leicester's Georden Murphy it was the defences that dominated a first half that ended 3-3.

Evans slotted a long-range effort to put Harlequins ahead but they were then forced to soak up huge pressure from Leicester before Jeremy Staunton equalised.

Harlequins had brought the trouble on themselves with a dreadful pass from Danny Care forcing flanker Will Skinnner to kick from deep inside his own 22.

Leicester kept the pressure on. Staunton, starting at fly-half with Sam Vesty out injured, missed one shot at goal but when Harlequins were penalised at the breakdown the Irishmen drew Leicester level.

Harlequins responded positively but they could not engineer a breakthrough, despite piling on the pressure with Monye and Jordan Turner-Hall both making inroads into the Leicester defence.

Monye's powerful run and offload created space for David Strettle out wide but the England winger was scragged in the corner.

Leicester succeeded in soaking up the pressure before Staunton's relieving kick sent Quins reversing deep into their own 22.

Staunton pushed Leicester into the lead two minutes into the second half but it was Harlequins who played the better rugby after the interval and looked more like breaking the tryline.

An electric run from England Under-20 winger George Lowe had Leicester stretched and Jordan Crane was sin-binned for taking Strettle out in the air as he rose to claim an inch-perfect cross-kick from Evans.

Staunton missed a shot at goal before Harlequins capitalised as Evans stroked over two penalties to kick Quins into the lead.

When Monye raced past Scott Hamilton a try was in the offing for Harlequins but Lowe juggled and dropped his pass with a clear run for the line.

Their chance had come and gone as Leicester began to turn the momentum.

Staunton levelled matters at 9-9 and Johne Murphy was then presented with a similar golden run for the line but Ben Youngs' pass was woeful.

But Leicester began to tighten their grip on proceedings as Staunton stroked over two more penalties to seal the victory.

The scorers:

For Harlequins:
Pen: Evans 3

For Leicester:
Pen: Staunton 4

Harlequins: 15 Ugo Monye, 14 David Strettle, 13 Gonzalo Tiesi, 12 Jordan Turner-Hall, 11 George Lowe, 10 Nick Evans, 9 Danny Care, 8 Nick Easter, 7 Will Skinner (capt), 6 Chris Robshaw, 5 Jim Evans, 4 Lewis Stevenson, 3 Mark Lambert, 2 Gary Botha, 1 Ceri Jones.
Replacements: 16 Aston Croall, 17 Tani Fuga, 18 John Andress, 19 Tom Guest, 20 Neil McMillan, 21 Steve So'oialo, 22 Rory Clegg, 23 Tosh Masson.

Leicester: 15 Geordan Murphy (captain), 14 Scott Hamilton, 13 Matt Smith, 12 Anthony Allen, 11 Johne Murphy, 10 Jeremy Staunton, 9 Harry Ellis, 8 Jordan Crane, 7 Ben Woods, 6 Tom Croft, 5 Louis Deacon, 4 Richard Blaze, 3 Martin Castrogiovanni, 2 George Chuter, 1 Marcos Ayerza.
Replacements: 16 Mefin Davies, 17 Julian White, 18 Robbie Harris, 19 Craig Newby, 20 Brett Deacon, 21 Ben Youngs, 22 Aaron Mauger, 23 Billy Twelvetrees.

Referee: Dave Pearson

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