Harlequins record first win in five as they edge past Leicester 25-19 at the Stoop
Ben Botica and Oli Bryant traded three first-half penalties each with the sides locked level 9-9
Converted Harry Thacker try had given Tigers’ a second half lead
Marland Yarde pounced on a late mistake from Leicester centre Manu Tuilagi to run in the decisive try
Harlequins put a halt to their disappointing form with a crucial Aviva Premiership win against Leicester in front of a sell-out crowd at the Stoop on Friday evening.
The Tigers’ endured a torrid evening in the scrum, conceding four penalties, and also saw Jean De Villiers, on debut, leave the pitch late on with what appeared to be an injury to his nose. The loss sees them replaced by Quins in third place in the table, but a late Freddie Burns penalty rescued a losing bonus point.
The first half, which saw a lot of endeavour from both teams, was a tryless one with the pair going into the break locked level at 9-9. Leicester fly-half Oli Bryant had given the visitors the lead on three separate occasions during the first half. However, the away side’s inability to cope on the kick off had seen fly-half Ben Botica strike back for Quins on each occasion with three kicks of his own.
The hosts number 10 then took advantage of Quins dominance after the restart to give the hosts a six-point advantage but Leicester opened the try-scoring through Harry Thacker soon after with replacement Burns converting to give Tigers’ a one-point lead, 15-16.
However, Ben Botica added another penalty to give the hosts a narrow lead before he converted Marland Yarde’s score to secure the win, which saw Quins move up to third. Burns though was able to rescue Leicester a losers bonus-point with a penalty late on.
After an end-to-end start, Oli Bryant, who was standing in for Freddie Burns, opened the scoring from the tee on his first start to give Leicester the lead after six minutes, but Botica levelled things up for the hosts soon after when he slotted a kick from in front of the posts, 3-3.
The game finally sprung to life after a quarter of an hour when it seemed all but sure Telusa Veainu would open the try-scoring for Tigers’ but a sensational cover tackle from Ross Chisholm saved the day and initiated a counter attack that almost saw Tim Visser create an opening at the other end.
Bryant then made it two from two for the evening to edge Leicester back in front but Botica again matched his opposite number to bring Quins back level almost straight away, 6-6.
The Tigers then got back in front again through Bryant after 27 minutes but straight off the kick-off Leicester were yet again punished with Botica for a third time in the opening 40 brought the hosts level, and that is the way the game stayed heading into half-time.
Botica then gave Quins the lead for the first time six minutes after the restart after Leicester infringed at the scrum. The fly-half then doubled the hosts lead with his fifth penalty of the contest soon after, 15-9.
The game, however, swing in Leicester’s favour as fly-half Burns, who was on off the bench, finally got the ball moving with Thacker forcing down following a monstrous charge from Tuilagi. The replacement number 10 then slotted the extra two points to give the Tigers a slender one-point advantage.
Botica though then decided to go for the posts from almost 50 metres out, but it proved a wise decision as his effort sailed over to regain the lead for the hosts, 16-18.
Next came an enormous try for Harlequins, not only in this match but perhaps their season. Tuilagi lost the ball in midfield for Leicester, with Botica chipping over the top with Yarde racing onto it to provide the finishing touch. Botica, who scored 20 points in total, then added the extras to take their lead up to nine points.
Quins though give away a penalty almost straight from the restart, which Burns slotted over to secure a losing bonus-point for the visitors with time quickly running out. Leicester then put the hosts under huge pressure at the end, but their defence held firm.
Harlequins: 15 Ross Chisholm, 14 Marland Yarde, 13 Winston Stanley, 12 Harry Sloan, 11 Tim Visser, 10 Ben Botica, 9 Tito Tebaldi, 8 Nick Easter, 7 Luke Wallace, 6 Mat Luamanu, 5 Charlie Matthews, 4 James Horwill (c), 3 Adam Jones, 2 Dave Ward, 1 Mark Lambert
Replacements: 16 Rob Buchanan, 17 Owen Evans, 18 Kyle Sinckler, 19 George Merrick, 20 James Chisholm, 21 Sam Egerton, 22 Tim Swiel, 23 Matt Hopper
Leicester: 15 Mathew Tait, 14 Peter Betham, 13 Matt Smith, 12 Manu Tuilagi, 11 Telusa Veainu, 10 Freddie Burns, 9 Sam Harrison, 8 Laurence Pearce, 7 Brendon O’Connor, 6 Tom Croft, 5 Mike Fitzgerald, 4 Ed Slater (c), 3 Fraser Balmain, 2 Leonardo Ghiraldini, 1 Marcos Ayerza
Replacements: 16 Harry Thacker, 17 Riccardo Brugnara, 18 Logovi’i Mulipola, 19 Graham Kitchener, 20 Jordan Crane, 21 Jono Kitto, 22 Oli Bryant, 23 Jean de Villiers
Date: Friday, February 19
Venue: Twickenham Stoop
Kick-off: 19:45 GMT
Referee: JP Doyle
Assistant Referees: Roy Maybank, Wayne Falla
TMO: Sean Davey