In a closely fought game at Welford road it was the visitors London Irish who showed composure to claim the spoils through the boot of Shane Geraghty and a try from Halani Aulika with a final score of 19 – 22.
Both sides came into Saturday’s fixture with a point to prove-Leicester off the back of a 45 – 0 rout and Irish to prove they can go one step further than last week and record a win against one of the Premiership’s top sides.
It was the visitors who put the first points on the board. A strong carry from winger James Short forced Leicester into conceding a penalty at the break down and Shane Geraghty stepped up to convert pressure into points and give Irish an early 0 – 3 lead.
A strong scrum from the Tigers gave Burns a chance to level the score after thirteen minutes, however the fly half was unable to convert- dragging the ball right of the posts.
Geraghty soon had a chance to extend the Exiles’ lead, after Leicester were caught obstructing in defence, which gave the centre a shot at goal from inside his own half. Geraghty again showed a cool head and extended the Irish lead to six points.
With ten minutes to go until the break Tigers managed to get on the board. Irish conceded a penalty at the break down to give Burns a shot at goal from inside the 22 and this time the Tigers’ ten managed to convert to make the score 3 – 6.
Irish came agonisingly close to crossing in the corner minutes later. Alex Lewington looking for his fourth in two games but the Tigers’ scramble defence came across and forced the winger into touch centimetres short.
Despite this defence it wasn’t enough to hold Irish out. Strong pressure from Kieran Low at the lineout forced a turnover and it was Halani Aulika who crossed for the first try of the game off the back of a rolling maul. Geraghty again proved reliable, converting the try to bring the scored to 3 – 13 with six minutes left to play in the first half.
This time it was the Tigers who struck back quickly. Quick play forced them deep into Irish territory and Geraghty conceded a penalty that saw him sent to the bin. Burns converted the penalty to make it 6 – 13.
As the dramatic first half came to an end Irish who held onto their seven point lead in the Tigers den with the frustrated home fans baying for their team to bear their teeth.
Tigers were first off the mark in the second half. Burns, who by now had found his kicking boots, converted a penalty to make the score 9 – 13 after ten minutes of the second half. Geraghty soon struck back, however, with a penalty of his own to restore the seven-point advantage.
Leicester drew the game level after fifteen minutes, Vereniki Goneva catching the Irish defence napping around the fringes to scoot in and Burns added the extras to make it 16 – 16 and set up a grandstand finish.
With Jordan Crane conceding a penalty and being sent to the bin Geraghty had an easy shot at goal and reclaimed the Exiles’ lead soon after, but not to be out done Owen Williams drew it level again after converting a penalty from inside his own half to make it 19 – 19.
With two minutes on the clock Matthew Tait was penalised in his own 22 for playing the ball on the ground and Geraghty reclaimed the lead for Irish; 19 – 22.
As the clock ticked into the red Tigers launched one more final attack but the Irish defence held firm, driving the hosts from one 22 to another before turning the ball over and as O’Leary booted the ball into the stands Irish claimed a heroic three point victory over Leicester at Welford Road.
The Exiles will look to put a win past another one of the League’s top teams as they welcome defending Champions Northampton Saints to the Madejski Stadium on Saturday 4 October.
Score sequence (London Irish first): 3-0, 6-0, 6-3, 13-3, 13-6, 13-9, 16-9, 16-16, 19-16, 19-19, 22-19
Scorers: Leicester: Penalties: Burns (30, 35, 48), Williams (71); Tries: Goneva (55); Conversions: Burns; London Irish: Penalties: Geraghty (6, 14, 53, 61, 78); Tries: Aulika (32); Conversions: Geraghty
15. Mathew Tait; 14. Blaine Scully (rep: Matt Smith, 71); 13. Vereniki Goneva; 12. Owen Williams; 11. Miles Benjamin (rep: Robert Barbieri, 64); 10. Freddie Burns; 9. Ben Youngs (Captain); 1. Tom Bristow; 2. Leonardo Ghiraldini (rep: Neil Briggs, 28-34); 3. Fraser Balmain (rep: Tiziano Pasquali, 63-68); 4. Sebastian De Chaves; 5. Graham Kitchener; 6. Jamie Gibson (rep: Laurence pearce, 78); 7. Julian Slavi; 8. Jordan Crane
Replacements: 16. Neil Briggs; 17. Ricardo Brugnara; 18. Tiziano Pasquali; 19. Harry Wells; 20. Laurence Pearce; 21. Robert Barbieri; 22. Sam Harrison; 23. Matt Smith
15. Andrew Fenby; 14. Aex Lewington; 13. Fergus Mulchrone (rep: Eamonn Sheridan, 54); 12. Shane Geraghty; 11. James Short (rep: Topsy Ojo, 78); 10. Chris Noakes; 9. Scott Steele (rep: Tomas O'Leary, 48); 1. Tom Court (rep: Matt Parr, 60); 2. David Paice (rep: Gerard Ellis, 78); 3. Halani Aulika (rep: Leo Halavatau, 59); 4. George Skivington (Captain); 5. Jebb Sinclair; (rep: Dan Leo, 54) 6. Kieran Low; 7. Blair Cowan; 8. Luke Narraway (rep: Tom Guest, 48)
Replacements: 16. Gerard Ellis; 17. Matt Parr 18. Leo Halavatau; 19. Dan Leo; 20. Tom Guest; 21. Tomas O'Leary; 22. Eamonn Sheridan; 23. Topsy Ojo
Referee: Greg Garner