Fixture: Leicester Tigers v London Irish
Competition: Gallagher Premiership, Round 20
Date: Saturday 12th March 2022
Stadium: Mattioli Woods Welford Road
Round 20 of the Gallagher Premiership sees a trip to Mattioli Woods Welford Road for London Irish, facing-off against another of the league’s form teams in Steve Borthwick’s table-topping Leicester Tigers.
The East Midlands side’s strong league positioning is also complemented by their try-scoring exploits, trailing only capital trio London Irish (69), Saracens (67) and Harlequins (65) in five-pointers scored this season (62).
Irish’s 43-12 win over Worcester Warriors continued their five-month home unbeaten run and was the first time since 2010 the Club have gone four Premiership games without a loss, scoring no less than 27 points in each turnout.
Tigers’ have also been in historic form this season after equaling the best ever Premiership start to a campaign, including a narrow 21-16 win at the Brentford Community Stadium, but their domestic invincibility was brought to an abrupt conclusion by fellow Midlanders Wasps in January.
Borthwick’s men still remain top of the Premiership table and maintain a healthy 12-point gap clear of second placed Saracens, despite the latter’s nail-biting win over the Welford Road side last weekend.
Leicester succumbed to a 34-27 loss in Round 19’s top-of-the-table clash, unable to make their entries in the red zone count with 1.49 less points per entry, despite recording one more entry and 41 more phases in the opposition 22.
The boss- Steve Borthwick:
Steve Borthwick has transformed the fortunes of Leicester Tigers in only his second full season in charge at Welford Road, investing in a side that had missed out on the play-offs in the three previous years.
The 42-year-old boasts the second-best win percentage of any Leicester Coach in the professional era (71.4%) since joining from England where he was a Forwards Coach, with Tigers not falling out of the top four thus far in 2021/22.
Borthwick has maintained Leicester’s preeminent status whilst remaining top of not only the Premiership, but also their respective Premiership Rugby Cup and Champions Cup pools in a bid to end Tigers’ eight-year spell of just one trophy.
One to Watch- Dan Kelly:
A key factor of Tigers’ latest success has been the blooding through of Academy talent such as Jack van Poortvliet and Freddie Steward, with Dan Kelly no exception as he looks to make his first appearance against London Irish.
Kelly has earned justified plaudits for his defensive acumen, registering 15 tackles against Gloucester as well as his creative flair and vigorous carrying.
Having already exceeded last season’s appearances, Kelly has taken to the field in 18 of his Club’s 24 matches this season as a prominent figure in an evolving Tigers setup at just 20-years-old.
The Manchester-born, former Ireland U20s centre, praised as the next Brad Barritt by Steve Borthwick, earned his first England cap against Canada last summer after switching allegiances in the wake of the 2020 U20 Six Nations.
Classic Encounter: London Irish 26-25 Leicester Tigers - 27th December 2006 - Guinness Premiership
Shane Geraghty’s influential cameo proved decisive in a 26-25 victory over high-flying Leicester Tigers, registering half of Irish’s points in a tight affair at the Madejski Stadium.
Geraghty combined well with Delon Armitage for the Irish to take the lead, which was extended through the fly-half’s boot before Johne Murphy capitalised in space out wide.
Tigers looked as though they were unable to make their possessional superiority count when Topsy Ojo was in after some neat work from Justin Bishop, but Martin Corry’s lineout drive and consequential try kept the visitors in the contest.
The Exiles’ defence absorbed Tigers’ early second-half pressure and Steffon Armitage was next to extend the Irish lead to 10, with late tries from Lewis Moody and Alesana Tuilagi sandwiching Barry Everitt’s late penalty to annul Leicester’s efforts.
Tries: Shane Geraghty, Topsy Ojo, Steffon Armitage
Conversion: Shane Geraghty
Penalties: Shane Geraghty (2), Barry Everitt
Tries: Johne Murphy, Martin Corry, Lewis Moody, Alesana Tuilagi
Conversion: Andy Goode
Penalty: Andy Goode
Leicester Tigers Head Coach Steve Borthwick eulogised Round 19 opponents Saracens’ know-how after a 34-27 defeat at the StoneX Stadium.
“I thought it was two good teams who fought out a tough game in tough conditions,” Borthwick stated.
“They were deserving winners today and showed their class and experience, you can see why they have been at the top of this league for a long-time now.”
Whilst dismissing internal talk of league positioning ahead of the clash, Borthwick acknowledged his side’s remiss in taking the opportunities presented to them in North London.
“We had plenty of chances which we could have taken.
“There is a lot to learn from today and we must take away those lessons, learn quickly and be better.”