Rugby Union

Harlequins battle to 24-20 victory over Leicester Tigers

Harlequins celebrate hard-fought victory (©GettyImages)
Harlequins celebrate hard-fought victory (©GettyImages).

Harlequins defeated Leicester Tigers 24-20 in the Aviva Premiership at the Twickenham Stoop.

It was a game filled with controversy, sky-high tensions and more cards from referee Tim Wigglesworth.

Niki Goneva and Toby Flood had put Leicester ahead, but a penalty try brought the Quins back into the game.

Jamie Gibson gave the Tigers the lead again, but brilliant kicking from Nick Evans and quality skill from Mike Brown saw the home side take the win.

Drama ensued late on, as the referee sent Quins second row George Robson, as well as the Tigers’ Pablo Matera and Julian Salvi to the bin.

Despite the heightened tensions in dying minutes, it was professionalism and skill that gave the Tigers the first points on the board.

Straight from the kick-off, Leicester picked up a penalty, with Flood kicking the ball between the sticks.

It got even better three minutes later, as the Premiership’s top try scorer touched down once again, after some brilliant play from the visitors.

Second row Ed Slater burst through the Quins’ defence, before passing to Jordan Crane.

He then offloaded to Goneva who used his pace and power to go over for the Tigers and give them a 10-0 lead.

Evans pulled the scores back to within seven points with a penalty, but they should have had another in the 15th minute.

The Tigers were awarded a penalty inside their own 22, despite Leicester’s Anthony Allen taking out the Quins’ scrum-half Danny Care and not going for the ball.

Yet, the away side regained their 10 point advantage with Flood not missing once again from a penalty.

With the game meaning so much to both sides, there was some scrapping between the two teams, almost teasing referee Wigglesworth to pull out his cards.

He was officiating the Gloucester-Bath game last weekend, in which he sent off two players and sin-binned a further five.

Yet, all 30 players remained on the field, and two minutes later, Quins worked their way forward to forve Leicester into giving away another penalty.

And Evans was there once again to kick for three points.

The fly-half also kicked another delightful ball in the 34th minute; this time guiding it behind the Tigers’ line for Luke Wallace to pick up and drive over.

It looked a certain try, but Leicester’s brilliant centres, Manu Tuilagi and Allen, both managed to get their hands underneath the ball to prevent Wallace from touching down.

Harlequins did not have to wait too long to get some big points on the board, as they drove forward from the resulting scrum. Wigglesworth in the end needed to award a penalty try, as Leicester wheeled the scrum with the Quins nearing the endzone.

And Evans did not disappoint from right in front of sticks to send Harlequins in level at the break, after a poor start to the match.

The Quins continued their momentum in the second half, as they nearly grabbed their second try of the match in the 50th minute.

Care’s kick through caused problems for Leicester’s Blaine Scully, leaving the wing to dive to touch the ball down in his own try area, whilst under pressure from Quins’ full-back Brown.

Whilst Evans put his side in front for the first time in the game from a penalty, it did not last long.

In another bout of controversy in this match, Leicester took a quick tap penalty in the centre of the Quin’s 22, before working the ball out wide to Gibson, who had easily bundled over to touch down.

And Flood finished his game, before being substituted, with a brilliant conversion out on the right hand side to put his team 20-16 up.

Tensions were sky high once again in the three minutes later, as Wigglesworth was brandishing his cards for the second match in a row.

The Tigers’ replacement Matera tip-tackled Dave Ward, away from the breakdown of the phase, to earn himself a yellow card.

Yet, Harlequins also saw a man sent to the sin bin, as Robson came bursting in and punched Matera in frustration.

With nine minutes remaining, there was still time for some more drama and spectacular play, as Brown used a brilliant piece of skill to weave his way through two oncoming tackles to drive over the line.

Replacement fly-half Ben Botica could not get his first kick of game on target, leaving Harlequins just a point in front.

There was also time for another card, as Leicester’s Salvi was sent to the bench for ten minutes, to put the visitors down to 13 men.

With just two minutes to go, Botica booted a penalty through the sticks to give the home side some breathing space.

And the Quins held out to get the victory, and their second win over the Tigers in the Premiership this season.

It keeps them in with a chance to gain a play-off place, as they chase down fourth-placed Bath.

As for the Tigers, although their top four spot is all-but secure, the possibility to win a home semi-final and get into second is now highly unlikely with just two games left in the season.

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Topics:
Aviva Premiership
Harlequins
Leicester Tigers
Rugby Union

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