Battling Harlequins fall just short of Tigers hurdle
By Rory Poulter
7th Dec 2021 | Local Sport
Quins kicked-off in the Midlands on Sunday sat fifth place in the table, equal on points at 28 with fourth-placed Exeter Chiefs. Heading to the home of table toppers and the only undefeated side in the league, Harlequins went on the hunt to topple Leicester Tigers at the Mattioli Woods Welford Road Stadium.
Despite best intentions, Quins were the first to concede in the Midlands, with fly-half George Ford kicking a penalty in the eighth minute, opting for the sticks after Tigers captain Ellis Genge lost the ball forward in a promising attacking move for the home side.
Ill-discipline from Leicester allowed Quins fly-half, Marcus Smith, to send a swift reply to Ford's kick, with the Tigers conceding multiple penalties to allow Smith to kick consecutive penalties, taking a narrow three-point lead after 16 minutes of play.
The lead would not last long, however, with Ford levelling the scores as Quins' Springbok centre Andre Esterhuizen was penalised at the breakdown by referee Matthew Carley.
Within the final ten minutes of the first-half, both sides were found guilty of yellow card indiscretions. For Quins, man of the moment Smith was the one handed his marching orders after knocking the ball out of Tigers' scrum-half Ben Young's hands while on the floor and out of the game, while for Leicester, Springbok number eight Jasper Weise was sent for a ten-minute break for a no-arm tackle on Quins lock Dino Lamb.
It was advantage Leicester, however, with Ford able to kick a third penalty of the day between the two penalties.
Both down to 14-men, Quins pressed their advantage, kicking to the corner against a Leicester pack stripped of one of its most physical members.
With Leicester leaking penalties in the right corner at maul time, Quins were able to manufacture space down the left flank and looked certain to score. Centre Huw Jones tore towards the line and powered his way through Leicester defenders, but was somehow held up by Leicester fullback Freddie Steward. A crucial moment in the match, with both Murley and fullback Tyrone Green unmarked on Jones' outside shoulder. Half-time, Leicester 9, Quins 6.
Leicester were able to extend their lead four minutes into the second-half, with experienced half-back partners Ford and Youngs combining to create a break down the left wing before Youngs threaded the ball in behind the Quins defence to allow wing Harry Potter to cross for the first try of the day. Ford added the conversion to take his side to a ten-point lead.
Smith reduced the deficit to seven with another penalty kick in the 56th minute as the Tigers were penalised at the breakdown.
Wing Louis Lynagh was the man to reduce the gap again. A one-man effort, the wing grubbered in behind the Leicester defence before rounding the defenders to dot down for his side's first try of the day. A tough kick against the wind from the touchline, Smith was not able to add the conversion this time, leaving Tigers with a two-point lead at 16-14.
A huge lineout steal from Quins' five metres from their own line dared onlookers to believe. A subsequent penalty against Leicester allowed Quins to kick to touch for a lineout within the Leicester half. Hopes of another late, classic Harlequins comeback were dashed, as the lineout ball was lost, allowing Leicester to clear into touch to secure their win.
Final score: Leicester Tigers 16 - 14 Harlequins