Leicester Tigers hit top spot as Aviva Premiership rivals flounder
There are occasions during any season when it is simply a matter of a team going out and getting the job done.
That was the case on Saturday as Leicester Tigers returned to Aviva Premiership duty against London Welsh.
It wasn't a classic – and in truth it was never likely to be given the cold, damp, heavy conditions – but the final scoreline of 28-12 in Tigers' favour said everything. Job done.
The fact that it sent Tigers to the top of the pile as some of their fiercest rivals floundered was a considerable bonus.
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A try count of 3-0 suggests Tigers won in some degree of comfort. That is not quite the case. They certainly had something to spare, and were deserved winners having controlled large periods of the match, but the Exiles made them work for every minute of the game.
There were some edgy moments, too, for the vast majority of the 20,000 crowd, not least as Welsh hit back from a 16-3 interval deficit to pull back to within four points as Gordon Ross landed three penalties in the space of eight minutes at the beginning of the second half.
Tigers were further stretched when No.8 Jordan Crane was yellow-carded with his side 23-12 ahead just after the hour.
The Exiles sensed another avenue back into the game and it took a defensive stand which was, well, tigerish to withstand the wave of attacks on the home line which followed.
Withstand it Leicester did and, when George Ford cleared from a very welcome penalty 15 minutes from time, there was a sense that the finishing line was approaching.
Not that this was just a dogged, no-frills performance from Tigers. They could have had a bonus point had they been more clinical but the three tries they did score were all out of the top drawer.
Adam Thompstone was the first to cross, taking Ford's neat pass in the 26th minute to scythe through the Welsh defence for his seventh try of the season as Leicester moved 13-3 ahead.
The attention switched to his fellow winger, Niall Morris, who claimed Tigers' second try – his fifth this term – as he finished off the superb handing of Ford and Anthony Allen to score on the right.
And the win was sealed on the stroke of full-time when Dan Bowden, who had replaced Ford at fly-half, spotted an opening and shot over to score in the left corner – his first try in Leicester colours.
A botched attempt at a conversion from the touchline left an outside chance of Tigers setting up a shot at a fourth try and a bonus point.
But time was against them and they and their supporters had to settle for four points from the victory which, at this time of year, is a more than satisfactory outcome. Just ask Harlequins or Saracens.