Match verdict: Harleqins win doing it the 'Leicester Tigers way'
The most telling moment of Leicester Tigers' 22-9 defeat against Harlequins on Saturday came in the immediate aftermath of the final whistle at Welford Road.
Instead of wildly celebrating the end of Tigers' 12-month unbeaten home record in the Aviva Premiership, Harlequins were happy – but reserved.
There was no hugging, punching the air or wild gesticulation. They shook each other's hand and patted each other on the back.
It was like they had simply achieved the result they expected.
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Quins' title win in May has given them a great deal of belief in what they do.
And that was clearly obvious during a 15-minute spell in the second half where Tigers – thrown into desperation by a 16-6 deficit and a baying crowd – threw everything they had at the visitors.
Lesser teams would have crumbled at that stage, but Quins' defence stood firm and they actually extended their lead to 13 points by full-time.
It was a win that kept the champions at the top of the table, and one they deserved after a cracking contest with incredible physicality.
Quins' first half was based on a trademark brand of off-loading and continuity, while their second half, at times, was based on desperate defence.
Make no mistake about it, Quins are the team to beat.
At the same time, one defeat does not make Leicester a bad side. They were missing some key players, their own defence was extremely good and they were more contributors to their own downfall, than a case of being outplayed.
Tigers suffered a ridiculously high penalty count which allowed Nick Evans' boot to kill them.
They also made more line-breaks than the visitors, with Julian Salvi and Sam Harrison close to tries in the second half. They had a couple of decent shouts for penalty tries turned down by referee Dave Pearson, who left the field to a chorus of boos from the Crumbie Stand.
But Leicester could never get a grip on the game and they let themselves down at crucial stages.
The line-out was their Achilles' heel. At crucial moments, jump-ball went begging and was disrupted or stolen. In tight matches and against the top four, that cannot happen if Tigers are to challenge for the play-offs.
As a result, Tigers had little platform to attack or maul in the Quins 22.
It was an even opening 20 minutes, which Tigers led 6-3 until the superb George Robson found winger Tom Williams on an off-load and he ran in from 20 metres out. Dead-eye Evans added the extras and then Danny Care kicked a cheeky drop-goal before Flood missed a kick.
Evans hit the post before the break but soon made it 16-6. Flood dragged it back to 16-9 but, within two minutes, it was 19-9 and Evans applied the coup de grace with his fourth penalty to make it 22-9.
Tigers clearly missed Manu Tuilagi, who was out with a shoulder injury, in the centres.
That is not to say that Matt Smith was poor. On the contrary, he was superbly tenacious and his turnover of England full-back Mike Brown at one stage was world-class.
But take out Tuilagi and the injured Geordan Murphy's guile, and Leicester had little mystery or cutting edge with ball in hand.
That was not helped by painfully slow ball at times, created by a masterly display of skullduggery by Quins in and around the breakdown.
Time and again, they took out, pulled back or grabbed on to a Tiger to stop them getting where they wanted to go. It was never for long enough to create attention, but it was long enough to make a difference. It was old-school Leicester – in a Quins shirt.
At one stage, with Quins defending a metre shy of their own line, Salvi broke free from a ruck and would have blocked Care's box kick had Joe Marler not blatantly obstructed him. It was missed by the officials, as were the rest of their more subtle indiscretions.
As a result, Flood was on the back foot all day. So much so that Quins looked offside at every phase because they were up so quick to make the tackle.
It was a frustrating day for Tigers players and fans alike.
The defeat was by no means terminal, but for Quins, it was a massive statement made.