George Ford kicks Leicester Tigers back to the top of the Prem
An impressive second-half kicking performance from George Ford maintained Leicester Tigers’ 100 per cent Gallagher Premiership record this season and left London Irish still searching for their first win as they edged to a 21-16 success at the Brentford Community Stadium.
Irish’s winless streak in the Premiership now stretches to 10 games but Tigers return to the top of the table, having been briefly usurped by Harlequins following their Friday-night victory, with a fourth victory from four.
Two Paddy Jackson penalties versus yet another driving maul try from young Tigers hooker Nic Dolly gave London Irish a one-point lead at the interval before Hanro Liebenberg’s score put Leicester on top.
Given eight of Irish’s 12 Gallagher Premiership tries this season had come in the second half, it was no surprise when Agustin Creevy dotted down on 55 minutes but three Ford penalties, in addition to his conversion for a total haul of 11 points, ensured the visitors hit back in style.
After Irish failed to capitalise on a sumptuous early 50:22 kick from Jackson, it was Tigers who got the opening score on 20 minutes.
Steve Borthwick’s men have turned the driving maul into something of an art form – their three maul tries after the opening three rounds were a league high – and they were at it again as 21-year-old hooker Dolly patiently steered the mass of humanity over the line for his fourth score of the campaign.
Ford surprisingly missed not only the touchline conversion but, more egregiously, a relatively straightforward 33rd-minute penalty – slicing the ball wide of the upright.
He was punished by his opposite number Jackson, who calmly slotted a pair of three-pointers in the final 15 minutes of the half to give the hosts a 6-5 lead at the break before extending the advantage early in the second 40 when Tigers failed to roll away in the tackle.
The Exiles’ normally explosive backs were being largely stifled by an aggressive Leicester defensive line though, with Ben Loader’s chip and chase the closest they came to a first-half try – only for a sliding Ben Youngs to brilliantly collect the loose ball inches from his own line.
But if Irish’s speciality was being subdued, Leicester’s certainly wasn’t. The driving maul again paid dividends on 50 minutes as they inexorably drove forward and Liebenberg dived over from close range.
Ford found his range with the extras but the hosts responded in kind immediately when a safely-secured attacking lineout was mauled towards the whitewash, where Creevy could flop over the line.
Jackson’s conversion gave them a four-point advantage heading into the final quarter before Ford took over.
He slotted penalties on 62 and 71 minutes when Irish were pinged for not releasing in the tackle and then tackling off the ball before nailing a 35-metre kick at goal three minutes from time to seal the victory and make it four wins from four.
Join RugbyPass+ now and be apart of the conversation with all-new commenting!Join Now