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Leicester Tigers pushed all the way by Connacht

By PA
Ben Youngs tackles Tiernan O'Halloran /PA

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Leicester were tested to the limits by a spirited Connacht but a strong second-half rally saw the Tigers continue their impressive run with a 29-23 Heineken Champions Cup victory.

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The hosts duly made it 13 consecutive victories for the season but that did not look likely when they trailed 20-12 after 50 minutes but then their pack took control to secure a bonus-point win.

Leicester’s tries came from Nic Dolly, Bryce Hegarty, Freddie Steward and Hosea Saumaki as Hegarty kicked two conversions and a penalty, while Freddie Burns added a conversion.

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Connacht captain Jack Carty scored 18 of their points with a try, two penalties, two conversions and a drop goal, while wing John Porch was also on the scoresheet with their first try.

The opening exchanges were scrappy and it was no surprise that the first points came via a penalty with Carty succeeding with a 45-metre kick.

Connacht then produced the first potent attack of the game with Bundee Aki carving a hole in the defence but they blew their chance of the opening try when Tiernan O’ Halloran passed the ball behind Alex Wootton with the line in sight.

Tigers made them pay for their profligacy by taking the lead with an 18th-minute try when a pass from Ben Youngs provided Dolly with an easy run-in.

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Burns missed the touchline conversion and was also off-target with a 45-metre penalty attempt so the home side held a 5-3 lead at the end of an evenly-contested first quarter.

The momentum was temporarily with Leicester and they soon increased their advantage. A strong run from Matt Scott secured the hosts a platform in the Irish 22 and from there the ball was recycled for Hegarty to be sent in under the posts for his first try for the club.

Almost immediately, Connacht responded with their first try. A well-timed pass for Aki sent Porch into space for the wing to run elusively and avoid the cover defence to score.

Carty converted before the outside-half ran from inside his own half to capitalise on poor Leicester handling to score with another conversion giving his side a 17-12 interval lead.

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Six minutes after the restart, a deliberate knock-on from Youngs gifted Carty a further three points before Tigers made the surprising decision to replace Burns with Guy Porter and move Hegarty from full-back to fly-half.

They also changed the whole of the front row and it paid immediate dividends as their scrum won a number of penalties in quick succession with Connacht prop Finlay Bealham yellow carded for collapsing.

Leicester capitalised with Steward crashing over and Hegarty’s conversion left the hosts just one point adrift going into the final quarter.

Bealham was still absent when Leicester scored their bonus-point try when a well-constructed move gave Saumaki the chance to stretch his legs and race over.

Hegarty converted before kicking a penalty with Carty’s last-minute drop-goal securing his side a richly-deserved bonus-point.

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