Match Report: Inspirational Danny Care reinforces his England claim

Harlequins 25 Leicester Tigers 21

the stoop

This, they say, is the stuff of champions. Two clubs, shorn of their unavailable internationals yet desperate to cling to top spot in the Aviva Premiership, produced a nail-biting contest dominated by the goal-kicking of Ben Botica – and he was not even meant to be playing.

Botica, who came in an hour before kick-off when Nick Evans withdrew with a damaged left ankle, landed 20 points, but he had to give best as man of the match to Danny Care. The scrum-half, so eager to recover the England starting shirt (from Leicester's Ben Youngs), scored a brilliant individual try 10 minutes after half-time which not only helped give his side the lead for the first time but inspired every one of his colleagues.

In Care and Youngs there are two British Lions in waiting, according to Conor O'Shea, the Harlequins director of rugby. "They can be the heartbeat of the [England] side for a long time," O'Shea said. "From Stuart Lancaster's point of view, he must be saying, 'How lucky am I?' That was world-class from Danny out there and that try was very, very special."

Leicester will look hard at the number of penalties conceded – 14 against six – not only those from which Botica scored but those awarded deep in Harlequins territory when they threatened to add to their two first-half tries. Richard Cockerill, Leicester's director of rugby, kept a tight lid on his emotions but acknowledged it was "an horrendously one-sided penalty count considering the closeness of the game".

Leicester had not lost in the league here since 2003, and when Toby Flood scored a 70-metre try after intercepting Nick Easter's pass in the seventh minute it seemed that good fortune would smile on them again. But Harlequins made their scrum creak, and the home side's methods at the breakdown, where Luke Wallace excelled, were judged by Wayne Barnes to be on the right side of the law.

Yet Leicester's defence absorbed everything that the direct running of Harlequins could throw at them. It came at a cost, Botica kicking four first-half penalties, but Flood added a conversion and two long-range penalties of his own before prodding through a grub-kick which Adam Thompstone touched down in the left-hand corner.

The shape of things to come, however, was seen when Sam Harrison darted deep into the Harlequins 22 just after the interval only for Leicester to be penalised 10 metres short. Whenever the visitors threatened, their discipline came under scrutiny, and it was from a penalty just inside the Leicester half that Care tapped and darted clear; Mathew Tait stood in his way but Care swerved one way, then the other to reach the line just ahead of the covering Flood.

Botica's conversion nudged Harlequins ahead, and his fifth penalty on the hour gave them a four-point cushion. Had Botica's wraparound run which laid on a scoring pass for Ugo Monye been allowed, there would have been no comeback, but obstruction by Matt Hooper gave Leicester one of only two penalty awards in the second half.

When Ollie Lindsay-Hague was penalised in a tackle, Flood's goal reduced the margin to one point, but Harlequins rubbed salt into the wounds with the construction of their final points: first Leicester were penalised at the line-out, then their scrum collapsed and Botica kicked his final goal for seven out of seven. The set-piece is Leicester's pride and they will want next weekend's visitors to Welford Road, Saracens, to pay.

Harlequins R Chisholm (O Lindsay-Hague, 52); T Williams, M Hopper, J Turner-Hall, U Monye; B Botica, D Care; M Lambert, J Gray (R Buchanan, 52), J Johnston, N Easter (capt), G Robson, M Fa'asavalu, T Guest (J Trayfoot, 61), L Wallace.

Leicester M Tait; S Hamilton, M Tuilagi, A Allen (M Smith, 58), A Thompstone; T Flood, S Harrison; M Ayerza, R Hawkins, L Mulipola, L Deacon (capt; E Slater, 24), G Kitchener, B Deacon (J Crane, 66), T Waldrom, J Salvi.

Referee W Barnes (London).

Harlequins

Try: Care

Con: Botica

Pens: Botica 6

Leicester Tigers

Tries: Flood, Thompstone

Con: Flood

Pens: Flood 3

BUY RUGBY WORLD CUP TICKETS

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?