Smith's crisp running lifts Leicester

London Irish 28 Leicester 31
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The Independent Online

Leicester and London Irish are busy manufacturing a style of English rugby that will be worth exporting to Europe. The points both teams earned after this fabulous display of courageous, running rugby will have done much to keep them in contention for a top-four finish. And if they manage it then the rest of Europe is in for a treat.

Both these teams have signed up to the creativity school of rugby, not for them the dull, evolutionary plod of forwards' progress to within striking distance of the line before having a dart. They launch themselves at the try-line from anywhere and everywhere.

Tries by Leicester's loosehead prop Marcos Ayerza, who finished off a move that had begun with a great break by Aaron Mauger, and Matt Smith, helped open up a substantial lead by the interval. When the Samoan Alesana Tuilagi executed a brilliant scoring pass for Smith's second try it looked like curtains for the Exiles.

But Irish, thanks to the promptings of Mike Catt, the vision of Shane Geraghty and the thrusting of Seilala Mapusua and Sailosi Tagicakibau, strung together some breathtaking passages of play and they fought their way back to within touching distance of the shell-shocked Tigers. Had it not been for Tuilagi, who did not appear to miss a single tackle, the Tigers might have seen victory clawed away from them at the last.

Steffon Armitage, their England flanker, muscled over for their first try, Tagicakibau squeezed over for the next, the brilliant Mapusua slithered through for the third and Armitage's second in the second minute of added time, earned them the bonus point.

London Irish: Tries Armitage 2, Tagicakibau, Mapusua; Conversion Geraghty; Penalty Geraghty 2. Leicester: Tries Ayerza, Smith 2; Conversions Dupuy 2; Penalties Dupuy 4.

London Irish: T Homer (S Tagicakibau, 57); T Ojo (J Fisher, 78), S Mapusua, E Seveali'i (M Catt, h-t), A Thompstone; S Geraghty, P Hodgson (capt; P Richards, 76); C Dermody, J Buckland (D Coetzee, 57), T Lea'aetoa (A Corbisiero, 57), J Hudson, G Johnson, R Thorpe (D Danaher, 57), S Armitage, C Hala'ufia.

Leicester: S Hamilton; J Murphy, M Smith (A Erinle, 61), A Mauger (capt), A Tuilagi; S Vesty (D Hougaard, 80+1), J Dupuy; M Ayerza, M Davies, D Cole (S Bonorino, 3), L Deacon (M Wentzel, 59), B Kay, C Newby, B Woods, J Crane (B Deacon, 44).

Referee: D Pearson (Northumberland).