Leicester 34 Leeds 21: Ellis enjoys comeback as Leicester point Leeds towards door
Time will tell if the return of Harry Ellis to Leicester is successful. England's scrum-half at the time, Ellis sustained a ligament injury 10 months ago and missed the World Cup and the current Six Nations campaign.
Ellis actually made his first steps back from injury in midweek, playing for the Leicester Academy XV against Annecy. The Tigers won 76-3. Ellis was not among the scorers, and nor was he when he appeared for the first team against Leeds at Welford Road on Saturday. But his 58th-minute arrival, in place of Frank Murphy, earned him the cheer of the afternoon from a crowd of 17,002.
"After 10 months out, I'm pleased to be back playing," said Ellis. "It's the greatest feeling I've ever had. It's not in my nature to be patient. Each week I get stronger."
Leicester's coach, Marcelo Loffreda, said: "When Harry is on the field, everyone feels good."
For Loffreda's opposite number, Stuart Lancaster, time is running out. "We were disappointed to lose, especially after such a great start," he said, referring to the visitors' rush to a 13-0 lead. "But you cannot give sides like Leicester easy tries. We displayed so many unforced errors, our decision making was under almost constant pressure. Our next game, against Bristol, is crucial or our time will be up."
There were times when Leeds looked the real deal. Within a minute the prop Fosi Pala'amo scored an opportunist try, which Alberto Di Bernardo converted. The outside-half kicked a penalty and then dropped a goal. Leicester pulled themselves together with two tries. The first went to the No 8 Jordan Crane, a Leeds old boy, and was converted by Ian Humphreys, another to have played at Headingley. The second went to Tom Varndell, who intercepted Jonny Hepworth's pass. Humphreys' conversion hit an upright but his penalty made it 15-13 at the break.
By then Geordan Murphy had limped off; he looks likely to miss Ireland's match against Wales in Dublin on Saturday. Apart from another Di Bernardo penalty and a late try for Hepworth there were Leicester tries for Johne Murphy and Humphreys and a penalty try. Leeds are bottom of the Premiership, 10 points behind Worcester.
Leicester: Tries Crane, Varndell, penalty try, J Murphy, Humphreys; Conversions Humphreys 3; Penalty Humphreys. Leeds: Tries Pala'amo, Hepworth; Conversion Di Bernardo; Penalties Di Bernardo 2; Drop goal Di Bernardo.
Leicester: G Murphy (A Tuilagi, 24); T Varndell, D Hipkiss, O Smith, J Murphy; I Humphreys, F Murphy (H Ellis, 58); B Stankovich, M Davies (B Kayser, 65), J White (M Castrogiovanni, 65), L Deacon (capt; B Pienaar, 68), T Croft (M Corry, 18-28), B Deacon, B Herring (Corry, 48), J Crane.
Leeds: L Hinton (R Vickerman, 75); J Holtby, J Hepworth, A Tuilagi, A Satala (L Blackett, 75); A Di Bernardo, J Bedford (capt; J Brooks, 76); M MacDonald (Pala'amo, 74), R Rawlinson (V Ma'asi 54), F Pala'amo (A Hopcroft, 47), E Lund, P Bouza (M Lock, 75), K Myall, H Fourie (D Paul, 75), A Balding.
Referee: A Rowden (Berkshire)
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