London Irish 26 Leicester 25: Everitt's late kick breaks Irish hoodoo

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The Independent Online

London Irish may have sneaked away with victory at the Madejski Stadium yesterday, but Leicester managed to increase their lead at the top of the Guinness Premiership table.

A late try by Alesana Tuilagi secured two bonus points - he scored his team's fourth try in the eighth minute of added time, which presented Andy Goode with only his second successful kick of the afternoon to guarantee the second bonus for finishing within seven points of their opponents.

It needed television replays to confirm the score, but the home fans were already cheering because they knew it was the last play of the match and once Goode knocked over the kick their team had ended a run of eight defeats against these opponents.

But had it not been for some wayward kicking by Goode and some sterling defence by Irish, the Tigers, who ended the game with three Murphys on the pitch, Geordan, Johne and Frank, to Irish's Phil, might well have left Reading with maximum points.

Goode had a nightmare, kicking out of hand as well as with his place kicks, and the head coach, Pat Howard, admitted afterwards: "He had a bad day at the office. He was poor all round and he is pretty disappointed."

For Irish there were only heroes. The veteran winger Justin Bishop, now 32, was a handful in attack and deadly accurate in defence, running the perfect vector to neutralise potential threats. But Leicester are still possessed of one of the most effective driving mauls in the club game and this was used to telling effect for the captain Martin Corry's first-half try and Lewis Moody's after the interval, and it needed TV assistance to deny the Leicester lock James Hamilton another score midway through the second half.

There was not an iota of goodwill on show at kick-off as the Exiles launched themselves at the Premiership leaders, who lost Premiership debutant Tom Youngs - son of former Leicester and England scrum-half Nick - with a broken leg in the opening 15 minutes (Howard later revealed that the 21-year-old played on for eight minutes before hobbling off). By that time Irish were already ahead, the impressive fly-half Shane Geraghty having opened the scoring in the second minute with a well taken try and then adding a penalty.

A brilliant break by Bishop set up Topsy Ojo for their second touchdown but Tigers clawed back the initiative. Corry's try was followed after the interval with Goode's solitary penalty and, although Steffan Armitage was put over for Irish by Olivier Magne, Moody's score closed the gap. Then more close-range work resulted in Tuilagi's glory, but by then Barry Everitt had knocked over the vital penalty that put victory out of Tigers' reach.

London Irish: Tries Geraghty, Ojo, S Armitage; Conversion Geraghty; Penalties Geraghty 2, Everitt.

Leicester: Tries J Murphy, Corry, Moody, Tuilagi; Conversion Goode; Penalty Goode.

London Irish: D Armitage; T Ojo, N Mordt, S Mapusua, J Bishop; S Geraghty (B Everitt, 67), P Hodgson; N Hatley, D Coetzee (D Paice, 67), F Rautenbach (L Tonga, 53), J Hudson, R Casey (capt) (Kennedy, 57), K Roche (S Armitage, 57), O Magne, P Murphy.

Leicester: G Murphy; A Tuilagi, T Youngs (S Vesty, 16; P Burke h-t), O Smith, J Murphy; A Goode, H Ellis (F, Murphy, 59); A Moreno (M Holford, 62), J Buckland (G Chuter, 70), M Castrogiovanni, J Hamilton, B Kay (L Cullen, 55), B Deacon, L Moody, M Corry (capt).

Referee: D Rose (Warwickshire).

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