Even without the considerable assistance of the referee, this was a match Leicester were destined to win. They had neither forgotten nor forgiven the cup thrashing they had endured against the same opponents earlier in the season, but the appearance of the Argentinian referee, Pablo Deluca, was an unexpected bonus. Senor Deluca is due to take charge of Saturday's Six Nations match between France and Italy which may be Italy's best chance of success given that his grasp on the laws appears to be at best tenuous.
Nevertheless, his performance lightened a tedious afternoon, the game being over as a contest midway through the first half, by which time Leicester, admittedly with a stiffish breeze in their favour, were leading 24-3. From the start the under-powered Irish pack were outgunned but when Simon Halford, their tight-head prop, was harshly banished to the sin bin for obstruction on Pat Howard, they were done for. The referee's inconsistency, which he demonstrated on numerous occasions, was most glaringly exposed later in the half when Irish obstruction, once again on Howard, amounted to dangerous play yet this time the culprits, Robert Todd and Jake Boer, escaped with a lecture.
To make matters worse for the Irish, Jarrod Cunningham, having kicked a penalty to give them the lead in the seventh minute, completely lost his range and direction thereafter. Contrast this with Tim Stimpson's strike rate for Leicester. Having recovered from a calamitous opening minute when his careless pass to Jamie Hamilton put the scrum- half off the field and out of the game with concussion, Stimpson ended up with 21 points from a try, two penalties and five conversions.
Despite the margin of their victory, Leicester were unimpressive for long spells, save for the power and accuracy of their tackling, which crushed Irish bodies as well as their spirits. Todd, whose ability to stay on his feet is so essential to London Irish's attacking manoeuvres, was cut down at source as were the Irish loose forwards. With so little to feed off, the threat from Stephen Bachop and Kevin Putt, as potent a half-back partnership as any in the Premiership, was blunted. This in turn kept Conor O'Shea out of the action.
If the Leicester defence did its job there must be concern about the consistency of the attack. Hamilton's early departure could hardly be blamed. James Grindall, his replacement, did all that was asked of him, scoring two fine tries; the first, following his initial break, came from Howard's clever switch of direction.
Leicester's second try, scored by Lewis Moody, had its origins minutes earlier when Martin Johnson, who had an encouragingly lively match, knocked on from an Irish kick-off. It went undetected by the referee, the Tigers swept forward and pitched camp inside the 22. With their depleted scrum, the Irish could not hold out and Moody scored.
Stimpson's try, in which there was as much nudging off the ball as there was subtlety on it, may have lacked beauty but it effectively finished the match. His second penalty, two minutes before half-time, meant that Leicester could indulge themselves for the next 40 minutes and could afford to relax. They did both in almost equal measure.
Grindall scored his second try neatly from the base of the scrum, the Leicester defence twice melted in front of Kieran Campbell as he sprinted over. And all the while the Irish persisted in giving the hapless Cunningham the opportunity to miss goal kicks which he did with gusto.
Given the gap between the sides, this was tactical ineptitude of a high order and Cunningham missed five kicks in all. In the end, O'Shea was called up to attempt the conversion of Campbell's second try. But he was even less successful.
With almost contemptuous ease, Leicester drove down to the Irish line in the final minute for Adam Balding to score his first try for the club and for Stimpson to kick his fifth conversion.
Leicester: S Timpson; G Murphy, W Greenwood, P Howard, D Lougheed; A Healey (L Lloyd, 70), J Hamilton (J Grindall, 1); G Rowntree (P Frehswater, 55), D West (R Cockerill, 55), D Garforth (J Akurangi, 55), M Johnson (capt), B Kay (F van Heerden, 66), W Johnson (A Balding, 67), M Corry, L Moody.
London Irish: C O'Shea (capt); J Cunningham, R Todd (S Hatley, 40), J Bishop, B Whetstone (K Campbell 40); S Bachop, K Putt; N Hatley, B Stankovich (A Flavin, 47), S Halford (F Fullman, 66), N Harvey (B Cockbain, 70), M Gabey, J Boer, R Strudwick, K Dawson (R Hunter).
Referee: P Deluca (Arg)
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