Leicester Tigers survive late London Irish fightback in 10-try thriller

Nemani Nadolo (c) of Leicester Tigers takes on Ben Loader during the Gallagher Premiership Rugby match between Leicester Tigers and London Irish at Mattioli Woods Welford Road Stadium - Leicester Tigers survive late London Irish fightback in 10 try thriller - Getty Images/David Rogers
Nemani Nadolo (c) of Leicester Tigers takes on Ben Loader during the Gallagher Premiership Rugby match between Leicester Tigers and London Irish at Mattioli Woods Welford Road Stadium - Leicester Tigers survive late London Irish fightback in 10 try thriller - Getty Images/David Rogers

Nemani Nadolo signed off as a Leicester Tiger with a trademark rampaging performance but he and his team-mates were left hanging on for victory.

The powerful Fijian created his usual menace for 47 minutes before leaving the field to loud applause from the Welford Road crowd who said goodbye to a wing whose three-year Premiership stint has ended with a move to Super Rugby side NSW Waratahs.

After a fast and furious contest, Tigers jumped to fifth place in the table and, with the sides sharing 10 tries, the only surprise was Nadolo failed to celebrate one himself.

An emotional Nadolo, 34, insisted: “I wanted to go out with a win and we got it….just! It’s been an honour to play for this club. It's sad to leave but I have made some great memories here over the years and made so many friends. Being champions last year was special and to see this club do that was the highlight for me.”

Tigers seemed in full control of a game they led 26-14 at the break but Irish's never-say-die spirit threatened to cause an upset in a nail-biting finish.

Julian Montoya, Richard Wigglesworth, Harry Potter and Tommy Reffell crossed for Leicester in the first half. But Irish went toe-to-toe with Fijian lock Api Ratuniyarawa and a penalty try keeping them firmly in the match.

Leicester Tigers' Harry Potter (right) scores their side's third try of the game during the Gallagher Premiership match at Mattioli Woods Welford Road Stadium, - David Davies/PA
Leicester Tigers' Harry Potter (right) scores their side's third try of the game during the Gallagher Premiership match at Mattioli Woods Welford Road Stadium, - David Davies/PA

The Exiles burst out of the blocks in the second half with tries from captain Matt Rogerson and wing Ollie Hassell-Collins, drawing them level at 26-26.

Replacement Jasper Wiese crashed over only for Irish to hit back through flanker Tom Pearson. But Paddy Jackson’s failure to convert proved the difference as Tigers held out for a tense victory.

Leicester Tigers’ director of rugby Steve Borthwick admitted: “It was closer than we wanted but it’s always nice to pick up five points. It has been 50 days since we last played here at Welford Road. So it's been a strange and difficult spell.”

London Irish Director of rugby Declan Kidney said "We gave away too many points in that first half and we had to come back from a big hole.

"We are not far away from winning games as we've had six games away in our eight fixtures and it's only at Sale that we didn't perform. We've picked up five points in our last four away games.

"So we are knocking on the door, but we need to put together a full 80-minute performance and then the results will come."

Match details

Leicester Tigers: Watson; Ashton, Potter, Scott, Nadolo; Burns, Wigglesworth; Whitcombe, Montoya, Cole; Martin, Green, Liebenberg, Reffell, Cracknell.

Replacements: Clare, Van Wyk, Heyes, O. Chessum, Wiese, Edwards, Atkinson, Porter.

Tries: Montoya, Wigglesworth, Potter, Reffell, Wiese

Cons: Burns 4

London Irish: Parton; Loader, Joseph, Janse Van Rensburg, Hassell-Collins; Jackson, Powell; Fa'aso'o, Rogerson, Pearson; Ratuniyarawa, Munga, Chawatama, Creevy, Gigena.

Replacements: Willemse, Hoskins, Fischetti, Caulfield, Gonzalez, Cunningham-South, White, Morisi.

Tries: Ratuniyarawa, Penalty, Rogerson, Hassell-Collins, Pearson

Cons: Jackson 2