An experimental Leinster side was outscored by five tries to one as the Geordan Murphy-led Leicester Tigers triumphed 37-14 in Friday’s pre-season friendly at Welford Road.
PRE-SEASON FRIENDLY MATCH: Friday, August 27
LEICESTER TIGERS 37 LEINSTER 14, Welford Road
Scorers: Leicester Tigers: Tries: Alesana Tuilagi 2, Penalty try, Dan Hipkiss, Manu Tuilagi; Cons: Toby Flood 3; Pens: Toby Flood 2
Leinster: Try: Ian McKinley; Pens: Fergus McFadden 3
New Leinster coach Joe Schmidt tested out a number of combinations and young and new players throughout the game, with front row hopeful Simon Shawe getting 49 minutes on the pitch.
Ballymena clubman Shawe is hoping to further his career and secure a contract with Leinster, as the province will be without the injured Stan Wright (Achilles tendon) for the next six months.
Friday night’s on-field action saw Leicester hit the front thanks to a first minute penalty from England out-half Toby Flood. That was quickly cancelled out by Fergus McFadden, before the place-kickers added their second successful penalties.
Tigers showed their potency in the 12th minute when skipper Geordan Murphy was involved in the first decent attack of the match. It took a crunching double tackle from young centre Eamonn Sheridan and winger Niall Morris to prevent the onrushing Alesana Tuilagi from scoring.
Leinster countered and a quick breakaway resulted in McFadden booting the visitors into a 9-6 lead.
Schmidt’s men continued to some promise, and runs from out-half Ian McKinley and number 8 Stephen Keogh, amid a sustained bout of forward pressure, kept Tigers on the defensive.
Leinster transferred that pressure into points when McKinley, the former Ireland Under-20 international, did well to gather his own chip and dot down in the corner for a 28th minute try.
McFadden missed the conversion and Leicester wasted little time in mounting as response. Bustling winger Tuilagi took a pass from scrum half Ben Youngs to barge his way through for a try which Flood converted.
Youngs’ opposite number, Isaac Boss, looked composed on the ball, operating effectively with his hard-working back row and McKinley, but Leinster leaked a second try on the stroke of half-time.
The hosts were awarded a penalty try after pressure near the Leinster try-line, and Flood’s simple conversion gave them a 20-14 interval lead.
Leicester cantered clear on the scoreboard when replacement Dan Hipkiss rounded the cover for a 47th minute try, with Flood’s extras making it a 13-point game.
Amid a raft of substitutions, Leinster went close to notching their second try. Debutant lock Ed O’Donoghue was just kept out by some frantic Leicester defending.
Schmidt will have been pleased by how the province’s young guns stepped up to the mark against an experienced Tigers line-up.
A number of current and former underage internationals were brought on in the second half, including Stewart Maguire, Ben Marshall, Ian Madigan, Brendan Macken, Jason Harris-Wright, Michael Keating, Paul Ryan and Jack McGrath.
Indeed, Leinster finished the game with six Academy players on the pitch, and the collective performance will give the management team some encouragement for the competitive season ahead, which begins with next Friday’s Magners League trip to Glasgow Warriors.
Leicester, who have the Aviva Premiership looming large, put a flattering look on the final scoreline with further tries from Alesana Tuilagi and his brother, replacement winger Manu Tuilagi.
LEICESTER TIGERS: Geordan Murphy (capt); Scott Hamilton, Matt Smith, Anthony Allen, Alesana Tuilagi; Toby Flood, Ben Youngs; Marcos Ayerza, George Chuter, Martin Castrogiovanni, Calum Green, George Skivington, Craig Newby, Ben Woods, Thomas Waldrom.
Replacements used: Manu Tuilagi for Hamilton, Dan Hipkiss for Smith, Dan Cole for Ayerza, Boris Stankovich for Castrogiovanni (all half-time), Jeremy Staunton for Flood (55 mins), Rob Hawkins for Chuter, Scott Hamilton for Murphy (both 57), Ed Slater for Green (59), Billy Twelvetrees for Allen (60), James Grindal for Youngs (63), Tom Armes for Newby (64), Dave Markham for Waldrom (70).
LEINSTER: Luke Fitzgerald; David Kearney, Fergus McFadden, Eamonn Sheridan, Niall Morris; Ian McKinley, Isaac Boss; Heinke van der Merwe, Richardt Strauss, Simon Shawe, Nathan Hines, Devin Toner, Dominic Ryan, Sean O’Brien (capt), Stephen Keogh.
Replacements used: Ed O’Donoghue for Toner (29 mins), Stewart Maguire for Shawe (49), Ian Madigan for Fitzgerald, Isa Nacewa for McKinley (both 50), Mariano Galarza for Hines (53), Ben Marshall for Keogh (55), Brendan Macken for Sheridan (59), Jason Harris-Wright for Strauss (60), Michael Keating for Kearney (63), Paul Ryan for D Ryan, Jack McGrath for van der Merwe (both 73).
Referee: Andrew Small (RFU)