Jarrod Evans’ late missed conversion allows Leicester to revive season

Jarrod Evans' late missed conversion allows Leicester to revive season
Mike Brown was victorious with Tigers against his former side - Alex Broadway/Getty Images

Harlequins 19 Leicester Tigers 20

Jarrod Evans missed a last-gasp conversion to breathe life into Leicester Tigers’ domestic season as Ollie Hassell-Collins offered a reminder of his class and the visitors just about defied a propping crisis.

In the stadium that features a bar bearing his name, Mike Brown haunted his former club with what turned out to be the decisive try. The 38-year-old had gathered a diving offload from Hassell-Collins, who demonstrated the form that earned him two England caps a year ago.

Dan Richardson deserves a headline mention, too, because Tigers had found themselves in a tight spot with their tighthead props. Dan Cole and Joe Heyes, their first-choice pair, are with England in Girona. Will Hurd would have been available despite being called up by Gregor Townsend, but he pulled out of the Scotland squad because of a foot injury.

In the absence of that trio, Richardson lasted the entire 80 minutes as part of a industrious, committed performance from Leicester’s forwards. The departing Jasper Wiese was immense.

Such graft was so nearly spoiled, though, by Tyrone Green’s score in the 79th minute. But Evans skewed the kick wide. The Premiership table compresses again and Tigers, up to fifth, remain in competition for the top four. Harlequins, without their influential axis of Alex Dombrandt, Danny Care and Marcus Smith as well as Joe Marler, Oscar Beard and Chandler Cunningham-South, remain second for now.

Dan McKellar, the Leicester head coach, candidly admitted that it would have been “shattering” to lose. At the end of what he labelled as a “torturous” block of games since the season began last autumn, with La Rochelle and Leinster their most recent adversaries, Tigers arrived aiming to “bore them to death”.

On a cold and clear night under a full moon, with an eight-week break from league fixtures beckoning, the first 10 minutes was eminently forgettable. Harlequins went behind after Handre Pollard landed three points from just over 40 metres.

While Will Collier milked set-piece offences from James Cronin, Leicester’s kicking game controlled proceedings. On the back of a strong maul, Hassell-Collins swept around from the left wing to glide through midfield. Harlequins crept offside, Tigers went to the corner and Wiese writhed over following a peel around the front. Pollard’s touchline conversion was superb.

Blunt for a few weeks, Leicester were finding space on the flanks beyond the Harlequins blitz, Jamie Shillcock flipping a beautiful offload to Hassell-Collins.

Finally, three minutes before the break, having been subdued all half, Harlequins fired a shot. The scurrying Green sliced Leicester and Nick David was fed with a simple pass.

Tigers rallied and had the first chance of the second period, Brown rolling a kick-pass across the opposition 22 to Hassell-Collins. Harlequins scrambled desperately, Andre Esterhuizen tearing into a ruck to earn the turnover.

Esterhuizen promptly appeared to put the hosts ahead with an extraordinary solo try, surging some 50 metres directly from a scrum. Replays showed that he had edged past the offside line before taking the pass, however.

Leicester were flagging and surrendered their lead thanks to a heaving Harlequins maul. Jack Walker was at the tail and his try was converted by Evans. Tigers would respond quickly.

Pollard’s cut-out pass fizzed across Brown to Dan Kelly, who released Hassell-Collins. Two defenders covered across, but Hassell-Collins cut against the grain and offloaded to Brown, who could carve under the posts and celebrate with bristling gusto. Pollard converted before adding another penalty to reward further territorial pressure, nudging his side 20-14 in front.

Harlequins finished stronger, and shoved Leicester off the last put-in of the game. Will Edwards put Green clear, but Evans’ strike sailed wide to the right and Tigers forced a turnover from the ensuing restart.

Scoring sequence

Scoring: 0-3 Pollard penalty, 0-8 Wiese try, 0-10 Pollard conversion, 5-10 David try, 7-10 Evans try, 12-10 Walker try, 14-10 Evans conversion, 14-15 Brown try, 14-17 Pollard conversion, 14-20 Pollard penalty, 19-20 Green try

Harlequins: T Green; N David, W Joseph (W Edwards, 71), A Esterhuizen, L Lynagh (C Murley, 51); J Evans, M Green (L Gjaltema, 78); F Baxter, J Walker (S Riley, 71), W Collier (D Lewis, 65), J Launchbury, I Herbst (A Clark, 60), G Hammond, W Evans, J Chisholm.

Replacements not used: S Garcia Botta, A White.

Leicester Tigers: J Shillcock; M Brown, D Kelly, S Kata (M Scott, 65), O Hassell-Collins; H Pollard, T Whiteley (B Youngs, 56); J Cronin (J Whitcombe, 53), J Montoya (F Theobold-Thomas, 78), D Richardson, H Wells (Carter, 76), K Hatherell (F Carnduff, 65), H Liebenberg, O Cracknell (M Rogerson, 53), J Wiese.

Replacement not used: T Hoyt.

Referee: Mr T Foley (RFU).

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