|Leicester Tigers (9) 16|
|Try: Potter Con: Ford Pens: Ford 3|
|Harlequins (6) 14|
|Try: Lynagh Pens: Smith 3|
Leicester extended their lead at the top of the Premiership to nine points as they edged to a 16-14 victory over defending champions Harlequins.
A trio of George Ford penalties to two from Marcus Smith gave Tigers a 9-6 lead after a cagey first half.
Harry Potter chased down Ben Youngs’ kick ahead to score the first try.
Louis Lynagh’s opportunist score cut Tigers’ lead to 16-14, but the hosts withstood late pressure to maintain their 100% start to the season.
After defeat for nearest rivals Saracens at Exeter on Saturday, the Tigers took full advantage as they extended their perfect start to the season to 12 wins in all competitions.
It was also a 10th straight Premiership win going back to last season, the best run in almost 20 years for the 10-time English champions.
Playing in front of a sell-out crowd of more than 24,000 for the first time since April 2018, Leicester edged possession and territory in a tight first half, but struggled to create clear chances aside from two Ben Youngs blindside breaks into the Quins 22.
Freddie Steward was also denied by Cadan Murley’s try-saving tackle as he reached for the line.
Tigers looked to test Smith throughout and deny him space to pull the strings, and the new England fly-half took a huge first-half hit from Jasper Wiese while fielding an up-and-under that drew a huge roar from the home supporters.
The Quins playmaker was then shown a yellow card for slapping the ball out of Ford’s hands, but Tigers’ numerical advantage was wiped out moments later when Wiese was sent to the sin-bin for a ‘no arms’ tackle.
And Leicester had to survive intense pressure on the stroke of half-time after conceding successive penalties, Potter doing superbly to hold up Huw Jones over the line and preserve their slender lead.
Potter then made a crucial impact at the other end early in the second half, chasing down Youngs’ kick ahead to touch down for the opening try and give Leicester breathing space at 16-6.
Quins had uncharacteristically failed to make a line break in the first half, but after a third Smith penalty cut the gap to a converted score, they were back in the game with a try out of nothing.
Collecting the ball on the wing, 21-year-old Lynagh showed lightning pace to retrieve his kick through and dot down.
Smith missed the chance to draw the visitors level when he put the conversion wide, and Ford then sent a long-range penalty attempt off-target with seven minutes left as the game remained tantalisingly in the balance.
The visitors moved deep into Leicester territory via Smith’s boot from a scrum penalty, but could not breach trademark dogged defence from the hosts.
A losing bonus point after a fourth league defeat in six matches moves the defending champions up to fourth, 12 points behind the Tigers.
Leicester Tigers head coach Steve Borthwick told BBC Radio Leicester:
“The boys fought hard and found a way to win. They are the champions and they are a terrific team.
“When you look at their quality, especially at 9, 10 and 15 they have got magic and that can break you open and they did that in the second half. They really tested us, but our defence held in the most part.
“After half-time it started pouring down with rain and that period was a real arm wrestle. Within that I thought we stuck in really well and came out with seven points, which was crucial for us. That was a critical period.
“I’m excited that we are making progress as a team, but what really excites me is those young players are really developing quickly. The players have worked incredibly hard to lift this team from where it was.”
Leicester: Steward; Potter, Moroni, Kelly, Nadolo; Ford, B Youngs; Genge (capt), Montoya, Cole, Wells, Green, Liebenberg, van Staden, Wiese.
Replacements: Dolly, Leatigaga, Heyes, Chessum, Reffell, Wigglesworth, Hegarty, Porter.
Sin-bin: Wiese (36)
Harlequins: Green; Lynagh, Jones, Esterhuizen, Murley; Smith, Care; Marler, Walker, Collier, Lamb, Lewies (capt), Chisholm, Kenningham, Dombrandt.
Replacements: Musk, Garcia Botta, Kerrod, Tizard, Taulani, Lawday, Gjaltema, Beard.
Sin-bin: Smith (33)
Referee: Ian Tempest.