Premiership: London Irish 6-12 Leicester Tigers
|London Irish (3) 6|
|Penalties: Geraghty 2|
|Leicester Tigers (9) 12|
|Penalties: Burns 2, Mele Drop-goal: Burns|
Leicester Tigers beat London Irish in a tight encounter to enhance their hopes of a top-four Premiership finish.
Leicester dominated the scrum in the first half, with Exiles prop Geoff Cross sin-binned before the break.
Freddie Burns kicked two penalties and added a drop-goal to give the visitors a 9-3 half-time lead in windy and rainy conditions at the Madejski Stadium.
Exiles fly-half Shane Geraghty replied with his second penalty but David Mele made sure of the points for the Tigers.
Leicester climb to sixth, level on points with fifth-placed Sale and Wasps in seventh, while a losing bonus point takes London Irish level with 10th-placed Newcastle.
London Irish were forced into a late change after centre Fergus Mulchrone failed a late fitness test, with Tom Fowlie moving in from the wing to replace him and Alex Lewington coming into the starting XV.
Leicester controlled possession and territory early on and Burns kicked the visitors into a 9-0 lead, with two penalties for infringements at the scrum either side of a drop-goal.
After Topsy Ojo went off with a knee injury, forcing another reshuffle in the Irish backs, the home side got their first points just before 30 minutes had elapsed through Geraghty.
Leicester's utter dominance of the scrum continued when Scotland international Cross was sent to the sin-bin on 34 minutes.
But Tigers fly-half Burns missed the opportunity to extend their lead and then sent another penalty wide of the posts just before half-time.
On a gloomy afternoon in Reading, difficult conditions made for a scrappy second period.
A second penalty from Geraghty pulled Irish to within three points of Leicester, but Mele, who came on for Burns at the break, made it 12-6 shortly afterwards.
Irish had a late scrum deep in Leicester territory, which could have provided an opportunity to score a try, but Leicester's forwards reasserted their dominance to ease the pressure.
London Irish interim head coach Glenn Delaney:
"We lost the engagements and for the first 35 to 40 minutes we weren't at the races.
"The referee penalised Tom Court at two early scrums and from then on we were the side under scrutiny. We rectified it in the second half by introducing Leo Halavatau.
"For the past two weeks, we have been the team threatening the try-line but we have to do better in the final third. We need to be more clinical and pull the trigger.
"They came away with the win without putting any pressure on our line whereas we came close twice and could have nicked it."
Leicester Tigers director of rugby Richard Cockerill:
"You want to score tries but it's all about winning. We've got a lot of boys missing and they are a dangerous side.
"We played some really good stuff but only going 9-3 up was a poor reward for our efforts.
"Freddie missed three kicks and we lost the ability to control field position when he went off.
"He had a knock on the head and was groggy, so he failed the protocol test and after the interval the tide turned against us but we had enough belligerence to win."
London Irish: Fenby; Ojo, Fowlie, Sheridan, Lewington; Geraghty, Steele; Court, Paice, Cross, Skivington (capt), Sinclair, Treviranus, Gilsenan, Guest.
Replacements: Stevens, Parr, Halavatau, Rouse, Narraway, Allinson, Noakes, Griffin.
Sin Bin: Cross (34).
Leicester Tigers: Tait; Goneva, Catchpole, Roberts, Benjamin; Burns, Harrison; Ayerza, Youngs, Mulipola, De Chaves, Kitchener, Croft, Gibson, Crane (capt).
Replacements: Briggs, Rizzo, Balmain, Whetton, Pearce, Mele, Bai, Morris.
Referee: Wayne Barnes (RFU).