Leicester set up make-or-break game with Ulster with bonus-point win in Italy
Published 11/01/2014 | 16:14
Leicester ensured Heineken Cup quarter-final qualification remains in their own hands as they picked up maximum points at Benetton Treviso.
The Aviva Premiership champions were made to work hard for a fourth straight win in Pool 5 but they turned a 13-8 half-time deficit into a 34-19 success at the Stadio di Monigo.
A brace of Miles Benjamin tries were accompanied by an early effort from Julian Salvi and a penalty score, with Owen Williams adding a penalty and David Mele kicking three penalties and a conversion to set up a mouth-watering clash with pool leaders Ulster at Welford Road next week.
Matt Berquist contributed 14 points for Treviso, with prop Lorenzo Cittadini claiming their solitary first-half try.
Berquist's first successful kick in the Heineken Cup handed the home side a 3-0 lead with five minutes played but Leicester were celebrating the opening try not long after.
Captain Toby Flood's decision to kick for touch rather than goal paid immediate dividends as Salvi powered over after Jamie Gibson's safe take was followed by a huge drive from the Tigers pack.
Williams sent the conversion across the face of the posts but Leicester led 5-3 at the end of the first 10 minutes.
Treviso hit back in style, though, as prop Cittadini made light work of Benjamin's tackle to dive over from a metre out.
Berquist added the extras and suddenly Leicester were on the back foot with 20 minutes played.
The New Zealander slotted a second penalty from long range with 25 minutes played and Leicester were eight points adrift at 13-5.
Treviso enjoyed the better of the following 10 minutes but Leicester found their feet in the closing stages and went close out wide before Williams landed a straightforward penalty on the stroke of half time.
Treviso were off the mark first in the second period thanks to a third penalty from Berquist but Leicester raced away for a superb second try five minutes in.
Niki Goneva's initial burst created space for Benjamin out wide on the left and the former Worcester wing supplied a stunning finish from distance, dummying between two men and then holding off two more to stretch over a metre in from touch.
Williams was off target with the difficult conversion attempt but Leicester were back to within three points at 16-13.
That score was followed by Leicester indiscipline at scrum time, though, and Berquist made it 19-13 with half an hour remaining.
Mele cut the gap again with his first penalty after 55 minutes and things swung Leicester's way when Treviso full-back Brendan Williams saw yellow for failing to roll away after bringing Benjamin to ground 60 seconds later.
Mele kicked Leicester level from close range on the hour and another lineout brought their third try four minutes later.
Salvi again emerged at the bottom of a huge drive but referee Romain Poite made Mele's life easier by awarding a penalty try for Treviso's attempts to bring down the maul. Mele kicked the conversion.
Leicester led 26-19 at that point and had a quarter of an hour to secure the bonus point score but they needed just another two minutes as Benjamin dotted down with ease out wide.
Anthony Allen marked his first game since October with the crucial burst, with Benjamin one of three men who could have crossed out wide.
Mele missed the extras but kicked a third penalty as Leicester eased home late on.