Harlequins 25-21 Leicester
Harlequins (12) 25
- Tries: Care
- Conversions: Botica
- Penalties: Botica 6
Leicester (18) 21
- Tries: Flood, Thompstone
- Conversions: Flood
- Penalties: Flood 3
Premiership champions Harlequins hung on to complete a league double over last year's runners-up Leicester as they returned to the top of the table.
In the repeat of last year's final, Quins were outscored two tries to one.
But Ben Botica's 100% haul of seven kicks was the key factor.
Leicester led at the break after tries from Toby Flood, a stunning breakaway, and winger Adam Thompstone, but a converted solo try by Danny Care gave Quins a lead they were never to lose.
Frustrated at so far playing mostly a watching brief in the Six Nations, Care took a quick tap penalty on halfway and ran half the length of the field, jinking in and out to fool Mathew Tait before barrelling his way over.
Conor O'Shea Harlequins coach
“Danny Care will get a chance hopefully soon with England, I'm sure. He's outstanding. From Stuart Lancaster's point of view, he has two Lions-standard scrum-halves competing”
While Quins welcomed back Care from international duty, Leicester were the biggest recipients of England boss Stuart Lancaster wanting his Six Nations fringe players to get game-time in the Premiership this weekend, with Toby Flood, Manu Tuilagi and Thomas Waldrom all returning for Leicester.
Flood converted his own try and kicked three penalties for a 16-point individual haul for the Tigers, but he was outgunned by Botica's six penalties and a conversion as Quins backed up their 22-9 Premiership win at Welford Road in September.
It was Flood who opened the scoring, running over half the length of the field after intercepting Nick Easter's pass, before adding the extras by converting his own try.
Leicester remained just ahead for the rest of the half as Botica and Flood swapped penalties before stretching their lead when, from Flood's kick-through, Thompstone got there first to touch down.
But Flood crucially missed the conversion attempt, allowing Botica to kick Quins ahead for the first time on 50 minutes when he converted Care's try.
Quins thought they had wrapped up the points with 13 minutes remaining but Ugo Monye's score in the corner was brought back for obstruction.
Just a minute later, the error looked costly when Leicester scored their only points of the second half, Flood kicking a penalty to bring the Tigers back to within a point of Harlequins.
But Botica kicked his final penalty with three minutes left to send the Tigers home with only a losing bonus point.
VIEW FROM THE DRESSING ROOM
Harlequins coach Conor O'Shea:
"The right reaction was to come back and perform for your club. Danny Care was world class out there tonight. You're fortunate to be able to watch those types of moments.
"From Stuart Lancaster's point of view, he must be thinking, 'I've got Ben Youngs and Danny Care - how lucky am I?'
"From my point of view, we love having him back. He got stuck in and got physical.
"Danny will get a chance hopefully soon with England, I'm sure. I'm always going to back my own player. Danny's outstanding. But, from Stuart Lancaster's point of view, he has two Lions-standard scrum-halves competing."
Leicester coach Richard Cockerill:
"I thought it was a half-decent game of rugby and it was tight. But we have Saracens at home next week, so it's not all lost. We now need to regroup and just carry on.
"The discipline was disappointing. Some of that was ourselves and some was down to the officiating, which at times was disappointing.
"I thought we were getting penalised for certain things and then I thought the opposition did the same thing but they weren't. Yet again it's the interpretation of the breakdown and us getting penalised and Harlequins not. I don't mind getting penalised, but only if both teams are getting penalised"
"Yet again the officials take centre stage when we needed the referee to be a bit better. We'll now go through the appropriate channels where we feed back and we will decide whether it's right or wrong, but it's too late after the game."
SATURDAY NIGHT'S LINE-UPS
Harlequins: Chisholm; Williams, Hopper, Turner-Hall, Monye; Evans, Care; Lambert, Gray, Johnston, Easter (capt), Robson, Fa'asavalu, Wallace, Guest.
Replacements: Lindsay-Hague for Chisholm (53), Buchanan for Gray (53), Trayfoot for Guest (61).
Not Used: Marfo, Collier, Matthews, Burns, Lowe.
Leicester Tigers: Tait; Hamilton, Tuilagi, Allen, Thompstone; Flood, Harrison; Ayerza, Hawkins, Mulipola, L Deacon (capt), Kitchener, B Deacon, Salvi, Waldrom.
Replacements: Slater for L Deacon (24), Smith for Allen (59), Crane for B Deacon (66).
Not Used: Chuter, Brookes, Balmain, Young, Ford.
Referee: Wayne Barnes (RFU).