Premiership: London Irish 16-28 Leicester Tigers

Tommy Bell
Tommy Bell joined Leicester Tigers from Jersey last year
London Irish (13) 16
Try: Sinclair Con: Noakes Pens: Noakes 3
Leicester Tigers (19) 28
Try: Betham Con: Bell Pens: Bell 7
Relive Sunday's Premiership action

Tommy Bell kicked 23 points as Leicester Tigers opened their Premiership campaign with a battling victory at London Irish.

Tigers led by just six points at the interval after Peter Betham and Jebb Sinclair had traded tries.

Chris Noakes's penalty early in the second period reduced the deficit further for the Exiles, led by head coach Tom Coventry for the first time.

But three second-half penalties from Bell ensured a comfortable Tigers win.

Leicester, beaten in last season's Premiership play-off semi-finals by Bath, were without England World Cup trio Tom Youngs, Ben Youngs and Dan Cole at the Madejski Stadium.

But after Bell's penalty inside the opening 90 seconds had put them ahead, they never relinquished their lead against a London Irish side looking to build upon their 10th-place finish in 2014-15.

Tigers director of rugby Richard Cockerill had promised a "more expansive" style of play than in previous campaigns and debutant Betham scored a fine interception try from just inside the Exiles' half after 10 minutes.

Sinclair scored for Irish soon after, touching down behind a rolling maul, but it was the boot of Bell that decided the match.

The 22-year-old fly-half, having converted Betham's try, landed seven penalties in total to get Leicester's campaign off to a winning start.

London Irish head coach Tom Coventry told BBC Radio Berkshire:

"At various stages in that game we had the winning of it, we missed a few opportunities at vital times.

"Maybe a lack of game management under a bit of pressure and a little bit of sloppiness with our set piece probably cost us.

"We were down 10 points with an intercept try and it would've been easy for us to capitulate from then on in and go into our shells.

"But, we stuck to our guns and the boys spoke about being focused on the game plan and going back to our structures that we'd been working hard on.

"We did a good job of getting back into the match. For this team, there were some pleasing aspects, but at the end of the day, you want to win your games at home."

Leicester director of rugby Richard Cockerill:

"I'm delighted with the result. We made a conscious effort to rest our Test players, which was always a temptation to bring back in.

"Coming here with a new coaching staff and a new mentality for them, they were very physical and very difficult to break down and I thought the squad strength the lads have shown for the last 15 weeks in pre-season came through.

"It was a good battle. I thought we deserved to win in the end, just.

"I'm delighted for the young lads coming in in the front row, doing a great job. Tommy Bell at 10 in a high-pressure game kicked his goals and controlled the game reasonably well."

London Irish: Fenby; Lewington, Fowlie, Griffin, Ojo; Noakes, McKibbin; Court, Paice, Aulika, Skivington (capt), Symons, Sinclair, Narraway, McCusker.

Replacements: Ellis, Smallbone, Halavatau, Sheriff, Sisi, Steele, Geraghty, Mulchrone.

Sin Bin: Ojo (19).

Leicester: Tait (capt); Thompstone, Betham, Bai, Catchpole; Bell, Harrison; Mulipola, Bateman, Balmain, M Williams, Fitzgerald, Croft, McCaffrey, Pearce.

Replacements: Thacker, Brugnara, Pasquali, Pasquali, Fonua, White, O Williams, Odogwu.

Ref: Matt Carley (RFU).