Premiership: Leicester Tigers 31-27 Exeter Chiefs
|Leicester (17) 31|
|Tries: Penalty, Tuilagi, Betham, Thompstone Cons: Burns 4 Pen: Burns|
|Exeter (6) 27|
|Tries: Lewis, Whitten, Horstmann Cons: Steenson 3 Pens: Steenson 2|
Manu Tuilagi scored his first Premiership try for nearly two years as Leicester moved up to third with victory over second-placed Exeter.
The Chiefs would have gone top with a win, but were 17-6 down at half-time thanks to a penalty try and Tuilagi's try with Exeter's Geoff Parling binned.
Peter Betham and Adam Thompstone crossed to give Tigers a 31-6 lead.
Dave Lewis and Ian Whitten went over to bring Chiefs hope, before Kai Horstmann earned his side a losing bonus point.
Horstmann bundled across the line in overtime to move to within three points of leaders Saracens, who suffered defeat at the hands of Northampton on Saturday.
That bonus point could prove crucial come the end of the season in the race for the play-offs, but Chiefs boss Rob Baxter will not be pleased by how his side let the game get away from them.
A slow start saw Tigers' Freddie Burns and Exeter's Gareth Steenson slot one penalty each in the first half hour, but the game came to life when the referee awarded a penalty try and binned Parling as he prevented Harry Thacker from crossing.
Tuilagi - a possibility for England's Six Nations match against Wales last week - grounded a superb flowing team move with the extra man advantage.
Betham then finished a 60-metre sprint and Thompstone went over under pressure from James Short to give the hosts a 25-point lead.
But the game turned again when Dominic Barrow was sinbinned for the Tigers and Lewis and Whitten took full advantage before Matt Jess' yellow halted any momentum Chiefs had - until Horstmann's late intervention.
Leicester director of rugby Richard Cockerill:
"I thought we were clinical, we took our opportunities. I'm disappointed we let them back into the game, their second try turning the game into a contest.
"But I've just reminded the boys that Exeter are a good side and have been going well, but we deserved to win."
On Manu Tuilagi: "Manu did some good things today but I don't think he is ready to play Test rugby.
"Even if you put him on the bench to be an impact player for the last half an hour, what happens if you have to put him on after five minutes?
"He wants to be back in the mix. Whether that's right is for me and Eddie to have a discussion but, ultimately, it will be England's decision."
Exeter head coach Rob Baxter:
"We have looked at three games - Bath, Leicester and Newcastle - as a mini-league, and if we can win next week we will have got two wins and a bonus point.
"That's pretty good form and I think we are the only team to take points from every fixture, that shows consistency.
"It was them scoring those points at the start of the second half that brought out the best in us.
"But we conceded four tries, some of them well constructed, and at the end of the day they got five points and came away with a good win."
Leicester: Bell; Thompstone, Betham, Tuilagi, Goneva; Burns, Kitto; Ayerza, Thacker, Mulipola, Fitzgerald, Barrow, Croft, McCaffrey, Slater (capt).
Replacements: Van Vuuren, Brugnara, Balmain, Kitchener, Williams, Tresidder, Williams, Veainu.
Exeter: Dollman; Jess, Whitten, Hill, Short; Steenson, Lewis; Low, Yeandle (capt), Francis, Atkins, Parling, Ewers, Salvi, Armand.
Replacements: Taione, Hepburn, Williams, Stevenson, Horstmann, Chudley, Hooley, Bodilly.
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