Leicester 31-27 Exeter

Manu Tuilagi

Manu Tuilagi trained with the England squad during the week

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: 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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