Leicester Tigers 27-32 Saracens, Aviva Premiership
Sarries complete thrilling comeback
February 23, 2013
Sarries complete thrilling comeback
Saracens produced a stunning second-half fightback to beat great rivals Leicester 32-27 in snowy conditions at Welford Road.
Trailing 17-6 at half time, Saracens scored four tries in a one-sided second-half to stay in second place in the Aviva Premiership. It was their fourth successive win at Leicester, who have suffered two successive defeats having lost at champions Harlequins last week.
Saracens' tries came from wingers David Strettle (two), James Short and fullback Chris Wyles, with fly half Charlie Hodgson kicking 12 points. Julian Salvi and Dan Bowden scored for Leicester, who were also awarded a penalty try right on full-time when Strettle deliberately knocked on and was sin binned.
Both sides were heavily depleted due to the Six Nations but the Tigers, whose five-match winning run in the Premiership was ended by the Quins last week, were boosted by the return from injury of captain Geordan Murphy and England flanker Tom Croft in front of a 20,000 crowd for the first ever 8pm kick-off at Welford Road on a Saturday.
The sides, second and third in the table, drew 9-9 at Wembley in round three but Saracens made a fine start as former England fly-half Charlie Hodgson gave them the lead with a fourth-minute penalty.
Leicester then started to take control and young fly-half George Ford, who is expected to join Bath next season, caused major problems for the Saracens defence with passes that put both Murphy and winger Scott Hamilton through holes.
Ford, however, had left his kicking boots at home and missed relatively easy penalties in the seventh and 17th minutes before finally equalising with one from bang in front of the posts. Saracens' best moments came at the start of the second quarter when fullback Chris Wyles and centre Joel Tomkins combined well down the right, before winger James Short sparked a fine counter-attack from a quick throw-in.
The ESPN team discuss Saracens' hard-won victory
They failed to rattle the scoreboard though and in the 29th minute found themselves 10-3 down after great work by number eight Jordan Crane in winning a loose ball on half way and Ford, whose kick to the corner earned Leicester a line-out. It led to the first try of the match, for flanker Salvi after giant prop Logovi'i Mulipola's charge to the line and Ford added the conversion to make it 10-3.
That became 17-3 three minutes later when centre Bowden scored from Ford's brilliant chip after a searing counter-attack by the lively Murphy and winger Adam Thompstone. Ford kicked the conversion before Hodgson pulled three points back for Saracens with a 36th-minute penalty.
Both sides kicked too much at the start of the second half as the snow continued to fall and while Saracens upped their game they found Leicester's defence rock solid until Strettle produced a bit of magic from a ruck in the 53rd minute. The try and Hodgson's conversion put Saracens right back in the game at 17-13 and when Short shrugged off a couple of tackles on the right to score a fine solo try three minutes later Saracens took the lead again, leaving the crowd stunned.
Hodgson missed the conversion but 12 points in 16 minutes had given Saracens the momentum. They then scored their third try two minutes later when Strettle scampered over for his second try after great work by replacement scrum-half Neil de Kock. Hodgson added the conversion to put them 25-17 ahead.
Ford reduced the arrears to five points with a 72nd-minute penalty but Saracens full-back Wyles made the game safe with his side's bonus point try six minutes from time. Hodgson added the conversion.
Leicester were awarded a penalty try at the death after Strettle was yellow carded for a deliberate knock on, with Ford kicking the conversion.
Joel Tomkins impressed for Saracens © Getty Images
© ESPN EMEA Ltd
We bring you our pick of the best pictures from around the world in the last seven days with the battle for Heineken Cup and Amlin Challenge Cup glory taking centre stage
"If you listen carefully you should be able to hear them mining the granite for the statue of a certain Jonny Wilkinson" Graham Jenkins reports from the Heineken Cup Final
Quade Cooper's defence is better than it was 12 months ago and Robbie Deans has erred in omitting him from the core Wallabies squad to play the Lions, Greg Growden writes
"People on the outside think unfounded thoughts on Toulon." Tom Hamilton talks to RCT lock Nick Kennedy ahead of Saturday's Heineken Cup final against Clermont