Leicester Tigers 14-15 Saracens, Aviva Premiership, March 5
Sarries complete rare Tigers double
March 5, 2011
Sarries complete rare Tigers double
Saracens closed the gap at the summit of the Aviva Premiership to two points on Saturday with a hard-fought 15-14 victory over leaders Leicester at their fortress, Welford Road.
Replacement Tigers fly-half Billy Twelvetrees missed a penalty with the last kick of the game to hand victory to Sarries, who also silenced the Leicester faithful last season before losing out in the Premiership final at Twickenham.
Alex Goode kicked five penalties to carry the gutsy visitors to a second victory over Leicester this season and also one step closer to a home semi-final, overshadowing a stunning solo score from Manu Tuilagi and the kicking efforts of Jeremy Staunton.
Goode opened the scoring with a penalty on five minutes but Sarries' failure to roll away two minutes later allowed Staunton to cancel out the visitors' advantage with a shot of his own.
Saracens made plenty of running in the early stages and used their tight forwards to good effect in putting the hosts under pressure in their 22, with Goode's second penalty rewarding their industry after a quarter of an hour.
A stunning tackle and turnover by Tuilagi put Leicester back on the front foot as Goode was pinged, but Saracens cleared the initial danger by pinching the Tigers' lineout. The elder Tuilagi, winger Alesana, salvaged the situation with a powerful run, winning a penalty that was dispatched by Staunton.
The first-half's pivotal moment arrived soon after and again it was Manu Tuilagi who provided a spark of genius to light up a windswept afternoon. Collecting a long pass from his brother, the 19-year-old centre broke clear from Ernst Joubert with a quick burst of footwork 30 metres out and set off for the corner, smashing Goode across the line before touching down. Staunton missed the conversion but added a penalty on 33 minutes to extend the home side's lead only briefly, with Goode's third effort keeping Saracens interested at the break.
Sarries shook up their midfield at half-time, introducing the bulky Adam Powell in place of Rodd Penney, and were forced into another change when Welsh prop Rhys Gill limped off to be replaced by former England international Matt Stevens.
Manu Tuilagi's try was not enough for Leicester © Getty Images
Leicester began the second period a few notches below their best in terms of intensity, coughing up a couple of lineouts and a charge-down off scrum-half James Grindal, but brought the crowd to their feet with a remarkable period of defence. Saracens ground through 22 phases in sight of the Tigers' line but were battered back at every turn before the referee awarded the home side a pressure-relieving penalty.
To add insult to injury Leicester immediately went upfield and won a penalty in front of the posts, but before Staunton could call for the kicking tee the decision was reversed on the advice of the touch judge, who had picked out Craig Newby for an off-the-ball shove.
Thanks to a heavyweight effort at the scrum, particularly from Stevens, Sarries won a further penalty and Goode slotted the first points of the second-half on 64 minutes to close the gap to just two points. Leicester were handed a chance to take the points back immediately as Alesana Tuilagi milked a penalty after being dragged down by Powell while chasing a kick ahead, but Staunton uncharacteristically hooked his effort wide.
Saracens went back to their task and after securing go-forward from the excellent Joubert they won a vital penalty when Grindal was guilty of sealing off a ruck. Goode stepped up and from 40 metres landed a brilliant kick to snatch a one-point lead with five minutes remaining.
Leicester refused to bow out quietly however and with Twelvetrees hammering a penalty deep into opposition territory they set about salvaging the game. The visitors again felt the wrath of the ref but survived as Twelvetrees' effort from 30 metres fell harmlessly wide of the target.
© ESPN EMEA Ltd
"The Australian public welcomed us with open arms." Tom Hamilton talks to Ken Kennedy about the Lions' tour Down Under in 1966
In the latest edition of Ask John, John Griffiths answers queries about Barbarians socks, bi-lingual referees and Lions who weren't Lions
"Here is the line-up I believe will take to the field on Saturday, let the abuse commence." Tom Hamilton has a punt at the Lions' starting XV for the first Test in his latest Tour Diary