MATCH REPORT | Leicester Tigers 19-10 Saracens Men
Saracens Men suffered a 19-10 defeat against a powerful Leicester Tigers outfit who outmuscled them at Mattioli Woods Welford Road.
The Men in Black were constantly looking for ways to salvage something in the closing stages but ultimately the Tigers’ set-piece dominance earned them the points in a gruelling Gallagher Premiership clash.
In the opening exchanges it was a tense tussle between two sides who were opting for plenty of kicking.
An early break from Rotimi Segun was as likely as Sarries looked in the first 10 minutes, as well as a delightful Elliot Daly kick which pinned the Tigers back in their own 22.
Tigers looked to strike with 11 minutes on the clock as a penalty was kicked to the corner by Handre Pollard, but some brilliant work from Maro Itoje at the lineout ensured the ball was held up and Sarries survived.
Leicester did score with their next attack though, as the visitors looked to play from the base of a scrum but Dan Kelly intercepted a pass and ran straight through from 35 metres out. The conversion went wide, but the hosts now had a 5-0 lead.
Sarries then almost got level out of nothing as Juan Martin Gonzalez hacked a loose ball deep in to the 22, and his compatriot Lucio Cinti chased hard but Freddie Steward got back and used his footwork to get out of a sticky situation.
The Londoners then struck with a wonderful first phase move to get level in sensational style. From the top of a lineout on half way Cinti released Elliot Daly, who then coasted in to the 22 and passed to Tom Parton who dived over the line emphatically to the delight of the visiting fans. Owen Farrell’s inch-perfect touchline conversion then put them 7-5 up with 20 minutes gone.
They then had their tails up and two brilliant cross-field kicks from Farrell to Cinti and Rotimi Segun gave them field position, and then they got a penalty in front of the posts which the captain slotted to extend the lead to five points.
Leicester then looked for a quick response and Pollard’s kicking was again putting them in dangerous areas, but a trademark turnover from Ben Earl earned Sarries some much needed possession.
Tigers did get back ahead with five minutes until the break, this time it was Matt Rogerson who muscled over from close range to level the score. They had a penalty in the 22 and opted for a scrum, before the back-rower carried from just two metres out to dot down. Pollard’s conversion then gave them a 12-10 lead.
A turnover did give the visitors the chance to hit straight back, but just as Theo McFarland looked to offload with an overlap on the left the ball went forward and Leicester got the scrum.
Try number three looked to have arrived for the hosts in the final play of the half as Kelly kicked ahead and gathered to go over, but amazing work from Daly forced him in to a knock on and the sides went down the tunnel with Leicester leading 12-10.
Sarries started the second half in promising fashion and a little dink ahead from Farrell was almost gathered by Parton but Harry Simmons slid over to cal the mark.
Segun then went on the rampage down the wing but was hauled down just short, and then another attack gave them a great chance but they were agonisingly penalised for holding on.
A couple of penalties in quick succession then took Leicester in to the 22, but a huge hit from Farrell forced a knock on and the visitors got the ball back.
Cinti’s audacious offload to Earl almost released the back-rower down the wing as the chances kept coming for Sarries, but the ball bounced out of his chest and the hosts gained the scrum.
The pressure kept coming at scrum time, and Itoje was then sent to the sin-bin as he didn’t retreat when Jasper Weise took a quick penalty. From that penalty though Leicester couldn’t capitalise as a knock on gave the travelling faithful an enormous sigh of relief.
The relief didn’t last long though, as Leicester got a penalty from that scrum and then spun the ball wide to Simmons who could gather on the touchline and go over in the corner. Pollard then added the extras as their lead grew to nine point with 20 minutes remaining.
Sarries did show flashes as they looked for a route back in to the match, another brilliant first phase move almost had Alex Lewington over in the corner but the Tigers defence managed to scramble across.
A penalty was then kicked to the corner by Daly but as the maul formed Sarries were penalised for crossing to the frustration of the visitors.
Leicester then saw out the closing stages to register what could be a crucial win in the race for the Premiership play-offs.
Saracens now turn their attention back to the Investec Champions Cup, and have a huge challenge ahead next weekend as they travel to Bordeaux for Round Three.