MATCH REPORT | Leicester Tigers 24-18 Saracens Men
Saracens Men were denied yet another comeback as they came up just short despite a heroic second half performance to suffer a 24-18 defeat at Leicester Tigers.
The Men in Black trailed 24-3 in the early stages but battled back and can feel hard done by not to have come away with the points at Mattoli Woods Welford Road.
Sarries started brightly and had plenty of early possession. A nice outside break from Alex Lozowski took them towards the 22 and then some big carries from Billy Vunipola increased the tempo, but a penalty at the breakdown allowed Leicester to escape.
The Tigers landed an early blow though as they thundered over the line from their first opportunity. Jasper Wiese crashed over the gainline and went 40 metres before being hauled down, however with a huge overlap the ball was recycled to Handre Pollard who could dive over from close range. He converted his own try to give the hosts a 7-0 lead with six minutes gone.
It got better for the Tigers with 13 minutes played as another long range try saw them take control of the game. Mike Brown stepped past three defenders and entered the 22, and they again shifted the ball quickly, this time to Cameron Henderson who couldn’t be stopped from two metres out. A second conversion from Pollard made it 14-0.
The visitors were then looking for a route back in to the match and an Alex Goode penalty got them on the scoreboard, however another Leicester try followed in a tough start to the match.
Some more possession had them in the 22, and some neat interplay from Jimmy Gopperth and Chris Ashton created space for Brown on the wing who cut inside to dot down. The extras from
Pollard made it 21-3 and it was looking like a long way back for the North Londoners.
Ashton almost crossed against his former side just before the break, but good defensive cover from Alex Lewington ensured he was wrestled in to touch.
Pollard’s long range penalty then gave them further breathing space, but a life-saving try from Eroni Mawi in the final play of the half got the Men in Black back in the game.
Lewington’s break took play up to the line, and then from the resulting penalty they went through the hands and the Fijian bundled over from close range. Goode’s conversion cut the deficit to 14 points at the break.
Sarries started the second half with far more intensity than the first, and a huge chance came the way of Rotimi Segun but as he stretched to score he was held up over the line.
They were rewarded for their endeavour though in an end-to-end start, as Goode made no mistake from the tee to bring the visitors within 11 of the Tigers.
The comeback then looked even more likely when Lewington went the length of the field to silence Welford Road. A loose ball gave the hosts counter attack ball, but the ball went to ground and Lewington gathered brilliantly before racing away from 75 metres to score a sensational try. The conversion went just wide, but now the deficit was just six.
Segun’s crucial tackle on Harry Potter kept Sarries within touching distance, and then another huge hit, this time from Lozowski gave the visitors the momentum.
Ivan van Zyl threatened to break away from the base of a ruck after Vunipola’s huge hit on Brown, but just as it looked like he had evaded the defender he was penalised for holding on.
Sean Maitland then rampaged in to the Tigers 22 as the one-way traffic kept coming, but just as the ball went to go left a hand managed to wrestle it back for the home side.
Lozowski then had a golden chance when he carried 30 metres and went within inches of scoring, and in an extraordinary passage of play the visitors had the ball on the line for over 10 phases as they crept ever closer.
Just as Goode went to dot the ball down he was tackled high by Ashton, which earned a penalty right on the line. Toby Knight went right up to the whitewash but once again they were held up over the line and the hosts could clear.
There was one more chance from a penalty with just four minutes remaining and the rolling maul looked to be surging towards the line, but as Nick Tompkins peeled away from it the ball went forward at the breakdown and that proved to be the last chance.
The Tigers then hammered the ball in to the stands to inflict a second league defeat of the season on the North Londoners.