Match Report | Saracens Men 34 - 27 Leicester Tigers
Saracens Men registered a crucial win as they beat league-leaders 34-27 in a thriller at StoneX Stadium.
The Men in Black scored five tries in a nerve-shredding match to eventually secure their most important win of the season so far.
The Tigers dominated the early proceedings and a string of penalties put them in an ominous position, which they took advantage of to open the scoring. Their powerful rolling maul carried them right up to the line, and then from the following phase Eli Snyman went over to put the visitors in front. George Ford’s conversion gave them an early 7-0 lead.
Sarries responded well despite Mako Vunipola being forced off with an injury, and chances for both Sean Maitland and Elliot Daly both followed.
Alex Goode’s smart grubber through bounced towards the corner and was inches from popping up in to the hands of the Scotland international for a certain try, but Harry Potter grabbed it and managed to clear.
From the next phase Daly combined with Alex Lewington on the wing and he raced in to the 22, but the pass back inside went to ground and the Tigers escaped.
The hosts were rewarded on the 20 minute mark as they deservedly got over the line via the in-form Tom Woolstencroft. A high penalty allowed them to kick to the corner, and then in trademark fashion the hooker stayed patient at the base of the maul to dot down. Alex Lozowski’s brilliant conversion made it 7-7 with 22 minutes gone.
Almost immediately from the kick off Leicester got themselves back in front via Ford’s boot. His first attempt came back off the post and landed in a Tigers hand which almost resulted in a try, but as the defence held firm they were called back for offside and he made no mistake from the next effort to edge his side 10-7 in front.
Then a big turning point in the game came as Lewington scored a sensational try as Sarries hit the front. From the top of a lineout a lovely set play saw the ball spun all the way to the left and the winger strolled through in the corner.
In the process of scoring Kini Murimurivalu was sent to the sin-bin for a late hit, which meant that after Lozowski’s conversion he could also take a penalty straight from the restart which was successful for a 10 point swing, so all of a sudden the home side had a 17-10 lead.
Leicester responded with another Ford penalty as Sarries failed to roll away as the lead cut to four points, but then Maitland hit back emphatically to give his side a huge boost before the break.
Goode’s restart wasn’t gathered by the Tigers and Nick Tompkins pounced on it and set Vincent Koch on the charge. Tompkins smartly then picked it up from the breakdown and spotted an overlap on the short side, so he drew the final man in and set Maitland in to score in the corner.
That was how it stayed after an eventful 40 minutes, as Sarries went down the tunnel with a 22-13 lead.
The Men in Black made the perfect start to the second half as they wrapped up the try bonus point just two minutes after the restart. A penalty was kicked to the corner and then it came out of the maul to Goode, who timed his inside ball perfectly to Koch who could run straight through a gap to dive over under the sticks. Lozowski’s conversion meant the advantage was up to 16 points.
Leicester refused to lie down however, and hit back with 30 minutes to play to get themselves back in the match. Their maul which was a handful all afternoon saw the hosts give away a handful of penalties, and then art the fourth time of asking they powered over courtesy of Nic Dolly who was never going to be stopped from just a metre out. Ford’s extras made it a nine point match once again.
The Tigers were pushing hard to get even closer, and Ford’s cross-field kick to Ollie Chessum very nearly saw the England man cross but he was beaten by the bounce of the ball with the try-line beckoning.
Aled Davies was then sin-binned for a high tackle on Ford, but crucially from the penalty Billy Vunipola got over the ball to earn his side a much-needed turnover.
The defence was once again called upon in the 65th minute mark as the Tigers had a scrum just five metres from the try-line, but with the sold-out crowd behind them they held off yet another attack and smashed the ball up the pitch.
The pressure eventually paid to set up a grand stand finish at StoneX. Another penalty gave Leicester a maul 10 metres from the line, and they went through the phases before Chessum carried over from close range with just over five minutes left. The conversion went straight through, meaning Sarries had a 29-27 lead as we headed in to the closing stages.
Then came the match deciding moment as Woolstencroft scored his second of the game to put the result beyond doubt. Daly’s break took play in to the 22, and then the hosts bravely kicked to the corner in a bid to secure the win. Andy Christie took the lineout and then the maul hammered over as the hooker once again scored to send the home fans wild.
Theo McFarland then gathered the restart and Goode smashed the ball in to the stands to confirm a crucial win for the Men in Black.