Leicester Tigers’ unbeaten run ended in a 21-27 defeat by Northampton Saints in front of a capacity crowd at Welford Road on Saturday
Trailing by 10 points early on, Tigers fought back with a try from Telusa Veainu – his 10th of the season – and went ahead briefly with a Matt Toomua try on the half-hour.
But Saints were 17-12 in front at half-time, despite losing skipper Rob Horne to what looked like a serious injury in the opening minute of the game, and stretched the lead to 12 points with an Ahsee Tuala try soon after the restart,
Two George Ford penalties got the deficit back under double figures but it was 21-27 inside the last 10 minutes when Tigers had a score from Jonah Holmes chalked off for obstruction in the backline and Saints got reward for their dogged defence in closing out the victory as Tigers slipped out of the top four in the table with two rounds remaining.
Tigers went into the game as the form team in the Aviva Premiership with 24 points from a possible 30 in the previous six games, but trying to avoid a fourth home league defeat of the season while Saints were chasing a double after winning the opening derby of the season at Franklin's Gardens in September.
In team news announced on Friday, Tigers brought Tom Youngs and Matt Smith into the starting XV, while Ben Youngs and Holmes returned to the squad after injury. Saints were without England duo Dylan Hartley and Courtney Lawes, but included former Tigers duo Jamie Gibson and Charlie Clare in their matchday squad.
Sione Kalamafoni caught the kick-off from Saints but Horne remained on the floor as he made contact and the game came to a halt with just 12 seconds gone on the clock. After lengthy attention from his own medical team, Horne left the field on a stretcher and was taken straight to a waiting ambulance.
Luther Burrell ran on as a replacement with Ben Foden taking over as captain as the game restarted.
An early chance went begging when Tigers over-shot a lineout in the left-hand corner. But they were back on the attack with a 40-metre break from Matt Toomua which was halted just 15 metres out.
Tigers got even closer with seven minutes played, Toomua getting forward before passing to Adam Thompstone, but full-back Tuala got across to make the tackle in the corner.
It was Saints who opened the scoring with Gibson beating an attempted tackle from Kalamafoni to present Foden with the chance to score in the corner. Stephen Myler added the kick for a seven-point lead on eight minutes.
Myler added another three points when Genge was penalised in possession 30 metres from his own line as Saints stretched their lead into double figures.
Veainu cut that deficit after a sweeping attack from Tigers, with Genge and Mike Fitzgerald carrying strongly before the full-back arrived to run in. George Ford provided the conversion to make it 7-10 with a quarter of the match gone.
Jonny May then had a chance to show his pace as Tigers opened up play after a forward drive on the opposite flank. The England wing chipped ahead but the ball evaded the grasp of either May or Veainu just 10 metres from the Saints line.
Both sides were keen to run the ball, leading to long passages of play but also to spilled ball and some desperate offloads when more control was needed.
George North left the field with a cut on 25 minutes as he contested possession with Smith, but when Tigers were given another penalty they again missed their man with the throw on the right.
There was another stoppage as Adam Thompstone pulled up with an injury before Saints had put-in at a scrum just inside the Tigers half. But a superb steal on the floor from Luke Hamilton averted the danger.
Tigers had some good fortune in claiming a second try on 29 minutes, with Graham Kitchener charging down a kick at a ruck and Toomua reaching the loose ball to score. Referee Matthew Carley had a long conversation with TMO Sean Davey to determine, first, that the lock had been onside and then had not knocked-on in the race to the ball with scrum-half Cobus Reinach before awarding the score.
Ford was unable to add the conversion but Tigers were in front for the first time at 12-10.
It did not last long, though, as Saints drilled a penalty into the left-hand corner when North returned to the fray after treatment for a facial cut and were rewarded with a try from Reinach following a crisp lineout move to snatch the advantage again. Myler’s conversion made it 12-17.
It stayed that way up to half-time despite a promising break from May on the left and Kalamafoni in the middle, but Saints were awarded a penalty at the breakdown just as pressure was building.
Ford got the second half under way with Tigers looking for a win to stay in the semi-final spots but Saints found the breakthrough with a try from Tuala.
Again it was scrum-half Reinach who made the decisive move, breaking clear on the right and leaving the defence outnumbered as they back-pedalled. Myler chipped over the extras as the lead reached 12 points.
A kick into the corner gave Tigers the glimpse of a chance but the lineout drive was stopped at source and ball wrapped up by the defence. Even though Reinach could only clear up to the 25 metres with his kick from the following scrum, the Saints defence was quickly up to block Tigers progress.
A scrum penalty in Tigers' favour followed and Ford pushed his forward pack into the corner, where Fitzgerald retained at full stretch in the lineout. The whistle blew again, Tigers went to the same corner and Fitzgerald secured ball again as Tigers made use of a penalty advantage to attack the line once more.
The referee spoke to stand-in skipper Foden as Tigers called for a penalty from the penalty on the Saints five-metre line and they stayed there following the award of a free-kick but this time Saints timed their push and manhandled Tigers off their own ball, with the visiting fans celebrating as the whistle blew in favour of their team.
Ben Youngs made his return from injury on 57 minutes as Sam Harrison made way in his 150th appearance for the club, and Tatafu Polota-Nau joined the front row.
A scrum penalty on halfway provided a platform for Genge to run at the Saints defence and a high tackle on the runaway prop brought a penalty which Ford knocked over quickly to make it 15-24 on the hour.
Another lost lineout gave Saints ball just past halfway and Logovi’i Mulipola replaced Dan Cole as play started again, with the home pack providing a big push to disrupt the visitors and then win a penalty at the set-piece.
Again the platform was provided with a kick into the corner but Gibson stole ball as Tigers went to set up a lineout drive and Northampton cleared their lines again.
Genge once more carried strongly before Saints found themselves down to 14 men after a yellow card for Alex Waller, awarded for a tackle in front of his own posts. Ford’s kick made it 18-24 and Tigers were finally back within scoring range.
Pressure was building but big defence from Api Ratuniyarawa and Teimana Harrison kept Tigers out and Saints earned a penalty at another breakdown with the ball-carrier isolated.
The cheers from the visiting bench grew when Saints won a scrum penalty in front of the posts and Myler's kick pushed the visitors 18-27 in front with less than 10 minutes remaining.
Ford quickly added a three-pointer of his own to reach 1,000 points in his Premiership career and the home fans were on their feet when Veainu squirmed free and it looked like the try was coming as Tigers had numbers spare on the right, but Toomua’s pass went behind Hamilton out wide and Saints slammed the door shut.
Jonah Holmes then thought he'd provided a vital score under the posts, only for the referee to consult with the television match official and rule that there had been obstruction in midfield just as the replacement wing had received the scoring pass.
Holmes and North then contested a high ball, with the referee indicating a knock-on first from the Tigers wing before being advised that it had come off his opposite number. Tigers were able to win scrum ball with the clock into the last minute and both sides frantically looking to gain clean possession.
Another penalty took Tigers up to the halfway line on the right but, when Saints stole ball on the floor at the breakdown, they were able to play out the final minute in possession and secure a first league double over their local rivals since 2003/04.
Thank you for your support
It was not the result any of the Tigers Family wanted but thank you for your support.
Saints win at Welford Road
Myler brings the game to an end and Northampton have won at Welford Road for the first time since 2007, and recorded a first league double over Tigers since 2003/04.
Saints are running down the clock on halfway ...
Last 30 seconds
The tension is tangible as Tigers secure lineout ball, but they have lost possession on halfway.
TMO Sean Davey overturns a knock-on decision that was going Saints' way and awards it to Tigers. The scrum struggles and they are in trouble under the posts. But they win a penalty and Ford kicks to halfway.
The officials rule no try. Worth is pinged for obstructing Francis as Holmes ghosted through. Saints have the penalty to restart.
Welford Road goes wild
Tigers work the opportunity for Jonah Holmes to score under the posts. Welford Road goes bonkers but the ref is checking with his TMO for obstruction by Worth.
Ford boots the ball to within 10m. Huge lineout to come.
Not straight ... by Saints
Saints are pinged for a not straight lineout. Huge scrum to come on the Northampton 10m line. The noise is deafening as Leicester win the penalty.
So close for Tigers
Kalamafoni and Veaniu make huge ground for Tigers and look to have created the overlap on the right. But Toomua's pass goes to ground. Hamilton regathers but is pinged for holding on. Time running out for Tigers.
Tigers hit back
Piers Francis fails to release in the tackle and Ford lands the penalty. Tigers trail by six with eight minutes to go. Come on Tigers.
Is that a match-winning kick?
Myler keeps his cool to land the penalty from 40m out. It moves Saints nine points clear with 10 minutes to go.
Saints scrum penalty
Saints, a man down in the scrum, drive Tigers back at a scrum and win the penalty. Saints have the chance to move more than a score clear.
Bateman on for Genge, Holmes on for Thompstone, Evans on for Mapapalangi. Collins on for Foden
Genge has been brilliant this afternoon and his bullocking run gets Tigers going again - and the crowd. But Harrison ends the momentum with superb work on the floor to win the penalty.
Tigers trail by six
Ford kicks a simple penalty to cut the Saints lead. Welford Road is roaring now as Matt Smith is replaced by George Worth.
Yellow card for Saints
Alex Waller sees yellow for a high tackle on Genge in the Saints 22.
Logo makes a huge impact at his first scrum, winning the scrum penalty that Ford boots from his own half into the Saints 22.
Tigers tighthead change
Logovi'i Mulipola is on for Dan Cole, and will pack down for a scrum on halfway for his first involvement.
Penalty in front
Genge on the hoof is stopped by Harrison's high tackle. Ford opts for the penalty and cuts the deficit with a three-pointer.
Polota-Nau makes an impression at the first scrum, and Tigers have the penalty. Ford finds touch 10m out.
Polota-Nau and Ben Youngs on for Tom Youngs and Harrison.
Strong Saints scrum
Clare and Waller put the pressure on the Tigers scrum and win the penalty. But Myler misses touch and back come Tigers through Thompstone.
New hooker for Saints
Charlie Clare comes on for Northampton and his first job is this 5m scrum ...
Scrum to restart
Tigers opt for a scrum to restart the game. It's 5m out. Can Tigers make it count?
Northampton are pinged a number of times deep in their 22, including James Craig for playing Sam Harrison at a ruck. Referee Matthew Carley calls over Foden, the Saints captain, and issues a team warning.
Tigers exert pressure on the Saints front row and win the penalty from Campese Ma'afu. It's his last action as he is replaced by Alex Waller. Ford, meanwhile, kicks to the corner.
Tigers have a penalty lineout 8m out. But they can't make it count as Jamie Gibson smothers the ball and prevents it coming out.
Tigers trail by 12
Saints have a 12-point lead early in the second period as Myler lands a simple conversion.
Third try for Saints
Reinach is at the heart of everything that is good about Saints this afternoon. And his winding run is finished off by Tuala for the visitors' third score.
Ford gets the second period started, attacking the Mattioli Woods Stand end of the ground.
Half-time at Welford Road
The teams head off for a half-time cuppa, with Saints leading by five points. Foden scored first for Saints, who led by 10 before Veainu and Toomua struck back for Tigers. But Saints lead through Reinach's try.
Saints second-row replacement
Michael Paterson comes on for the final 30 seconds of the first half for Api Ratuniyarawa.
Saints lead by five
Myler, on his last appearance at Welford Road for Northampton, lands the conversion. Saints lead 17-12.
Try for the Saints
Saints score an excellent try from the lineout. Teimana Harrison and Reinach isolate Tino Mapapalangi at the back and Reinach steps past the Tigers back-rower. He is tackled by Thompstone but his momentum takes him over. The Leicester lead lasted two minutes.
Ford is unable to add the conversion. But Tigers lead by two points. And are going again through Smith and Toomua, but the TMO has spotted a pull back by Kitchener and Saints kick the penalty into the Leicester 22. North is back on from his blood bin.
It's a try!
The officials award the score. Good play from Toomua to follow Kitchener's charge down. He has his third try of the season as reward and Tigers lead for the first time.
Kitchener charges down Reinach's kick and is hauled down as he chases. But Toomua follows up to dot down. Ref checking for offside.
Have Tigers scored here through Matt Toomua? The referee is going to his TMO.
The Tigers lineout is struggling a bit. Youngs unable to find Fitzgerald on the Saints 22 and they clear to halfway.
Loose in the loose
There is not a lot of structure out there as both teams attack from open play and turnover ball. But Tigers have a penalty as Thompstone wins a holding-on penalty against George North. North goes off for some running repairs. Tom Collins is on.
Veainu and Jonny May threaten another try down the Saints left. May kicks ahead, the ball bounces too high for Veainu who can only knock on. Saints get a free kick at the scrum and clear via Myler's boot.
Ford lands a simple conversion for the full seven points.
A wonderfully-weighted pass by Ford puts Mike Fitzgerald through a hole, he finds Genge who fends off one tackle before finding Veainu to score under the posts. Brilliant stuff.
Saints lead by 10
Myler makes no mistake with the penalty and extends Saints' lead. Welford Road not quite sure how they are 10-0 ahead, but they are.
The Rhino on the hoof
A brilliant tackle by Sam Harrison on Reinach overturns possession and Ellis Genge powers forward, through three defenders. However, he is pinged for holding on and Myler can extend the Saints lead.
Scare for Tigers
Ping pong from an up-and-under ends with Cobus Reinach ghosting down the left flank, but he spilled possession for Veainu to tidy up in his 22.
Stephen Myler lands the conversion from wide on the left to give Saints a 7-0 lead.
Northampton make the position pay and have the first try. Ben Foden steps away from Telusa Veainu and Kalamafoni to score at the left corner.
Saints on the attack
Paul Hill surprises Tigers at a ruck and bursts up to the 22. Thompstone makes the tackle but the visitors have an opportunity in Tigers' territory.
Close but no try
... Toomua is at the heart of things as he sends Adam Thompstone towards the right-hand corner. However, he spills possession under pressure from Ahsee Tuala. 5m scrum to Saints.
Knocking on the door
It's all Tigers in the opening five minutes. Lumbers Player of the Month Toomua makes a lovely break but cannot find the support runner. Tigers have it deep in the Saints 22 ...
Bright start from Tigers
Tigers test the Saints defence on the edge and make huge ground into the 22. There Saints are pinged for offside. Ford kicks to the corner but Tigers can't make the lineout count and Saints clear to halfway.
'Tiiigggeeerrrsss' rungs out as Tigers get the better of the Saints pack at the first scrum and win the penalty. George Ford finds touch on halfway.
Play to restart
The game will get back underway with a scrum put-in to Tigers on their 22.
Applause for Horne
Welford Road gives Horne warm applause as he is carried from the field on a stretcher. We wish him well. Luther Burrell has come on to replace him at centre.
Saints have an injury worry in the first minute. Their captain Rob Horne has collided with Sione Kalamafoni as the Tigers man collected the kick-off and has stayed down.
Here we go
Northampton will get the game going, with Tigers attacking the Robin Hood Stand end of the ground.
Welford Road is rocking
Here come the Tigers, led out by captain Tom Youngs. And what a noise to greet them. This famous old stadium is absolutely bouncing.
Catch the pigeon!
A pesky pigeon has eluded club mascot Welford as he chases it away in front of the Terrace. The pigeon has been on the pitch all day, evading ground staff, the players' warm-up and now a Tiger!
Life membership for a legend
There is a huge ovation for club legend Dusty Hare, who has been awarded Life Member status by Tigers in recognition of his service to the club on and off the field. Congratulations Dust.
Lumbers Player of the Month
Ahead of kick-off, the winner of the Lumbers Player of the Month has been announced. Congratulations to Matt Toomua on winning the award.
JTC Takeover Day
Young members of the Tigers Family are helping out behind the scenes at Welford Road as part of JTC Takeover Day. See https://www.leicestertigers.com/news/are-you-a-junior-tigers-club-takeover-day-winner for details of what they are getting up to.
What an atmosphere
Welford Road makes a huge din as Tigers finish their warm-up. The Derby Day atmosphere is building nicely.
Saints head to the dressing rooms
The visitors have finished their warm-up and troop up the steps through the Terrace for their final preparations.
Great to see Manu Tuilagi out there working hard with the matchday 23 during the pre-match warm-up
Welford Road and the Breedon Stand with its new branding looking beautiful in the spring sunshine. Today's game is a sell-out and already there is a great atmosphere around the ground.
Today's fixtures doubles as a celebration for a quartet of the Tigers Family. Adam Thompstone plays his 100th Premiership fixture for the club, Luke Hamilton makes his 50th appearance and both Sam Harrison and Graham Kitchener will run out for their 150th match in the Tigers colours.
TEAM SHEETS FOR TODAY
The line-ups for today's match have been confirmed, with neither side making changes from the squads announced yesterday.
The #TigersFamily have just two changes from last weekend's outfit, who defeated Bath at Twickenham, with Tom Youngs in to the starting side for Tatafu Polota-Nau and Matt Smith in for Mat Tait.
WELCOME TO WELFORD ROAD
Welcome back to the home of the #TigersFamily for today's East Midlands Derby against local rivals Northampton Saints!