Northampton Saints took the derby day honours with a 29-15 victory over Leicester Tigers at Welford Road on Friday evening.
A try after just six minutes from scrum-half Cobus Reinach gave the visitors an early lead and they stayed out in front.
Despite plenty of possession and territory, it took Tigers more than 20 minutes to get on the scoreboard with a George Ford penalty in the 243rd meeting of the clubs dating back to 1880.
Saints added two more tries from wing Tom Collins after Mike Williams had been yellow-carded to lead 20-3 at the break in the Round 17 clash of the Gallagher Premiership season
That gap reached 29-3 after three Dan Biggar penalties in the opening part of the second period before Ford picked his way to the line for some consolation for the home crowd. And skipper Tom Youngs, who had to get through an 80-minute shift in the front row added another as reward for his effort in the final minute of the game but there was no way back from so far in arrears and it was the visiting supporters who were in good voice at the end.
Tigers remain in 10th place in the table with five games remaining, three of them to come at Welford Road.
Ford got the game under way on a mild and still evening, but the hosts were right back on their own tryline within seconds after a kick from deep by Saints scrum-half Reinach and then had to survive a chargedown attempt from Jamie Gibson.
But despite having a lot of ball in the opening moments, it was Saints who drew first blood, with a break from Collins putting Reinach in to score. The crowd were still appealing for a knock-on back on the Northampton 22 and then a forward pass out wide.
But it was an early blow, although Dan Biggar did miss the conversion attempt.
An ironic cheer greeted a knock-soon afterwards, though the ball looked like it struck Francois van Wyk on the forehead in midfield and not his hands.
Tigers had ball in hands for multiple phases in the attacking zone, recycling efficiently but finding defiant defence after a midfield break from Tom Youngs took play into the danger area.
A clever kick from Manu Tuilagi down the right kept the visitors pinned back and, when they did kick out, Ford returned with interest to ping the ball into the corner.
A one-two between Sam Harrison and Jonny May almost unlocked the door, then there was almost an opening on the wing where Sam Aspland-Robinson was closed out as he reached for the whitewash.
Gibson was whistled at a breakdown 30 metres out but, playing with the advantage, Harrison chipped cleverly towards the corner where Saints fumbled in defence. Tigers took the option of the lineout and then hand another go when referee Barnes blew again.
Dan Cole ripped possession at the driving maul but was stopped just short and there were some hearts beating faster in the crowd when Saints intercepted just 10 metres out before Ford regathered.
Another penalty award, 25 metres out, brought a call for the tee and Ford kicked the points to get Tigers off the mark on 23 minutes.
Jordan Olowofela worked hard to chase down Taqele Naiyaravaro in his own 22, but a penalty against Brendon O’Connor as he looked to steal at a breakdown, allowed Saints to take play upfield. It almost paid dividends too as Rory Hutchinson stepped off his left foot, but when he was caught 20 metres out, the young full-back was on hand again to wrap up loose ball.
The pace was unrelenting in typical derby style and Mike Williams looked for an offload as he broke a tackle, only to see the ball drop towards the feet of Youngs in support.
Saints threatened with a Heinrich Brussow break and Tigers were suddenly outnumbered as Reinach arrived on his shoulder. Williams, on his knees after making the tackle, slapped the ball loose and was shown the yellow card. Biggar added the three-pointer for an 8-3 lead on the half-hour.
But they quickly added a second try when Hutchinson’s break on the right gave them a three-on-one out wide and he sent Collins in to score. Biggar added the conversion to stretch the advantage to 15-3.
And Saints were celebrating again as they retained ball for a five-minute spell which ended with Naiyaravaro’s left-handed offload to Collins who dived in to score again with just over 60 seconds left in the opening half. Biggar was unable to add his touchline kick but the left was 20-3 as Williams returned to the fray.
The back-rower was quickly on to the ball in attack as Tigers threatened the line. Another penalty went against Saints in defence but then, with the final action of the half, the referee blew in their favour at a scrum just five metres from their own line.
The second half started with Matt Toomua on for Kyle Eastmond, but he also received physio treatment within two minutes to an ankle injury.
Biggar added nine more points in a 10-minute spell as Tigers paid the price for some indiscipline. They also lost Dan Cole to a yellow card for hands in a ruck on his own line as Saints efficiently added to their tally.
Tigers, desperate to gain a foothold, showed some smart handling in attack on the right touchline but when Toomua was dragged down, Saints managed to pick off Harrison’s pass before Reinach kicked into touch on halfway.
But after Tigers missed their lineout target, they broke clear again and this time thought they’d added a bonus-point touchdown when Alex Waller offloaded for Biggar. Referee Barnes, though, checked the replays and spotted the ball had gone well forward.
The clock ticked into the final quarter with Tigers 29-3 down and Olowofela had to work hard in defence again as Ahsee Tuala found space on the left touchline and the Tigers full-back forced his man into touch.
Saints snatched back possession at the set-piece, though Guy Thompson reacted quickly to claim loose ball and then Cole won a penalty at the breakdown when he contested with Tom Wood on the floor.
Then, after some strong work in attack featuring forwards and backs, Ford finally picked his way through to score. The England fly-half made it a seven-point score with the conversion as Tigers trailed 29-10 with 12 minutes remaining.
Ford’s pace and footwork looked like providing another opportunity in the closing moments, beating the defensive line in front of the posts, but Saints recovered to keep drag him down.
Gibson received a yellow card as Tigers drove to the line from an attacking lineout and they went again against the outnumbered defence. Tom Youngs emerged from the bottom of the pile as Barnes looked for TMO assistance and awarded the try. Ford was off target with the conversion with the clock well inside the final minute as both sides recorded an away victory in this season’s head-to-head.
Thanks For Your Support
Thank you to all 23,332 of you who joined us at Welford Road this evening, as well as those of you following along at home on Matchday Live.
Tigers are next in Gallagher Premiership action against Exeter on Saturday, April 6 (4.30pm) at home. We'll see you there.
Full Time | 15-29
...and that's full time at Welford Road. Final score is Leicester 15, Northampton 29.
The conversion attempt is missed.
Tom Youngs Over The Line
The home side try again, and this time Tom Youngs manages to bundle the ball over with a little bit of help from his pack. Waynes Barnes checks with his TMO before awarding the try.
Jamie Gibson is shown a yellow card for his part in holding the ball up over the line.
Ball Held Up
Tigers drive it over the line, but the ball is held up. We'll go back for the lineout.
Joe Heyes is back on the field for Dan Cole, who departs.
Tigers have the advantage, and when the ball is lost Wayne Barnes brings us back for the original Saints offence. Ford kicks to the corner.
Working Up The Field
Tigers are doing a good job of holding onto the ball, here. They're nudging their way up the field through some hefty carries.
Mike Williams goes off for a HIA, so number 16 Jake Kerr is on in the back row.
Api Ratuniyarawa leaves the field, to be replaced by James Craig.
Tigers Push Up The Field
Having said all that, Tigers manage to break the line to great effect and get the ball into the Saints 22 once more. The ruck is messy and Ben White knocks on at the base, but the scrum is in a great position.
Facundo Gigena replaces Ellis Genge in the Leicester front row.
There are some tired bodies out there - on both sides - and so neither team is managing to break the line. We have a long spell of play around halfway, before Saints are penalised at the ruck and Tigers win the put in at the scrum.
Alex Mitchell and Andrew Kellaway enter play for Northampton, with Reinach and Tuala making way.
Thompson Chips Ahead
Tigers take the restart well, and it's back-rower Guy Thompson who puts boot to ball and makes about 50 metres for the home side.
Harry Wells and Gareth Owen are both on the field, replacing Graham Kitchener and Manu Tuilagi respectively.
George Ford converts his own try to make it 10-29 with just over 10 minutes remaining.
George Ford Scores!
Ben White gets the ball across to the right hand side of the pitch with a rangy run, and once the ball is recycled George Ford snaps up Tigers' first try of the evening.
More Tigers Territory
One penalty turns into another, and this time Ford puts boot to ball for a Tigers lineout just outside the Saints 22. Quick ball pushes the home side into the final quarter of the pitch...
Rhys Marshall replaces Sanits hooker James Fish.
Saints On Tigers Lines
Saints win the ball at the scrum, and scurry down the left wing towards Tigers lines. But Thompson isn't having that - no way - and the ball is stolen. Ford kicks a vital few metres.
Heinrich Brussow is off for a HIA, so Tom Wood joins the game.
Cole is back on, so Joe Heyes makes his way back to the bench for now. Aspland-Robinson also returns.
More Big Hits
These fresh Tigers bodies are putting in some big hits in defence, and both teams are starting to creak. We pause for treatment to both sides, and Dan Cole returns after his yellow card.
Ben Franks is on the field in place of Paul Hill.
Brendon O'Connor is off, replaced by Mike Fitzgerald in the Tigers pack. Ben White takes the place of Sam Harrison at scrum-half.
With Dan Cole still in the sin bin, Sam Aspland-Robinson has to make way for Joe Heyes in order for us to complete this scrum...
...and Tigers win the penalty!
George Furbank is on for Taqele Naiyaravoro.
But Saints steal the ball, and run their way up the field once again. Waller feeds second row Moon, whose forward pass to Dan Biggar is spotted by the TMO. No try, Saints scrum.
Leicester Turn The Screw
Tigers win a penalty at the lineout, and Ford boots the ball into the Holland & Barrett Stand for another one on the visitors' 22...
Tigers Add Some Pressure
Tigers get round the corner through a combination of a George Ford dart and quick ball from Sam Harrison. They get to five metres out, but the ball is intercepted by Saints. Reinach hacks ahead but it dribbles into touch for a Leicester lineout on halfway.
Saints' Welsh fly-half adds another penalty goal after hands in the ruck. 3-29.
Last Warning From Sir
Tigers are on their last warning for taking the man in the air. This time it's Graham Kitchener who touches the Saints man just a fraction too early, and Wayne Barnes says that's the last one.
Three More For Saints
Biggar kicks a penalty and gets three more. 3-26.
Yellow Card For Dan Cole
Dan Cole sees yellow after he is adjudged to have killed the ball on his own tryline.
Tuilagi takes down Tuala in front of the Breedon Terrace, and there's a real battle on the floor for the ball. Guy Thompson comes away with it for the home side, who put it through hands before Ford takes the territory and kicks to the Saints 22.
Biggar Lands A Penalty
Tigers get done for not rolling away just inside their own half and Biggar adds three for the visitors. 3-23.
Tigers Come Out Firing
Tigers look even more physical at the start of this second half, and almost break down the right but Manu just knocks on. Saints scrum.
Second Half Underway
...and we're back underway in this second half at Welford Road.
Alex Waller is on for Francois Van Wyk in the Northampton front row.
Tigers Change At Half Time
Tigers make a change at half time, with Matt Toomua on for Kyle Eastmond in the midfield.
Half Time | 3-20
Tigers trail 3 points to Northampton's 20 at half time here at Welford Road.
No Such Luck
After a couple of resets in Tigers' favour, Saints win the killer penalty and that's the half.
Final Scrum Of The Half
With the clock in the red, Tigers will have one last chance to score in this first half as Barnes awards the home side a scrum on the Saints five-metre line.
Conversion Missed, Williams Returns
Dan Biggar misses the conversion as Mike Williams returns from the sin bin.
Collins Gets His Second
Tigers manage to pin back Saints' one-out runners on the home 22, so Biggar decides to go wide with a huge looping pass over the defenders' heads. Naiyaravoro takes it before he is brought down by two Tigers defenders. He gets the ball away to Collins who scores.
Lots of Saints ball, here. Teimana Harrison is eventually brought down by three Tigers players, and while Wayne Barnes calls the ball ripped on the floor, the visitors still come away with it.
Biggar adds the conversion to make it 3-15 to the visitors.
Saints Grab A Second
The visitors have a second through Tom Collins. 3-13 to Northampton.
Biggar Pulls One Back
Dan Biggar kicks a penalty after Mike Williams' yellow card to make it 3-8 to Northampton.
Yellow Card For Williams
Mike Williams is singled out as the guilty party, and is shown a yellow card.
End To End Stuff (Almost)
Saints come away with the ball from a lineout in the Tigers half, and Biggar digs the ball through on the right wing. Olowofela scoops it up gladly, and makes about 20 metres. But Saints win the ball back on the floor, and Tigers are penalised for slapping the ball out of Reinach's hand.
We scrum down after the ball evades Tom Youngs. Saints put in.
Olowofela Turns It Over!
Rory Hutchinson skips past Guy Thompson and looks to be away, but Jordan Olowofela tackles his man and gets the ball, too. Great work.
Hands In The Ruck
The home side are immediately pinged for hands in the ruck, though, and Biggar puts boot to ball for a Saints lineout on the Tigers 22.
Ford Takes The Three
George Ford makes no mistake from the tee and the ball sails through the uprights to make the score 3-5.
Tigers pluck the ball out of the air at the lineout, and ship the ball onto Dan Cole who is held up in the tackle over the line.
The ball is ripped, and Tuala almost breaks on the far side of the pitch, but Ford tidies up and we go back for a Saints offside. He'll have a first kick at the sticks.
Options For Tigers
Jamie Gibson is in at the side, and Wayne Barnes duly blows on his whistle once the ball has been touched by a Northampton hand into touch.
Ford and Youngs opt for the lineout...
Tigers Looking Dangerous
Tigers take the lineout ball, and there are some really big hits flying in, with scrum-half Sam Harrison bouncing off a Saints body to win the gainline battle.
The ball is shipped out to the right wing, where Sam Aspland-Robinson looks set to score, but the ball is dislodged by Reinach over the line. Tense stuff.
Huuuge Boot From George
Saints are pinged just inside the Tigers half, so George Ford has a first touch finder of the evening - and it's a big one. Tigers lineout on the five-metre line to follow...
Nice From Manu
Tigers keep battering the line, but the visitors hold strong on their 22. Manu Tuilagi decides to dink the ball through into touch, so Saints have a lineout on their five-metre line.
Tigers Break The Line
Harrison comes away with the ball, and feeds Graham Kitchener, who makes metres up the middle of the pitch, before a couple of phases and it's Tom Youngs' turn to make a break. Tigers up to the Saints' 22.
Saints Knock On
Cheers from the Breedon Terrace as referee Wayne Barnes penalises Francois Van Wyk for a knock-on and awards Tigers the scrum on the visitors' 10-metre line.
Dan Biggar can't add the extras, though, so it's 0-5 to Northampton.
Reinach Gallops In
The visitors are the first on the scoreboard, with Tom Collins making a break over halfway and scrum-half Cobus Reinach doing the rest.
Early Saints Pressure
Northampton look to put Jordan Olowofela under immediate pressure, with Cobus Reinach chasing down his own kick towards The Robin Hood Stand.
Olowofela takes it, and shakes off the tacklers before his mates arrive. Saints charge down the box kick, but it dribbles dead.
Kick Off at Welford Road
George Ford gets us underway under the Friday night lights.
Welford Road; that was LOUD. Tigers run out to the strains of Deep Purple's 'Smoke on the Water' and we're good to go. Come on Tigers!
Both teams have completed their warm-ups and have returned to the dressing rooms. We're just moments away from kick off...
#OurManu Makes Welford Road Roar
The home side has just been announced to the Welford Road faithful, with the stands roaring their approval for Manu Tuilagi, who last week agreed a new deal to remain a Tigers player.
You can catch his LTTV interview in which he says he’s ‘over the moon’ with his decision right here.
Welford Road is looking glorious under the lights this evening, with the temperature currently at 11C and not a lot of wind. Head groundsman Ed Mowe has assured us that there’s no rain forecast…
Derby Day Team News
Tigers welcome back five of their England internationals in this Round 17 clash, with Manu Tuilagi making his first appearance since agreeing a new contract at the club. There are also a number of players who return from injury to bolster the side which travelled to Sale last time out.
Northampton make eight changes to the side that beat Saracens in the Premiership Rugby Cup last weekend, with a start for Grand Slam winner Dan Biggar at fly-half.
Get up to speed with full team news here (or scroll down on this page).
History of The Derby
This evening’s match will be the 243rd meeting between two of England’s most storied rugby clubs. All this week, we’ve been looking back at some of the best – as well as some of the most controversial – fixtures between Leicester Tigers and Northampton Saints.
You can catch all three parts – part one, part two and part three – of our feature exclusively on the Tigers website.
Big Match Preview
You don’t need us to tell you how important the East Midlands derby is to both sets of players and supporters. Whether you’re stood on the Breedon Terrace, sat on the sofa at home or following the game elsewhere on this fine Friday evening, you can read our big match preview here (or scroll down on this page).
Welcome to Matchday Live!
Good evening and welcome to Welford Road for Tigers’ Gallagher Premiership showdown with Northampton Saints!
If you’re not able to join us at the ground for Derby Day, you can follow all of the action LIVE, right here.