Leicester Tigers were beaten 18-23 by Northampton Saints in Round 17 of the Gallagher Premiership season at Mattioli Woods Welford Road on Saturday despite two tries from Nemani Nadolo on his return to action.
Saints, with just one defeat away from home since New Year, led from the 11th minute and were never headed as Tigers looked to add to six successive home wins.
A try from second-rower David Ribbans gave Saints the early lead and they were 15-10 in front at half-time with Rory Hutchinson also on the scoresheet, with Nadolo providing the Tigers try.
That advantage was increased with penalties from Dan Biggar and a Sam Matavesi try, but Tigers stayed in the game as Nadolo’s second reduced the gap to just five points and also had two more opportunities late on only to be closed out by the visitors’ defence.
Saints had been forced into late changes with Teimana Harrison, Ehran Painter and Ollie Sleightholme failing fitness tests, which meant promotion from the bench for Shaun Adendorff, Paul Hill and Tommy Freeman.
Hanro Liebenberg and Kobus van Wyk returned to Steve Borthwick’s starting line-up and the Tigers head coach was also able to add Nadolo and Cyle Brink to the matchday 23 on their return from injury.
An early knock-on at the Robin Hood Stand end gave Tigers important territory but they were met with stern defence as Luke Wallace was forced out of play on the right touchline.
Ben Youngs and Freddie Steward then kickstarted a lively counter-attack, with Dan Kelly and then Matt Scott making advance in midfield, but ball was lost just 10 metres from the tryline.
Steward then had to step in to stop a quick break Tommy Freeman on the Saints left before the visitors claimed the opening score.
Building play with ball in hand within reach of the tryline, it was Ribbans who finally reached out to get the try. Biggar’s conversion kick came back out off the top of the right-hand post.
Tigers had a penalty from the restart and gained an extra 10 metres when Biggar was marched back by referee Karl Dickson, but the attack was ended just short as Tom Youngs steered a maul forward.
Ellis Genge left three tacklers in his wake as he carried in attack and Ford put Steward through a gap until Saints shut him down. Play came back for a penalty, though the TMO did check a tackle on Kelly and decided head contact had been unavoidable as the centre met Lewis Ludlam.
Ford landed his team’s first points from the kick with 18 minutes gone on the clock.
Nadolo came off the bench as an HIA replacement for Kelly, but he was unable to hold on to a pass from Ford as he came into the line 20 metres out.
Saints then turned defence into attack and into a second try as Hutchinson made an interception on the Tigers 10-metre line and ran in unopposed. Biggar’s kick made it 12-3 in their favour.
Brink ran on as a blood replacement for Wallace, and strong work from Dan Cole gained a breakdown penalty near halfway, with the referee again marching Saints an extra 10 metres.
Wallace returned after treatment for a blood injury as Saints sent on Tom James to replace the injured Alex Mitchell entering the final 10 minutes of the half.
Quick ball from a Tigers maul presented a first chance for Nadolo, with Steward’s clever kick into the left-hand corner bouncing tantalisingly into the corner. But Nadolo nudged the ball forward as he reached out with defender Matt Proctor.
Tigers kept pressure on through another Nadolo carry and a powerful run from Matt Scott, but when play came to a halt out wide on the right, the referee and TMO came back for contact by Scott in an earlier tackle and Dickson sent the centre to the sidelines.
Wiese made a punishing carry through the centre of the defence and, although Biggar made an important tackle, a penalty award kept Tigers in rival territory and led to a try for Nadolo.
The first push from the lineout ended just short and Saints kept making tackles until eventually the big wing pushed over. Ford’s kick made it 10-12 with a minute remaining in the opening half.
But a penalty for obstruction at the restart gave Biggar the kick to push the Saints lead back to five points at half-time.
Ahsee Tuala replaced Piers Francis for Saints at the break and they had an immediate penalty when Liebenberg grabbed scrum-half James but was whistled for failing to release. Biggar’s kick from 40 metres made the lead 18-10.
Nadolo’s carry broke two tackles to find Liebenberg in support and when the whistle went at the tackle zone, Ford shot for goal but saw his kick come back off the post.
Scott returned to the field from his yellow card, but Harry Wells was then penalised for his challenge as Biggar cleared and then carded after check with the TMO.
Retribution was immediate as Saints scored through Sam Matavesi straight from a lineout move in the left-hand corner, latching on to Freeman’s carry. Biggar was off-target with the conversion, with Saints 23-10 in front.
The visitors enjoyed long periods of possession through their backs, with Tuala picking his way forward on the right, and Hutchinson and Proctor keeping ball alive through successive phases.
Charlie Clare and Luan de Bruin, fresh off the bench, were at the heart of a maul drive which gained valuable metres in the Saints 22, but when Tigers carried towards the posts, untidy ball was lost.
The scrum, though, did bring a penalty in front of the posts and Ford cut the deficit to 10 points with the kick as play entered the final quarter.
Wells was back on the field and almost found his way to the line as he followed progress from Jack Van Poortvliet and Calum Green. But Tigers retained composure and Ford was able to play to the left where Nadolo was able to finish.
Although Ford was unable to add the extras from the left touchline, Tigers were back within a score at 18-23 and gained further encouragement as Brink and Liebenberg swooped to win a penalty as Wood as isolated on the ball near halfway.
Ribbans won a valuable penalty as he stole ball inside the Saints half, only for Scott to make an important interception in midfield as the visitors looked to open up in attack again.
Two tackles from Liebenberg stemmed a Saints attack on the touchline, and the back-rower palmed lineout ball back for Wiese to carry again.
A big scrum from Tigers provided another chance for Tigers, and Saints had to end the game a man short when JJ Tonks was sin-binned at the breakdown.
Tigers carried heavily in attack but they were twice kept 10 metres out from the tryline after building pressure and twice penalised as Saints flooded the breakdown with the clock ticking down.
FULL TIME | TIGER 18-23 SAINTS
Two tries from Nemani Nadolo and the boot of George Ford is not enough for Tigers on Derby Day as Saints come away with the victory on the 246th meeting between the two sides.
TIGERS THROWING EVERYTHING AT IT
Haywood with the line out sees a maul formed with Tigers trying to hold it off. Nadolo collects the resulting box kick gaining meters.
Wiese almost breaks the line but a tap tackle stops him in his tracks. Tigers now in Saints 22' with Scott edging them closer to the line. Once again though Tigers are unable to breakdown this Saints defense. Penalty goes Saints' way with just over one minute to play.
SAINTS DEFENSE HOLD STRONG
Ford finds touch 10m out from the Saints try line. Liebenberg receives from Clare as the maul is held up.
Tigers look to go through the phases in the center of the pitch, working hard to breakdown this Saints defense. However, Tuala wins the penalty in the breakdown for Saints and the pressure is relieved.
YELLOW CARD FOR SAINTS
JJ Tonks is penalized in the breakdown for not releasing, with less than five minutes to play.
CHANCE FOR TIGERS
The scrum on halfway is picked up with Saints attacking the short side. However, Liebenberg does well spotting the danger and tackles into touch.
Charlie Clare's line out finds the hands of Wiese. Ford then kicks clear down the middle and a mistake in the Northampton back line provides Tigers with a scrum.
INSIDE THE FINAL 10
Matt Scott almost intercepts a Saints pass but knocks it on, and Saints are given the scrum. Leicester are awarded the penalty in the scrum, with Ford to kick down the left flank for touch.
Charlie Clare's line out is deemed not straight and is penalized, we'll have another scrum Saints' way.
Tom James box kicks clear with Tigers winning back possession and box kicking themselves. After an exchange of kick tennis, Steward's kick is overcooked and rolls over the dead ball line. Scrum for Saints just inside their own half.
Harry Wells and Kobus Van Wyk is replaced by Tomas Lavanini and Zack Henry.
TIGERS WITH MOMENTUM
Leicester are starting to win the little battles all over the pitch and once again winning a penalty at the breakdown. Ford kicks to touch for Tigers.
Harry Wells collects and the maul drives forward, but Clare can't get the ball away cleanly and Saints pick up the ball through JJ Tonks.
Tom James kicks clear and Steward collects. Brink looks to drive Tigers forward but is forced into a turnover.
NADOLO AT THE DOUBLE
Nemani Nadolo gets his second try of the game on his return, following some quick hands and feet from the backs. Ford unable to convert the extra points.
Charlie Clare takes the resulting line out finding Liebenberg. Jasper Wiese and Harry Wells look to drive Tigers forward.
Van Poortvliet sells the dummy and breaks the line before finding Ford. Tigers have men over the left and work it that way...
BALL BACK WITH TIGERS
Saints back with the ball in hand from the restart as they go through the phases. Tigers work hard in the breakdown and force the penalty. Ford to find touch for Leicester.
FORDS ADDS THE POINTS
Tigers win the penalty from the scrum and Ford opts to kick for the posts. Ten points the difference as we reach the hour mark.
EXCHANGE OF KICKERS
Steward kicks long to Furbank, with Biggar responding with his own clearance back to Steward. Ball in hand now for Tigers inside their own half.
A penalty goes Tigers way in the breakdown, with George Ford kicking to touch. Charlie Clare with the line out.
Line out taken by Liebenberg, with Saints then penalized for changing binds in the maul. Another line out maul drive incoming for Tigers as Harry Wells returns to the field.
The Saints defense holds strong though and earn a penalty for their efforts. Scrum to come.
Ellis Genge is replaced by Luan de Bruin.
BALL CARRIERS IN PLAY
Saints steal the ball off Tigers following a loose ball. Now with ball in hand Saints work their way into Tigers half, searching for their bonus point try.
Tom Wood and Cyle Brink breaking lines for both sides before Ford kicks clear. Ball still with Saints following the line out. End to end stuff here at Mattioli Woods Welford Road.
ANOTHER TIGERS REPLACEMENT
Jack Van Poortvliet comes on in place of Ben Youngs.
Luke Wallace, Dan Cole, and Tom Youngs are replaced by Cyle Brink, Charlie Clare, and Joe Heyes.
TRY FOR SAINTS
Saints line out is successfully picked up by Tom James. After a few phases of play, Sam Matavesi recieves an offload and is able to break the line and score for Saints. Biggar missess the conversion.
WELLS SHOWN YELLOW CARD
Wells is shown a yellow card, but Tigers will remain with 14 men as Scott re-enters the field.
FORD'S ATTEMPT UNSUCCESSFUL
Ford's penalty attempt cannons off the post and back into play.
Harry Wells is then late on Dan Biggar's clearance with TMO intervening the have a look...
NADOLO EARNS THE PENALTY
Saints collect the restart and clear their lines. Steward attacks back for Leicester and drives right. Nadolo has ball in hand and forces the mistake in the breakdown. Penalty Tigers way, with Ford looking to lineup the kick.
SAINTS EXTENDS LEAD
Dan Biggar's kick is successful and Saints increase their lead to eight points.
EARLY SAINTS OPPORTUNITY
A knock-on in an attempt to take the restart provides Saints with a scrum inside Tigers half.
A penalty is then awarded for Saints at the breakdown following the scrum. Dan Biggar to have a go at the posts.
WE'RE BACK UNDERWAY
Dan Biggar kicks things off for the second half here at Mattioli Woods Welford Road.
HALF-TIME | TIGERS 10-15 SAINTS
Dan Biggar collects from the restart and knocks it into touch to close the half. Saints have the lead at the halfway stage on Derby Day. Tigers 10-15 Saints.
Saints earn a penalty off the restart with Luke Wallace the culprit. Biggar converts to extend Saints' lead
George Ford is able to add the extras for Tigers. Tigers 10-12 Saints.
NADOLO TRY FOR TIGERS
Nemani Nadolo sees a gap and reaches out to earn the try for Tigers just before the half.
SHORT RANGE AGGRESSION
Wiese breaks the line once again with a big carry. However, Tigers are unable gain an advantage and we go back for a penalty for offside.
Ford kicks to touch. A huge maul from Tigers then sees Leicester within touching distance of a try. Short range aggression from Tigers sees them putting the pressure on Saints...
SCOTT SEES YELLOW
Following a TMO review, Matt Scott is given a yellow card and Tigers are down to 14.
Following the line out for Tigers, Steward edges the ball in behind toward Nadolo on the wing. A close encounter between Proctor and Nadolo sees the Tigers winger just unable to make contact for the try. We'll reset with a Saints scrum.
Big drives from Scott and Nadolo earn the yards for Tigers, breaking the Saints back line. Leicester work the ball down the right but Youngs' pass to Murimurivalu is just behind him.
Karl Dickson goes to TMO to look at a previous incident.
Luke Wallace re-enters the field for Tigers.
FINAL 10 OF THE HALF
Wiese collects at the bottom of the scrum and drives forward. Nadolo is then found from the breakdown but loses the ball forwards. Saints ball in the scrum.
TIGERS MAUL GAINS YARDS
Tigers earn the penalty in the breakdown following the restart.
Tom Youngs finds Liebenberg and the maul is formed. Halted just shy of the 20m mark, Saints turn the ball over. However, the ball out of the ruck is knocked on by Shaun Adendorff.
Cyle Brink replaces Luke Wallace, who leaves the field to recieve treatment for a blood wound.
BIGGAR ADDS THE POINTS
Dan Biggar easily converts the following conversion.
SAINTS AT THE DOUBLE
Rory Hutchinson intercepts a George Ford pass and races clear the score under the posts.
END TO END
Following the restart Tigers are able to earn another penalty with Ford once again kicking into touch.
Wells receives the line out, but a big carry from Wiese sees him lose possession of the ball in the breakdown. Scrum for Saints.
Saints try to play out from the back, working it left and right. Hutchinson ends up kicking clear, with Youngs overcooking the returned box kick and Proctor calls the mark.
FORD CONVERTS PENALTY
George Ford converts the Tigers penalty to get Tigers points on the board.
Dan Kelly comes off for a HIA, with Nemani Nadolo replacing him.
PENALTY TIGERS WAY
Alex Mitchell feeds the scrum, with Bigger able to kick clear.
Tom Youngs finds Liebenberg on the 15-minute mark from the line out. Scott and Genge burst through Saints defense, with Steward also making meters for Tigers.
We go back for a penalty following a tackle on Kelly. Ford to kick to touch.
TIGERS LOOK TO RESPOND
George Ford gets us going again, with Saints' try scorer collecting.
An exchange of kicks between Bigger and Ford sees Tigers earn a penalty. Tigers opt for touch.
Green collects from Tom Youngs' line out. However, the maul collapse and Saints get the penalty. Scrum incoming.
SAINTS TAKE THE LEAD
David Ribbans crosses over for Saints to give them the lead within the first 10 minutes. Dan Biggar hits the post from the conversion. Tigers 0-5 Saints
Saints scrum following the penalty with Alex Mitchell feeding in. Northampton are quick out from the scrum breaking down Tigers' right-hand side. Steward comes across however and is able to tackle Tommy Freeman into touch.
Saints come back again though at Tigers trying to seek space in the wider acres of Mattioli Woods Welford Road. Carries from Matavesi drive Saints towards the 5m line.
The hosts looking in touching distance of a try...
SAINTS BREACH TIGERS HALF
Van Wyk can't collect from the Saints kick and gifts the opposing team a line out.
George Furbank spots a gap in Tigers back line and kicks well into touch deep inTigers territory. Callum Green receives the line out with Tigers opting to kick clear.
Saints come back the other way but a knock-on gives Leicester ball in hand and an opportunity to attach. Kelly is able to spot a gap and break the line, driving forward but was unable to find Luke Wallace with the offload.
TIGERS BALL IN HAND
Furbank collects from Ford's kick,
Early penalty for Tigers following a forward pass from Saints, giving Leicester an opportunity deep in Northampton's half.
Wiese and Steward drive Tigers back and forth in the phase play, with the home side seeing a lot of ball in hand.
An attack down the left sees Wallace unable to collect and the ball goes into touch. Saints box kick clear from the following line out.
KICK-OFF! | TIGERS V SAINTS
George Ford gets Tigers underway on this Derby Day Saturday.
#TIGERS AT HOME – SHARE YOUR SNAPS!
Where are you watching today's showdown with Saints? Share your matchday snaps from the sofa, garden or wherever it is you are…using #TigersAtHome or via the Tigers App to show your support for the lads!
HOW OUR VISITORS LINE-UP
Three changes have been made to Saints’ announced line-up on Friday. Teimana Harrison, Ehren Painter, and Ollie Sleightholme are out, with JJ Tonks, Oisin Heffernan, and Tom Collins coming in.
Northampton Saints: 15 George Furbank, 14 Matt Proctor, 13 Rory Hutchinson, 12 Piers Francis, 11 Tommy Freeman, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Alex Mitchell; 1 Alex Waller (cc), 2 Sam Matavesi, 3 Paul Hill, 4 David Ribbans, 5 Alex Moon, 6 Tom Wood, 7 Lewis Ludlam (cc), 8 Shaun Adendorff
Replacements: 16 Mike Haywood, 17 Nick Auterac, 18 Oisin Heffernan, 19 Alex Coles, 20 JJ Tonks, 21 Tom James, 22 Ahsee Tuala, 23 Tom Collins
TODAY’S TIGERS 15
(Club appearances in brackets)
15 Freddie Steward (28)
14 Kobus Van Wyk (10)
13 Matt Scott (19)
12 Dan Kelly (14)
11 Kini Murimurivalu (15)
10 George Ford (101)
9 Ben Youngs (256)
1 Ellis Genge (82)
2 Tom Youngs (209) (c)
3 Dan Cole (257)
4 Harry Wells (117)
5 Callum Green (55)
6 Hanro Liebenberg (28)
7 Luke Wallace (15)
8 Jasper Wiese (12)
16 Charlie Clare (27)
17 Luan de Bruin (13)
18 Joe Heyes (63)
19 Tomás Lavanini (31)
20 Cylce Brink (12)
21 Jack Van Poortvliet (17)
22 Zack Henry (20)
23 Nemani Nadolo (9)
This is the first meeting of the teams in the 2020/21 season after the fixture at Franklin’s Gardens was cancelled, the clubs have met on 245 previous occasions dating back to 1880, with Leicester winning 137 to 89 and 19 drawn.
Saints go into round 17 of the Gallagher Premiership season in fifth place in the league table on 46 points while Tigers slipped once place to eight after defeat at Bath last week and are eight points behind their neighbors.
Read all the important facts and stats in our full match preview here.
DERBY DAY | TIGERS V SAINTS | 3:00PM KO
Mattioli Woods Welford Road hosts one of the oldest rivalries in rugby as Leicester Tigers face Northampton Saints.
We’ll be bringing you all the action as it happens here with Matchday Live on the official Leicester Tigers app.