Leicester Tigers went down to a 29-17 Aviva Premiership defeat to Saracens at Welford Road on Christmas Eve.
Tigers scored two tries in each half through Mathew Tait and a penalty score from a dominant scrum.
But Saracens scored two tries of their own, a penalty try after Jonny May knocked on to deny Sean Maitland, and a score for Jamie George. Owen Farrell landed a drop goal and four penalties to inflict a fifth successive defeat on the Tigers, for whom May received a red card for his second knock-on 11 minutes from time.
A season’s best crowd of 24,873 were at Welford Road for the first Christmas Eve fixture since 1927.
Logovi’i Mulipola returned at loosehead prop in the only change to the starting team from the side that played against Munster. He replaced Kyle Traynor, who moved to the bench. Harry Wells came in for Dom Barrow in the replacements in the only other change to the matchday 23.
It was a cagey opening with both sets of half-backs and each full-back looking to kick for territory.
Saracens were the first to put any phases together with a passage of possession on the Tigers 22 that brought them a penalty when Ben Youngs was pinged for playing his opposite number Ben Spencer. Owen Farrell landed a simple penalty to put the visitors 3-0 ahead after six minutes.
It settled Saracens into the game and they came again at Tigers with Spencer booming a penalty to the corner. Tigers held off the drive, but eventually conceded a penalty under the posts. Saracens kept playing and Marcelo Bosch’s pass for Sean Maitland was knocked on by Jonny May as he tried to intercept.
May was sent to the bin and referee Matthew Carley awarded Saracens a penalty try.
Tigers settled into the game with two penalties in quick succession, which took them up to the Saracens 5m line. There Graham Kitchener set up the drive, but Tigers were never in complete control and Saracens smothered the ball to win the scrum put-in.
Tigers put together a brilliant defensive set to keep their line intact after 18 minutes. Firstly, Adam Thompstone held up Chris Wyles on the left which was followed by a huge hit from Tuilagi before Bosch’s final pass to the unmarked Maitland went forward into touch.
May returned to the field with no further addition to the score.
However, Saracens did extend their lead with a second try in the 25th minute. Hooker Jamie George stepped onto a short pass from Farrell, held off Mapapalangi to score under the posts. Farrell converted to put Sarries 17-0 ahead.
Tigers had to score next and they did that through Tait’s second try in as many games. And it owed much to the skill and quick-thinking of Adam Thompstone.
Thompstone was tight to the touchline and being tackled by two men when he managed to flick his offload inside for Tait to score at the right-hand corner. Ford landed the conversion to cut the deficit to 17-10.
A hectic period followed in which the game swung from one end to the other. Ben Youngs began it by turning defence into attack with a grubber from his 22 that he fielded. Youngs hacked into the Saracens 22 where the chasing Sione Kalamafoni overturned Jackson Wray. As Tigers swept forward, Tom Youngs knocked on and Farrell cleared into the Leicester half. Back came Tigers through May and Ford, whose kick ahead was collected by Goode and Saracens found touch.
But Tigers ensured they came away with further points when Will Skelton played Ben Youngs as he picked up and Ford landed the penalty.
Tigers trailed 17-10 at the break.
The second half was less than two minutes in when Bosch took on a penalty from inside his own half. But the Argentina international miscued his kick short and wide.
Farrell made no mistake a few minutes later when he punished a high tackle by Mike Fitzgerald with three points for the visitors.
And Farrell kept the scoreboard ticking over with a drop goal moments later to extend the Saracens lead to 23-10 after 50 minutes.
A clever kick by Ford allowed May to pressure Alex Goode and Maitland, and they got in each other’s way in dealing with the ball and conceded the 5m scrum.
Tigers were awarded three successive penalties as Mako Vunpiola infringed at the set-piece. And when he infringed a fourth time referee Carley went under the posts for a penalty try but, although Sarries were on a warning, there was no card. It left Tigers 23-17 down.
Tigers failed to deal with the restart and Saracens gathered possession. It was all hands to the pump for Tigers, but Kitchener strayed offside in defence and Farrell landed his penalty to move the visitors more than a score ahead.
Tatafu Polota-Nau came on for the final quarter for his first Aviva Premiership appearance at Welford Road.
Saracens threatened again when their heavy ball carriers sucked in the Leicester defence but Bosch knocked on with Maitland unmarked on his outside. Tigers won another penalty at the scrum but, again, no card was produced by referee Carley.
However, he did produce a second yellow card, and with it a red card, for Jonny May with 11 minutes remaining. Michael Rhodes offloaded out of Toomua’s tackle and May knocked on as he tried to grab the ball. Referee Carley, in consultation with his TMO, deemed it worthy of a second yellow and May was sent from the field.
Farrell kicked the penalty to give Sarries a 29-17 lead.
Vunpiola was finally shown a yellow card for a fifth scrum penalty against him with seven minutes remaining.
From the penalty lineout, Polota-Nau was stopped just short and Hamilton was held up over the line. Richard Barrington came on for Chris Wyles for the resulting scrum.
Tigers were awarded a free-kick at the set-piece, which Ben Youngs looked to run. However, he was pulled back by the assistant Paul Dix for tapping the ball with his knee and with it went Tigers’ final opportunity for points.
THANK YOU FOR JOINING US
Thank you for joining us here on Matchday LIVE on Christmas Eve.
We hope you have a Merry Christmas with your family and friends and we will be back with you on MDL next weekend, when Tigers travel to Exeter to take on The Chiefs in a New Years Eve fixture.
TIGERS GO DOWN BY TWELVE
The Full Time whistle is blown at Welford Road and it's Saracens who end their winless streak, walking away winners in this Round 11 Premiership clash, with the final score 17-29.
SARACENS AWARDED PENALTY
Another scrum penalty to Saracens sees them guarantee the win and find touch from the ensuing kick.
RE-SET ... THEN SET AGAIN
More re-sets here tonight than a scratched Jonah Lomu Rugby game disc needed on the original PlayStation console.
The ball moves quickly from one end to another, through foot and hand of both sides, before a charge down from Tigers sees them create space but wait .. we're going back. No advantage to Saracens.
They will feed the scrum for an earlier knock-on from Adam Thompstone in attack ten inside their side of half-way.
SCRUM PENALTY - TO SARRIES
This time the scrum penalty is blown the way of the visitors and they find touch on half-way.
The England scrum-half is deemed to have incorrectly tapped the ball an it's a scrum to Saracens on their own try-line.
FREE-KICK TO TIGERS
Saracens are pinged again at the scrum and Ben Youngs goes quick.
RE-SET SCRUM ... AGAIN
Tigers again forcing the Saracens scrum to fold, just 5m out from their try-line, with their replacement props now struggling under the strain of Mulipola and Cole.
TIGERS HELD UP
The home side are held up over the Saracens line after a strong, driving maul from the home side at the visitors try-line.
VUNIPOLA SHOWN A YELLOW
Finally, Saracens prop Mako Vunipola is sent to the sin-bin for a scrum penalty.
A knock-on from the visitors hands Tigers a scrum 35 out.
AERIAL PING PONG
It is a battle of the boots here at Welford Road in the final minutes, with both sides pressing the other for territory.
PENALTY - SARACENS
Owen Farrell adds another three points from the kicking tee, stretching Saracens lead to 12 points with ten minutes remaining.
MAY SENT FOR EARLY SHOWER
Jonny May has been shown red after a second attempted intercept falls to the floor and a yellow card offence is deemed to be the punishment by TMO and Referee.
A slick move out the back from the home side doesn't come off after a knock-on from a wrapping Ben Youngs off the Matt Toomua inside ball.
Saracens dive on the ball and begin their roll up field.
TIGERS FORCE ANOTHER ERROR
Saracens knock-on just inside their own half through persistent defensive pressure.
Tigers cough up possession from the penalty up field after losing the line out. Strong attack from Saracens to follow but to no avail as they attempt a drop goal and miss wide.
ANOTHER SCRUM PENALTY
Saracens are again penalised at the scrum but, no yellow as yet from the referee despite a handful of warnings and a penalty try.
TRIPLE CHANGE FOR TIGERS
Graham Kitchener, Mike Wiliams and Mat Tait come from the field after more than an hour of effort.
They replaced by Harry Wells, Luke Hamilton and Nick Malouf.
Saracens attack ends 5m out as Marcelo Bosch knocks on within sight of the try-line.
TATAFU FOR TOMMY
Tatafu Polota-Nau is in to the action for his first Premiership start, replacing Tigers captain Tom Youngs at hooker.
PENALTY - SARACENS
Owen Farrell adds three points to the Saracens score and extends the visitors lead to nine points with one hour gone at Welford Road.
A penalty advantage is not played by Saracens and Referee Carley awards a penalty to the visitors.
A mistake at the re-start from the home side and Saracens are on the march inside the Tigers 22.
PENALTY TRY - TIGERS
The pressure is too much and Saracens fold, forcing the penalty try to Tigers.
THIRD TIME A CHARM?
Another scrum penalty against Vunipola.
Another scrum for Tigers.
PEN ... AGAIN
Another penalty against Vunipola. Another scrum to Tigers.
A HUGE scrum from the home side forces the England prop to his knees and a penalty is awarded.
Tom Youngs says lets have another, much to the delight of the home supporters at Welford Road.
Another re-set as both front-rows clash again in this bruising encounter.
FORD AND MAY COMBINE
A chip-kick from George Ford for a flying Jonny May forces a scramble at the back for Saracens and they carry the ball in to the dead ball area, seeing Tigers win a 5m scrum.
DROP GOAL - SARACENS
Owen Farrell adds three more to the visitors score, extending their lead to 13 points at Welford Road.
TIGERS TURN IT OVER
The home side turn over the ball at the line-out inside their own half, handing Saracens an attacking chance.
SPENCER CLEARS THE DANGER
The visitors scrum-half shoes his class with a strong kick down field from the scrum, handing the Tigers a line-out near their own 22 line.
HALF CHANCE GOES BEGGING
Tigers find half a hole in the Saracens line as Kalamafoni gets his arms free to offload for Manu Tuiliagi but, the centre knocks-on. Saracens scrum 30 out from their own line.
PENALTY - SARACENS
Owen Farrell adds three points to the visitors total, extending their lead to ten points after 46 minutes.
ILL-DISCIPLINE FROM TIGERS
Mike Fitzgerald ruled to have "held around the neck" in a maul by the TMO and no advantage is taken by the visitors, handing Saracens a penalty and shot at three points from 20 out.
TIGERS HOLDING ON
A strong start to the attack is ended quickly as Mapapalangi is ruled to have held on at the ruck, handing Saracens a penalty and chance to kick in to touch 22 out from the Tigers line.
Tigers again with the stronger push at the scrum and move well following in phase-play.
Both Teams now attempting to find territory through the boot.
NO LUCK FOR BOSCH
The Saracens outside centre misses with the long-range attempt and Tigers will re-start from the 22m line.
They go high, chase strong and force an error from the visitors in the attempt to take. Tigers scrum 10 inside their side of halfway.
EARLY CHANCE FOR THE VISITORS
A penalty is blown against the Tigers in the opening phases of the match, 2m inside Saracens side of half-way, after a strong chase on a Ben Youngs box-kick and the visitors have opted to shoot for three.
FARRELL GETS THE SECOND HALF UNDERWAY
Saracens get us back underway at Welford Road for the second-half of this Christmas Eve cracker of a clash.
PLAYERS ARE BACK ON THE FIELD
Both Teams have made their way out for the second-half.
TIGERS TRAIL AT HALF TIME
The home side head in to the changing rooms trailing by seven at the break, after a late comeback in the first-half against the quick-starting Saracens.
SLOW AND STEADY
Tigers playing it safe now, running down the clock in the first half with big men off the ruck.
SARRIES PLAY IT SAFE
A handful of phases after re-gaining possession, the visitors grubber through the Tigers defensive line to hand the home side a line-out inside their own 22.
TIGERS TURN OVER
The home side offer up possession after finding territory through the piggyback up field of the penalty, after knocking-on on the half-way line from the first phase off the set-piece.
THERE IT IS!
The penalty the Welford Road crowd has been waiting for is finally awarded, as Figallo folds under pressure at the scrum and Saracens are penalised.
SCRUM RE-SET FOR SARACENS
Tigers looking the stronger scrum but yet to be awarded a penalty for their efforts at the set-piece. Second re-set now.
UNPLAYABLE ON THE GROUND
The ball comes wide by Tigers inside their 22, showing an attacking mindset this afternoon, but it is deemed unplayable at that ruck from both sides and Saracens are awarded the scrum.
PENALTY - TIGERS
George Ford has no trouble with adding the extra points and cuts the visitors lead to seven points after 35 minutes.
The towering lock from Saracens comes through on Ben Youngs at the ruck and is penalised, 35 out, for Ford to shoot for three points.
FORD WARMING IN TO THIS ONE
George Ford is warming in to this game nicely and shows his class with a brilliant chase on a long-kick down field from the home side, trapping them deep in their 22 and forcing a panicked scramble at the back.
The visitors knock-on in their own chase of the re-start following the score and an end-to-end battle occurs from it, with Tigers going all the way up field after some individual brilliance from Ben Youngs out of the ruck with ball in hand.
CONVERSION - TIGERS
George Ford adds the extra two points from the touch-line and claws back some of the lead of the visitors lead.
TRY - TIGERS
Mat Tait goes over after a brilliant individual effort from Adam Thompstone on the touch-line. Tigers are on the scoreboard for the first time in the match.
TIGERS ON THE MARCH
The home side are on the march forward now, showing their ability out wide as they find space.
Advantage is being played as the go right to Thompstone's wing through a brilliant long-ball from Matt Toomua, before the 14 flicks inside for Mat Tait to re-gather in support and dive over!
We're checking upstairs.
Both teams looking to find territory following the third re-start of the match. The Tigers move it to the right and an advantage is not played, so back for a high tackle. Ford finds touch 20 out.
CONVERSON - SARACENS
Owen Farrell adds the extras from in front, stretching the Saracens lead to 17 points here at Welford Road after 25 minutes.
TRY - SARACENS
The score is awarded to the Saracens hooker, Jamie George, after deliberation between officials for an obstruction on Kitchener 25 out.
We head upstairs for the decision, checking for a potential obstruction.
LINE-OUT TO SARACENS
The visitors move it quickly from the line-out to the right before snapping back to the middle and find space.
Jamie George is through and under the posts.
TIGERS STRUGGLE TO MAKE SPACE
The home side can't break the bruising defence from Saracens and move side-to-side instead of forward.
The ball is kicked from the ruck off a Tigers foot and Saracens pounce. They kick-up field and chase well, forcing Tait to clear in to touch inside his own half.
Jonny May is back in to the action, returning from the sin-bin.
George Ford shows his frustration at a lack of attacking ground made and grubbers forward. The kick comes off a Saracens defender and hands Tigers a line-out inside the visitors half.
TIGERS ON THE MARCH
The home side are persisting through strong forward running in the 12/13 channel, working their way slowly forward but not bending the Saracens line in any threatening manner.
Juan Figallo is 'pinged' by Referee Carley for leaning in at the engagement and George Ford finds touch from the free-kick to give the visitors a line-out on half-way.
CLARK BACK IN TO THE GAME
Calum Clark has cleared his HIA and returned to act with Schalk Burger back to the bench.
ATTACK ENDS IN ROW 3
The final pass out-wide for Maitland down the right wing ends in Row 3 of the Mattioli Woods Stand and is ruled forward, adding insult to injury for the visitors as they looked like going over for a second.
SARACENS SWINGING IT SIDE TO SIDE
The visitors working it wide from almost every ruck, showing their ability in attack through Bosch and speedsters out the back.
SCRUM PENALTY TO SARRIES
The home side seem to push Saracens off their own scrum but the referee rules Logo Mulipola to have been engaging at an angle - penalty to Saracens.
Farrell finds touch 22 out from the Tigers line.
TIGERS LOOKING SHARP OUT WIDE
Saracens clear the ball following the scrum deep in their half and find Adam Thompstone, who does well to keep moving forward with a group of chasers closing in.
The ball goes wide following and the home side look like finding space before a mix-up sees an accidental obstruction occur and it will be a scrum to Saracens 10 inside their side of half-way.
NO THREE POINTS
Tigers opt to kick for touch instead of taking the three, but the maul from the following line-out isn't as successful and the first and the home side knock-on. Saracens scrum on their five.
TIGERS DRIVE FORWARD
Tigers look dangerous from the line-out inside Saracens 22 but knock-on in the move out the back to Manu Tuilagi. Back we go for another penalty though, against Saracens at the ruck.
TURNOVER - MIKE WILLIAMS
Mike Williams forces a turnover on half-way after a battle of territory following the re-start saw Saracens on the attack on the half-way mark.
MAY SENT TO THE BIN
Jonny May has been sent to the sin-bin for a deliberate knock-down, in the same infringement handing Saracens seven-points with the penalty try.
PENALTY TRY - SARACENS
The TMO and Referee Matthew Carley have ruled a penalty try for the visitors following May's infringement. The visitors now lead by ten at Welford Road after as many minutes.
PENALTY UPON PENALTY
The ball goes wide to the wing of Maitland for Saracens and the ball is knocked-on by Jonny May as he attempts an intercept. No advantage on the first infringement is blown but, we are checking for a deliberate knock-down.
BURGER FOR CLARK
Schalk Burger is in to the game, replacing Calum Clark in what appears to be a Head Injury Assessment.
SARRIES CHIPPING AWAY
The visitors are marching their way towards the try-line, phase by phase, and an advantage has been given for a penalty at the ruck from Tigers.
FARRELL FINDS TOUCH 5 OUT
A huge boot for the line sees the visitors with a line-out just around the 5m line of the Tigers try-line.
FORD GETS US BACK UNDERWAY
George Ford sends the kick off long but, the visitors march the maul from their re-start take to near half-way.
They move it quickly to the left from the first phase to be dragged down by Matt Toomua and a turnover is forced. But wit, we're going back to the half-way line for a penalty to the visiting side.
PENALTY GOAL - SARACENS
Owen Farrell adds the first points of the day from the boot, giving the visitors a three-point lead after six minutes.
Saracens scrum-half Ben Spencer is taken illegally as the number nine, handing the visitors a shot at goal through a penalty from in front.
Saracens working it slowly through their big men now, around the ruck, and forcing pressure on to the home side.
YOUNGS CLEARS THE BALL
Ben Youngs clears the ball from the ruck, with a box kick, for Saracens to return and they do through Jackson Wray who finds a half break.
They find space wide from the following phases to be within the Tigers 22.
Saracens go quick with the line-out through Sean Maitland and move it wide before kicking deep again and finding touch inside the Tigers 22.
END-TO-END ... ALREADY
Tigers looking for territory early, with Mat Tait clearing after a wide set piece move from the scrum and Saracens returning serve.
George Ford marks and clears, before again Saracens return serve, for Tait to yet again clear in to touch.
Both sides will knock-ons in the first minute, the first by George Ford after a poor pass from Sione Kalamafoni on the counter-attack, and the second by Jackson Wray of Saracens after using their advantage.
Tigers scrum 15 inside their side of half-way.
KICK-OFF AT WELFORD ROAD
George Ford gets this fixture underway at Welford Road!
TOMMY LEADS OUT THE TIGERS
Tom Youngs leads the Tigers on to the field, who will kick-off today running towards the Mattioli Woods Stand with Saracens to receive.
SARRIES TAKE TO THE TURF
The visitors are out on the field - with today's captain Owen Farrell leading the way.
TIGERS UP THE TUNNEL
Tigers leave the field following their warm-up, with kick-off now just minutes away at Welford Road.
90 YEARS IN THE MAKING
This afternoon is the first Christmas Eve fixture in 90 years to be held at Welford Road, with the last against Bridgwater & Albion in 1927.
Tigers ran out winners in that fixture 29-0.
VISITORS HEAD BACK TO THE ROOMS
Saracens have departed from the Welford Road pitch, with their warm-up over. While the home side remain out in the middle, running through final preparations ahead of kick-off at 3pm.
SPIRE MAN OF THE MATCH
Following today's action on your Official Tigers Mobile App? You can help decide today's Man of the Match. Voting opens at half-time.
WILL SANTA DELIVER?
FESTIVE FEELING IN THE AIR
THINGS ARE HEATING UP
Both sides are on the pitch here at Welford Road, with warm-up well underway ahead of this 'cracker' of a clash.
It isn't just the Teams up for it either, with the atmosphere well and truly building for kick-off at 3pm.
A PERFECT 10 BATTLE
What a mouth-watering head-to-head battle we have ahead of us today in the fly-half position, with England team-mates George Ford and Owen Farrell facing off.
Who will come out on top?
Kick-off is less than an hour away now ... and we can't wait!!
Neither side have made any changes to their Matchday Squads from the Teams named on Friday, with the Official Team Sheets now submitted by both Managers.
MERRY CHRISTMAS EVE!!
Welcome to Welford Road for this Christmas Eve 'cracker' of a clash between the Leicester Tigers and Saracens.