Reigning league champions Saracens secured a 24-10 win over Leicester Tigers at Welford Road on Sunday.
In Tigers’ first home game of the Gallagher Premiership campaign, they trailed 10-3 at half-time and then saw Ben Earl score twice for the visitors after Adam Thompstone had provided some hope with an interception score for Geordan Murphy's team.
And Tigers were denied even a losing bonus point when Hanro Liebenberg was adjudged to have lost control in the act of dotting the ball down over the tryline in the final move of the game.
Both teams were without their England international players and Saracens were forced into a late change as scrum-half Ben Spencer was called into the World Cup squad in Japan following injury to Willi Heinz.
Saracens showed their noted strength in defence early on, facing more than 20 phases of Tigers possession in attack, before finally earning a penalty which allowed Reid to kick the three points.
But the hosts also lost Will Spencer to injury picked up in the build-up and then found themselves back in their 22 after a penalty to Sarries on halfway.
Although the visitors spilled ball from their lineout move, respite was only brief as Guy Thompson was penalised when he thought he’d stolen ball on the floor. Alex Lozowski, however, got his kick from the tee all wrong and fired wide.
Saracens found some rhythm and room in attack on the left, taking play right up to the line before finding Tompkins in space to dive over. Lozowski added the conversion for a 7-3 lead on 19 minutes.
A neat combination between Reid and Eastmond put George Worth on to the ball 25 metres out and Saracens were penalised for not releasing in the tackle. Tigers turned down a shot at goal to go to the corner but, after setting up initially, then spilled possession on the left and the visitors hammered clear.
Murphy needed to make a second change when Eastmond limped off, to be replaced by Tom Hardwick on 25 minutes.
Viljoen showed the power in his kicking as he tried to clear Tigers lines, but missed touch brought Saracens right back on the attack.
After resisting a couple of set-pieces in the corner and successive penalties, Tigers got through a massive defensive shift, with Jonah Holmes and Worth working well in the backline and the forwards attacking the ball until Thompson made the final decisive intervention.
Tigers were straight back into the same spot, though, after some indiscipline at the breakdown near halfway after missing touch with the clearing kick and then Lozowski kicked a three-pointer when Viljoen had a clearing kick charged down and then blocked Tompkins as Holmes won the chase to the loose ball. The penalty put the visitors 10-3 in front and it stayed that way up to the break.
Lozowski missed his first kick at goal after the break but Sarries extended their lead with flanker Earl shrugging off a tackle and then breaking clear to run in from 40 metres. The conversion from Lozowski put his team 17-3 ahead on 48 minutes.
The home crowd finally had something when Thompstone picked off a Vunipola pass back in defence and run 70 metres to score under the posts. Reid kicked the extras to bring Tigers back to within one score.
Wells then picked off a chip in midfield to get Tigers in front and the backing of the home crowd increased with Sarries back in their own territory, though this time they were able to clear their lines efficiently.
Charlie Clare got on for his first Premiership appearance as a Tiger as Murphy emptied the bench, using all eight replacements by the 66th minute.
A big scrum from Tigers on Sarries ball won a penalty award in front of the dugouts but the defending champions managed to disrupt ball and got a penalty of their own to take the sting out of their hosts.
And they finally put the result beyond doubt when Earl ran in his second try. Vunipola sent up a high kick on the right were Sean Maitland beat Worth in the air and flanker Earl picked up the loose ball unopposed to score. Vunipola added the kick to make it 24-10.
Tigers had one final chance to secure some consolation when they set up a drive in the corner and, although Liebenberg came off the side of set-piece and reached out to the line, the referee checked replays and determined he had lost control in trying to ground the ball.