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.
THANK YOU FOR YOUR SUPPORT
Thank you, once again, for your support.
Whether you were part of the 18,533 here at Welford Road this afternoon or joining us from further afield, your support is invaluable.
We go again at Welford Road next Saturday, November 2 (3.00pm) against Gloucester Rugby.
FULL TIME | 10-24
Tigers miss out on a losing bonus point against the league champions after a last-minute score is disallowed.
The lineout is won well, and the ball appears in Hanro Liebenberg's hands as the maul rumbles to the line. The crowd cheer as it looks like he's dotted down, but, after another TMO check he's adjudged to have knocked on over the line, and that's the game.
Harwdick boots the ball deep into enemy territory after his forwards win the penalty at the scrum, and Tigers will have the throw with the last play of the game.
Saracens will have the put into the scrum just beyond their own 22 after a Guy Thompson knock on.
Fly-half Manu Vunipola adds the extras to take Saracens out to a 14-point lead with less than three minutes remaining.
FOUR MORE CHANGES
Joe Gray, Rotimi Segun, Callum Hunter-Hill and Tom Whiteley are all onto the field as Saracens empty their bench.
TMO: TRY AWARDED
The TMO calls on Tom Foley to award the try, scored by Ben Earl.
BACK WITH THE TMO
We're back to the TMO after a scrappy piece of play, as Maitland and George Worth collide in mid-air and Earl sprints home. We'll check for a knock on from the Saracens wing first, and then foul play on his man.
Liebenberg wins the ball at the lineout this time around, but possession is lost a phase later and Saracens win it back.
LET'S GO AGAIN
Tigers win the first scrum on their 22, but we'll reset with a Sam Harrison feed. The home side get the ball out on the second bite of the cherry, but the ball bobbles dead and we'll come back for advantage. Hardwick kicks to touch...
Saracaens are doing their utmost to stop Tigers playing the ball, now. But as Wigglesworth kicks it away, Kalamafoni leaps into the air to claim a high ball.
He's wrapped up by Earl on the floor and can't quite release on the ground, and so the visitors have a free kick into the corner.
Sam Wainwright replaces Lamositele in the Saracens front row.
Boris Stankovich is going to be extremely happy with that!
Tigers' new boys put in a huge shove at the scrum, and win the penalty. The ball is stuffed into touch inside the Saracens half.
HERE COME THE CAVALRY
Three changes for Tigers with 15 minutes to go; Facundo Gigena, Charlie Clare and Jordan Olowofela are all on, in place of Greg Bateman, Jake Kerr and try-scorer Thompstone.
HARDWICK TANGLED UP
Tigers put in some nice shots inside the Saracens half, and Tom Hardwick opts to stick a kick through the line, but is tangled up by the defenders as he tries to chase.
The visitors have the feed at the scrum just inside Tigers' half. Saracens just about manage to get the ball out, but Guy Thompson wrestles scrum-half Wigglesworth to the ground and Leicester ship the ball out quickly.
KPOKU ON, SKELTON OFF
A straight swap in the Saracens engine room with just over an hour gone.
ARM UP AGAIN
Tigers win another penalty on the ground after a second round of kick tennis.
'TIIIGERS' rings around the ground as the home side push up once again on the right-hand side. Great physicality from forwards and backs alike.
Duncan Taylor replaces Alex Lozowski in the Saracens backline.
TWO MORE FROM THE TEE
Reid takes the conversion quickly, and Tigers are back in range.
Welford Road erupts once again as Adam Thompstone pounces on a loose pass and runs in from 60 metres out.
SOLID TIGERS PLATFORM
Kerr links up with captain Green once more at the lineout, and the Tigers pack have a good platform to work from as new scrum-half Sam Harrison puts up a box kick for his backline to chase.
CHANGE IN THE FRONT ROW
Nephi Leatigaga joins the Tigers ranks, as Joe Heyes leaves the field.
BATEMAN BURSTS THROUGH
Greg Bateman makes a half break on the far side, before the ball is shipped out to the left for Jonah Holmes to make another 15 metres down his wing. Sean Maitland wrestles him into touch.
Tigers win the penalty at the scrum, and Welford Road roars once again. Nice one.
Ralph Adams-Hale joins the game in place of Richard Barrington.
Tommy Reffell and Ben White are both off the field, replaced by Sione Kalamafoni - in his first appearance this season - and Sam Harrison.
HOLMES CLIMBS HIGHEST
The Tigers Family find their voice as Jonah Holmes climbs highest under a testing kick from the visitors, but the home side are unlucky to be pinged for a technical offence on the floor. Saracens will have the put in at the scrum.
White catches a Saracens high ball in the backfield, calls for the mark, and then boots back down the pitch for a Saracens throw inside their own half.
Some huge work on halfway from both sets of forwards, as Harry Wells runs into the brick wall that is Will Skelton, and Tigers team-mate Calum Green comes in to clear up.
Lozowski adds two more points from the tee, and Saracens lead 17 points to three.
EARL CUTS THROUGH
Completely against the run of play, Ben Earl breaks through a gap in the Tigers defence to race in from outside the 22.
WHITE PUTS BOOT TO BALL
...but as Thompson knocks on down the right-hand side, Ben White decides to put boot to ball once Tigers win the ball back.
ARM UP IN TIGERS' FAVOUR
The Tigers forwards win the next penalty on the ground, and so the home side can string together some nice phases across halfway...
KICKING FOR POSTS
Lozowski lines up an early penalty in this second half, but this one leaks wide once more to let Tigers off their error at the breakdown.
SECOND HALF UNDERWAY
Noel Reid boots the ball into the Leicester sky to get us going in this second half.
HALF TIME | 3-10
Still all in the balance here at Welford Road, as the teams run up the tunnel for half time.
The half ends with a Saracens throw in the Tigers 22, which is wrapped up and killed by the Leicester pack. The visiting forwards look to start a bit of a scuffle in frustration, but that will be the first half done.
Both sides look to the air in this latest battle, as Kerr wraps up a Wigglesworth kick before the Saracens man goes for another.
LOZOWSKI LANDS IT
Alex Lozowski's successful kick takes the score to Saracens 10, Tigers 3.
Viljoen is adjudged to have held Tompkins as he goes to ground following the kick, and Saracens point to the posts.
CHECK WITH THE TMO...
We're back with TMO Terheege to check a possible Saracens try, after a Viljoen kick is charged down and the men in red run in to touch down.
Initial replays show Holmes has got a hand to it, so we'll now check on possible foul play in the build up.
NOT STRAIGHT AT THE LINEOUT
Liebenberg is unlucky to knock on in a messy maul as the game restarts, so Saracens will find touch - but Tom Woolstencroft's throw is less than straight and so we'll scrum down once again, just inside the home 22.
THOMPSON OVER THE BALL
A big shift was needed, and a big shift was delivered.
Tigers hold strong on their own line, and Guy Thompson gets over the ball and survives the clear out to win it back - and win a pressure breather for his men. Welford Road erupts.
ANOTHER BIG SET NEEDED
But as the ball comes back inside Tiger knock on on their five-metre line, and Saracens have a scrum in dangerous territory.
The ball initially comes out - and Holmes does his thing again - but TMO Stuart Terheege has spotted an infringement at the scrum and Saracens kick to the corner.
BIG MAUL DEFENCE
Saracens set up a big push from their lineout on the 22, but Tigers meet them when push comes to shove and shut down their maul.
They ship the ball out to the right, where they spot an overlap, but Jonah Holmes wraps up his man to slow down play long enough for his defensive line to re-group.
HANRO WITH THE TOUGH STUFF
Both sides have been putting in some heavy carries so far this half, with Hanro Liebenberg well involved in the Tigers ranks.
Another long passage of play, this time ending with Saracens knocking on in the Tigers 22. Tommy Reffell has done a great job of slowing the ball at the breakdown so far.
EARLY TIGERS CHANGE
Kyle Eastmond is off the field for some treatment, and replaced by Tom Hardwick.
CHEEKY DINK THROUGH
With the ball in pay for a good few minutes, both sides start to get a little bit scrappy - Saracens miss a high ball and Harry Wells is there to claim it for Tigers, and he feeds Noel Reid to put a cheeky touchfinder through to give his side a breather.
PRESSURE OFF ... FOR NOW
Tigers string some more big carries together, with Viljoen going once, then again. The pass to Guy Thompson out on the far side is a difficult take, though, and he knocks on into the Saracens line.
The referee plays advantage and the visitors decide to kick it downfield.
VILJOEN FOR TOUCH
Tigers win the penalty at the breakdown, and Viljoen points to the corner. Kerr's throw is good...
ANOTHER BIG PUSH
Good territory for Tigers as they scrum down just outside the away side's 22, looking to hit back immediately.
AND THE EXTRAS
Lozowski makes no mistake with the conversion this time, and adds the extras to put Saracens in the lead for the first time this match.
TOMPKINS DIVES OVER
The Tigers defence does well to take some big hits early in that phase of play, but Foley raises an arm for offside and Saracens go through via Nick Tompkins for the game's first try.
PAUSE IN PLAY
This is already a very physical contest. Richard Barrington and Will Skelton combine to stop Adam Thompstone - with a thud - and Greg Bateman comes up from a reset scrum with blood. We'll pause while he receives a bit of treatment.
NOT ROLLING AWAY
The next breakdown penalty goes Tigers' way, and EW Viljoen steps up with his big boot to make more than 50 metres, just missing touch.
Saracens' return is a bit iffy, though, and Tigers return it up field with a hard run from No8 Guy Thompson.
Saracens tighthead Titi Lamositele is met hard by Guy Thompson in the Tigers line, and there's an incredulous roar from the crowd when referee Tom Foley raises his arm in favour of the visitors.
Alex Lozwoski lines up from the tee ... and it's sliced to the right.
Saracens try a training ground move from the back of the lineout but they're not quite up to speed yet, and knock on at the back. Tommy Reffell looks devastated that he can't compete at that ruck...
WELLS ONTO THE FIELD
Will Spencer is off, replaced by Harry Wells in an early change for Geordan Murphy.
THREE FROM THE TEE
...and it's good. Tigers take first blood in this Round 2 clash.
Tigers win the penalty advantage and Noel Reid tries a chip-and-catch over the top of the line. Gallagher just about gets there to touch down, so we'll come back for the original offence. Reid points to the sticks...
INTO THE 22
Leicester link some nice phases of play together in the opposition 22, with a big burst from EW VIljoen on the left and a real hammer blow from Greg Bateman moments later on the right. A nice run of possession, here.
WORTH SENDS ONE SKYWARDS
The Tigers defence absorbs that early Saracens pressure, and after a decent run up to halfway, the ball comes out to George Worth who makes a testing kick into the away half, causing full-back Matt Gallagher to fluff his lines.
Jake Kerr sends the ball in long to the first lineout of the match, deep in the Tigers half.
Saracens win the ball, and keep the pressure on into the home 22.
KICK-OFF FROM WELFORD ROAD
Manu Vunipola gets us underway in Round 2 of the Gallagher Premiership at Welford Road.
ONTO THE FIELD
Calum Green leads Tigers out at Welford Road for the first time, to a roar from the crowd. Moments until we're underway in Round 2...
WELCOME TO LEICESTER, TOMÁS LAVANINI!
And, while the Tigers team take the applause from the Welford Road faithful as they head back up the tunnel, fan favourite Telusa Veainu is joined by new arrival Tomás Lavanini on the pitch in front of an adoring crowd.
The Argentina lock arrived in Leicester this week following his World Cup campaign, and will be available for selection from next weekend’s match against Gloucester. Nuestra casa es tu casa, Tomás!
CONFIRMED TEAM NEWS
Tigers welcome back the first of their Rugby World Cup players with Tonga international Sione Kalamafoni included among the replacements for today’s fixture.
The only change in the forward pack is the inclusion of Jake Kerr at hooker, with club captain Tom Youngs ruled out by a knock from the Warriors game. Calum Green takes over as captain in a league game for the first time.
Kyle Eastmond resumes his place at inside centre after missing Round 1 through illness.
Saracens have named Manu Vunipola – cousin of England duo Billy and Mako – at fly-half after an injury to Alex Goode, while back-rower Jackson Wray takes the captaincy in the absence of both Goode and Brad Barritt.
In a late change, Richard Wigglesworth steps up to the starting side in place of scrum-half Ben Spencer, who has been drafted into Eddie Jones’ England squad for the Rugby World Cup final.
See the full match line-ups by clicking here, or scrolling down on this page.
CAPTAIN CALUM PREVIEWS ROUND 2
Calum Green, who serves as Tigers captain this afternoon in the absence of Tom Youngs, has shared his insight into the mindset of the Leicester squad ahead of today’s game.
"We are just focusing on ourselves ... around the ball [and] being more physical,” he told LTTV.
“Playing at Welford Road is special, and is something I grew up aspiring to do.
“It is going to be a special occasion [this afternoon] and we’re all buzzing and looking forward to getting out there.”
Catch more of the Leicester lock’s Round 2 preview on LTTV here.
VILJOEN: “WE OWE WELFORD ROAD”
Leicester Tigers back EW Viljoen says the side want to ‘prove something’ with their return to Welford Road this afternoon.
The 24-year-old retains the No13 shirt for Round 2 of the Gallagher Premiership, and is set to make his home debut when he runs out against Saracens.
“We aren’t going to change anything,” he said. “We are going in with the same plans with a few different tactics, but we have to pitch up as a team.
“We want to come out with a bang in our first game back at home, and we want to prove something.”
Read the South African centre’s full preview of this afternoon’s game here.
BIG MATCH PREVIEW
Welford Road welcomes defending Premiership and European champions Saracens in Leicester Tigers’ first home game of the league campaign.
The teams total 15 league titles between them, with Sarries lifting the trophy at Twickenham at the end of last season with a Final victory over Exeter Chiefs.
But, with both sides shorn of several international stars due to the closing stages of the Rugby World Cup, this match will serve as a test of the depth of both squads.
Read our full match preview here, or scroll down on this page.
WELCOME TO MATCHDAY LIVE!
Hello, good afternoon and welcome to Welford Road for Tigers’ Round 2 clash against Saracens, with kick-off to come at 3.00pm.
Follow all the action as it happens with our Matchday Live coverage, right here on the Tigers App and LeicesterTigers.com.