Leicester Tigers came from behind to win with a last-minute penalty try against Saracens at Mattioli Woods Welford Road on Saturday.
Tigers trailed 12-3 entering the closing 10 minutes and the visitors had largely been in control, converting pressure into points with Owen Farrell’s kicking. But Steve Borthwick’s team refused to lie down and stayed in the fight long enough to set up a remarkable finish.
George Ford’s penalty set up the final big push and it came with the home crowd’s encouragement ringing around the stadium as Tigers were given a late, late penalty and played to the left-hand corner.
The forwards pushed onwards and, as they threatened the line, the maul came down and referee Christophe Ridley awarded a penalty try which sealed a 13-12 verdict for the hosts.
It gave Tigers a third win in a row from the start of the season on an afternoon dominated by weather conditions with both teams kicking for territory and minimising risk around potential errors in possession.
Borthwick gave a Premiership debut to wing Hosea Saumaki and also called Freddie Burns, Francois van Wyk, Guy Porter and Ollie Chessum into the starting line-up while Sarries welcomed back Farrell, Jamie George and England international Max Malins into a team which had won 10 of the last 12 Premiership meetings between the teams.
Farrell gave them an early lead with two penalties inside 12 minutes on their first trip to Mattioli Woods Welford Road since October 2019 and then, after missing another kick at goal, he added three more points around the half-hour with the rain providing testing conditions for both defences.
Tigers had not really had any territory and had to wait until the final action of the half to get on the scoreboard as Ford landed a penalty following some indiscipline from the visitors when they should have had ball of their own after holding up a drive from the home pack.
There was only a brief let-up in the rain before Farrell made it 12-3 in the opening stages of the second half and Sarries kept Tigers largely at arm’s length.
Freddie Steward, on as a replacement for Saumaki on the left wing, took on a penalty attempt from inside his own half half but pushed it wide before Tigers were denied a try for Jack van Poortvliet as they finally started to build some attacking momentum.
Replacement van Poortvliet had capitalised on a chip in behind the defence from Ford and, when full-back Malins collided with the post in attempting to field it, the scrum-half dived on loose ball to touch down. But referee Ridley checked replays to determine Tigers had been offside at the point of Ford’s kick and it remained 3-12.
Juan Pablo Socino joined the backline for his debut – against ahis former club –
and carried crisply as Tigers began to make good use of hard-earned field position, having a couple of lineout drives and phases of possession before Ford kicked his second penalty with five minutes remaining to bring them back within reach of some return from their day.
His colleagues responded by winning a defensive penalty and then taking play back into the Sarries 22. But, with the clock on zero, the visitors thought they had done enough when Guy Porter was tackled into touch in front of the Terrace.
But the referee wanted another look and awarded a penalty against the second defender and play remained in the corner.
There was huge volume from the stands as Tigers set up the lineout drive and when the whistle blew again, the penalty try award brought seven points and scenes of elation throughout the stadium as Tigers completed a third successive win.
Attendance is 18,144 and every single one of them was in fine voice.
What a finish.
Tigers go for the lineout drive, keep their patience and when they approach the line, Sarries fold underneath.
Referee says penalty try with the clock already in the red. The result is a 13-12 victory.
Crowd loving it too.
If you can hear a rumbling out there, it's a penalty try and a win!
Referee checking tackle on Guy Porter into touch with time up.
Second player illegal.
Penalty Tigers in the left-hand corner... 6-12 down.
The crowd really involved in this as Tigers get some phases of ball. But whistle goes in favour of the visitors as they challenge on the floor. Tigers marched back too.
No clear release as Sarries bring down Genge just inside their half. Ford says 'posts' and kicks to bring Tigers within 7 points with 75 minutes played.
Referee calls penalty advantage over just before Saracens are taken into touch on their left touchline. The offence had been back near halfway. But it's Tigers lineout ball.
Ford chips ahead and when Max Malins collides with the posts, Jack Van Poortvliet picks up and 'scores'. But no.
Referee asks TMO "any reason I cannot award the kick" and spots JVP in front of the kick on the replays "always advancing". Restart is a Sarries penalty.
Heading towards the last dozen minutes of the game and it's 12-3 to Saracens on a rain-soaked afternoon at Mattioli Woods Welford Road.
Juan Pablo Socino is on for his Tigers debut, against his former club, with Freddie Burns making way.
NO MORE PENALTIES
Warning to Sarries back on their own line after two infringements as TIgers drive forward.
Penalty to Tigers inside their own half after Farrell contests ball on the floor. Freddie Steward takes on the kick but it drifts wide.
THREE AND OVER
Farrell penalty stretches the Saracens lead to nine points.
Steward, Van Poortvliet & Genge are on their way.
Saumaki, Youngs & F van Wyk on their way off.
TEAMS ARE BACK OUT
George Ford kicks to start the second half, Tigers trailing 3-9 to Saracens.
HAVING NONE OF IT
Tigers wrapped up from a lineout drive, ball goes Sarries' way.
But penalty comes in Tigers' favour for a bit of indiscipline and Ford thumps it over in the last action of the half.
Three penalties from Owen Farrell v one from George Ford, Saracens lead 9-3 at Mattioli Woods Welford Road.
It's cagey, lots of kicking for territory, not much in phase play. And it's raining. Still.
FROM THE TEE
The call goes against Dan Kelly on the floor as Kobus van Wyk rucks over and Sarroes have another penalty. Farrell, from wide on the left, adds the three-pointer.
Farrell sees an opportunity and chips delicately towards the Tigers tryline, But Ben Youngs reacts brilliantly to scoop it into the crowd from behind his own chalk.
Penalty given away for playing the scrum-half at a ruck and Farrell quickly points towards goal. He's out wide on the right, just short of the 10m line, but this time it slips past the posts. Still leading 6-0 though.
Generous applause from the crowd as visitors' prop Ralph Adam-Hale goes off with an arm injury. Eroni Mawi on.
It becomes a huge roar from the crowd as Tigers put pressure on in the opposition 22. But it ends with a defensive penalty which is not so popular with the crowd.
PLAYING 16 MEN
Tommy Reffell takes ball from a lineout but referee Christophe Ridley runs straight into him.
It's a scrum which ends in a Tigers penalty.
After taking a 6-0 lead with two penalties, Saracens look for more when Tigers are whistled in the 22. This time, playing to the front of the lineout, they spill ball just 5 metres out.
Straight from the restart, Sarries have a scrum penalty and Farrell points to the posts from the centre of the pitch.
Farrell goes through his regular routine and kicks from the 10m line for the lead.
Strong lineout defence from Tigers pushes Sarries towards the touchline and then Billy V looses grip of the ball in the next phase can Tigers an clear.
Chessum and Cole come to meet Billy Vunipola with a big tackle. But Sarries enjoying early possession and now have a penalty on the right.
OFF WE GO
Owen Farrell gets the game started, Saracens kicking towards the Beehive Money Stand end.
Did we mention it's raining. Hard.
Crowd in great heart though. Big welcome for the Tigers led by Hanro Liebenberg
READY FOR ACTION
Just a few minutes to go until kick-off and the Tigers have completed the warm-up but the rain is unrelenting.
Big encouragement from the crowd as they go back to the tunnel.
The feet are stamping on the floors in the Breedon Stand, ready to welcome their team back out on to the field.
Stay tuned in as we bring you all the latest right here on Matchday Live.
It’s a big day for the Leicester Tigers Foundation tomorrow when club mascot Welford takes on the London Marathon hoping to raise funds towards the Foundation’s work with the disabled.
Please help if you can by making a donation either via the JustGiving page or by Text.
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It is lashing down with rain.
Saracens: 15 Max Malins, 14 Alex Lewington, 13 Alex Lozowski, 12 Nick Tompkins, 11 Rotimi Segun, 10 Owen Farrell (c), 9 Aled Davies; 1 Ralph Adams-Hale, 2 Jamie George, 3 Marco Riccioni, 4 Nick Isiekwe, 5 Tim Swinson, 6 Jackson Wray, 7 Ben Earl, 8 Billy Vunipola
Replacements: 16 Tom Woolstencroft, 17 Eroni Mawi, 18 Alec Clarey, 19 Callum Hunter-Hill, 20 Andy Christie, 21 Joe Simpson, 22 Alex Goode, 23 Dom Morris
THE TIGERS LINE-UP
15 Freddie Burns, 14 Kobus van Wyk, 13 Guy Porter, 12 Dan Kelly, 11 Hosea Saumaki, 10 George Ford, 9 Ben Youngs; 1 Francois van Wyk, 2 Nic Dolly, 3 Dan Cole, 4 Calum Green, 5 Ollie Chessum, 6 George Martin, 7 Tommy Reffell, 8 Hanro Liebenberg (c)
Replacements: 16 Tom Cowan-Dickie, 17 Ellis Genge, 18 Nephi Leatigaga, 19 Harry Wells, 20 Cameron Henderson, 21 Jack van Poortvliet, 22 Juan Pablo Socino, 23 Freddie Steward
MATCH PREVIEW | ROUND 3
Saracens are in town for the first time since October 2019 and are able to recall Lions duo owen Farrell and Jamie George for their first club appearance of the season.
Both teams got the season off to a winning start two weeks ago, when Tigers scored a bonus-point victory over Exeter Chiefs a day after Sarries kicked off with a 26-9 triumph at Bristol Bears.
After a 33-26 win at Gloucester last Friday – when Saracens had a bye weekend – head coach Steve Borthwick brings Hosea Saumaki into the Tigers team for his Premiership debut and there are also places for Freddie Burns, Francois van Wyk, Guy Porter and Ollie Chessum in the starting line-up.
Saracens have won 10 of the last 12 Premiership meetings while Tigers chase three successive wins in the competition for the first time since February-April 2018.
Tigers have scored 30-plus points in each of their last three matches, including the Round 22 win at Wasps last season, and have not managed a longer run in the competition since 2013.
Read all the important facts and stats in our full match preview HERE.
WELCOME TO MATCHDAY LIVE
We’re LIVE from Leicester Tigers versus Saracens in Round 3 of the Gallagher Premiership season this afternoon. Kick-off is at 3.00pm.
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