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.