Leicester Tigers had to come from behind to earn a vital 16-15 victory over Wasps at Welford Road, with George Ford landing a decisive late penalty, in Round 18 of the Aviva Premiership campaign.
Tigers got off to a flying start, with a try from Sione Kalamafoni in the opening three minutes, but Wasps enjoyed the best of the opportunities in the remainder of the half with Elliot Daly scoring twice and two other good chances thwarted within reach of the tryline.
The visitors had their chances, too, after the break, though a Ford penalty was the only score approaching the hour mark with Wasps 15-10 in front.
Ford added a second kick to cut the gap to two points with 10 minutes to play and then kept his nerve to land the winning kick on 76 minutes.
England internationals Ford, Jonny May, Dan Cole and Ellis Genge returned to the Tigers squad for the sell-out encounter with their near-neighbours. Valentino Mapapalangi and Luke Hamilton come into the back row with Mike Williams and Brendon O’Connor ruled out by injury.
Tigers showed their intent from kick-off with a penalty inside the Wasps 22 and Ford's kick into the right-hand corner led to the breakthrough score.
Graham Kitchener made the lineout catch and then, as the forwards pushed towards the line, it was the Kalamafoni who got over to score. Ford added an immaculate kick from the left touchline for a seven-point lead.
Wasps looked for an instant response and added a series of promising phases in attack before being penalised at the breakdown, bringing a big cheer from a capacity crowd as Ford cleared up to halfway.
When Wasps were penalised again on their own 10-metre line, Ford called for the tee and struck the ball firmly but pushed the kick just wide of the right-hand post.
A break by Telusa Veainu, showing the Wasps defence a clean pair of heels 40 metres out, looked like it had provided a second score on 10 minutes. Drawing the full-back, Veainu put Sam Harrison on a run to the line, but Dan Robson made a try-saving tackle almost within reach of a score.
Wasps turned over ball and made a quick break, but then lost possession inside the Tigers 22. In the build-up, however, Tigers lost both Manu Tuilagi and Jonny May to injury. Tuilagi looked like he had taken a hit in the chest, while May was left on the ground after he clashed with Christian Wade’s shoulder as he looked to make a tackle.
Nick Malouf and Mathew Tait joined a re-shaped Tigers backline and they were still settling in when Wade broke through before a tackle from Matt Toomua on his own line denied Thomas Young a certain score.
But Wasps made sure from the five-metre scrum, creating space for Robson to put left wing Daly in to score in the corner. Jimmy Gopperth was unable to add the extras as the Tigers lead was cut to 7-5.
Kitchener and Cole give Tigers some go-forward as the game restarted, but a knock-on 25 metres out presented Wasps with a scrum put-in. They also won a penalty from the set-piece and took play back up into Tigers territory.
Referee Luke Pearce blew again, this time against Mike Fitzgerald, at the lineout and Wasps pushed play up to the right-hand corner.
Although Tigers repelled the initial drive, they were penalised again for an early hit at the lineout and this time Wasps pointed to the posts. Before Gopperth could take the kick, however, the Television Match Official drew the referee’s attention to a tackle from Malouf on Wade and, although he agreed that initial contact had been on the shoulder before riding up, he showed the yellow card to the Tigers replacement. Gopperth was then able to line up the kick from the position of that offence, in front of the posts on the 22, and kicked the visitors into an 8-7 lead.
Daly grabbed his second try on 24 minutes after a swift Wasps attack which cleverly gave them an extra man wide on he left, though the home crowd felt there had been an obstruction in the build-up. Danny Cipriani this time took the conversion and made it 15-7 to the visitors.
A third try looked on the cards when Willie Le Roux capitalised on a shortage of numbers in the Tigers defence and, even though he looked like he'd misjudged his kick through, the South African managed to gather possession but his over-the-shoulder pass just a few metres out evaded Robson’s grasp and he knocked-on as Tigers survived.
Ford had to show his pace and anticipation in defence as Wade nudged the ball through on the right wing from a quick attack. The fly-half won the race but had to dot down behind his own line.
Malouf returned as Wasps set the five-metre scrum, and this time Tigers had the penalty as the visiting front row collapsed.
Strong work from Adam Thompstone at the kick-chase regained possession for Tigers and set free some superb work from Toomua, Tait and Veainu in the backline, but the last pass missed Malouf on the right.
Tait turned saviour in what would prove a game-changing moment just seconds later, chasing 50 metres to take Robson into on the corner flag as the Wasps scrum-half intercepted ball near halfway and looked sure to score.
Wasps lost Daly to a nasty-looking hand injury, the wing being helped off by medical staff after being hurt near halfway as he attempted to tackle Veainu as the visitors reached half-time with an eight-point lead.
They almost stretched that in the opening minutes of the second period as Le Roux made another clean break through a short-handed backline, only for Toomua to bring him down with a desperate tap tackle just 10 metres out.
Ford added three points to the Tigers total with a penalty from 30 metres when Wasps were ruled offside on 46 minutes.
Fitzgerald and Hamilton combined to win turnover ball in defence after Wade had threatened again on the Wasps right wing, but it was the away side still dominating territory and possession as they looked to create some daylight on the scoreboard.
Genge made his return on 52 minutes, but Tigers were again down to 14 men after a yellow card for a deliberate knock-on by Veainu as Cipriani broke clear with support on each shoulder. And the loosehead prop made an immediate impact, getting on the ball to disrupt Wasps at a well-placed lineout.
But back came Wasps, with centre Juan De Jongh brought down five metres from the line by Kalamafoni when he had escaped the defensive backline. Genge knocked-on as he wrapped up loose ball, but Tigers were given an opportunity to get out of their danger zone when they were awarded a penalty at the scrum, with Ford drilling the kick 70-plus metres downfield.
From the lineout, though, Wasps wrapped up man and ball to deny Tigers a platform.
Good defensive work near halfway by Mapapalangi forced Wade into touch, but Tigers were finding it difficult to get on the front foot in a tight contest between two old rivals.
Veainu returned on 62 minutes, with Harry Simmons introduced at scrum-half.
The Tigers pack, though, began to build a platform with another scrum penalty, which Ford thumped up to the Wasps 22, and the home side at last began to build some phases of pressure with Hamilton, Genge and Tatafu Polota-Nau carrying strongly. But Josh Bassett picked off a pass on the Tigers right and danger was averted.
Tigers tried again, with Kitchener thumping ball up in midfield, but the second-rower was wrapped up in possession and the visitors gained put-in at the scrum.
A massive heave from the Tigers pack pushed Wasps off their own ball and a penalty was awarded on the 22, which Ford kicked to bring the score back to 13-15 with 10 minutes remaining.
Another big scrum effort brought another penalty on halfway, with referee Pearce warning Wasps of any further offences there.
Ford put ball into touch on the visitors’ 22 with the capacity crowd fully behind their team’s chase for crucial points. The whistle against Wasps at the lineout was greeted with cheers and a bigger roar followed when Ford put Tigers 16-15 in front from the kick, keeping his nerve to give Tigers a precious lead again.
Three minutes remained on the clock with Tigers in front for the first time since the 22nd minute.
The cheers grew when the hosts won ball in contact and then Hamilton kicked 50 metres upfield close to the right touchline, forcing Wasps to try to play out again.
Tigers knocked on, giving Wasps a scrum 10 metres from their own tryline as the clock reached 79 minutes, but a final knock-on brought a huge cheer from the crowd as Tigers closed out a vital victory.
NEXT HOME GAME: SAINTS
Thank you for joining us for today's game on Matchday LIVE and we look forward to being back with you when we welcome local rivals Northampton on Saturday, April 14 in our next home game.
SPIRE MAN OF THE MATCH: MAT TAIT
Congratulations Mat Tait, who has been voted today's Spire Man of the Match after a brilliant input in to the game after being injected early as a replacement.
TIGERS CLAIM COME FROM BEHIND WIN
The Full Time whistle is blown at Welford Road as the lads shut down as last-gasp effort from Wasps to record a come-from-behind, one-point victory!!
TIGERS COME FROM BEHIND TO WIN!
The Full Time whistle is blown at Welford Road as the lads shut down as last-gasp effort from Wasps to record a come-from-behind, three-point victory!!
ONE MINUTE REMAINS
We enter the final 60 seconds in this match and it's edge of your seat stuff with just three points the margin. Wasps will feed a scrum deep inside their own 22. Come on lads!!
PENALTY - TIGERS
We take back the lead as Fordy successfully adds the penalty goal!
TIGERS DOMINANT AT SCRUM TIME
A HUGE scrum hands us a penalty and we kick for the line, finding touch on the Wasps 22.
A second penalty follows and we will shoot for the lead through George Ford!
TAIT LEADS THE WAY
Mat Tait leads the voting on today's Spire Man of the Match poll with less than 10 minutes on the clock. Have you voted?
Do so now via your Tigers Mobile App!
PENALTY - TIGERS
A brilliant scrum from the lads hands us a penalty in front of the posts and George Ford adds the extras from in front, closing the Wasps lead to just two points with 11 minutes on the clock.
TIGERS HELD UP IN MAUL
The maul is held up, on the first phase from the line-out inside the visitors half, and Wasps will feed a scrum on their own 22 with 12 minutes remaining on the clock.
TIGERS ATTACK ENDS WITH WASPS INTERCEPT
The visitors intercept a long pass to the wing inside their 22 and end the Tigers attack before finding touch just outside the 22m line. Tigers line-out 25 out.
GENGE AGAIN FORCES PENALTY
The returning prop is having an impact today as Ellis Genge again forces a penalty against Wasps. George Ford finds touch near the Wasps 22.
TELUSA BACK IN THE ACTION
Telusa Veainu is back in the game after the sin bin ends.
END TO END ACTION
The ball is covering plenty of grass here at Welford Rod today, with the warm and dry conditions allowing the backs to get heavily involved. Will one of them step up to decide the game in the final quarter?
VOTE FOR YOUR MOTM
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CHANCE GOES BEGGING
A touch-finder just shy of Wasps 22 doesn't bring reward as the maul is brought down by the lads and scrum awarded to Wasps.
GENGE ALREADY HEAVILY INVOLVED
A penalty is blown against Wasps at their own scrum as Ellis Genge has an immediate impact on the game. Come on Tigers!!
WASPS ATTACK ENDS INSIDE TIGERS 22
Another attacking set of phases from the visitors comes to an end with a brilliant defensive effort from the lads and, despite being in touch, the ball is given to Wasps for a scrum 7m out.
Ellis Genge immediately in to the action as he forces a turnover with a brilliant drive through the ruck, forcing it to be unplayable for the visitors.
SIN BIN - TIGERS
Telusa Veainu is sent for a ten minute spell after it is ruled he deliberately knocked on in an attempt to intercept.
TWO CHANGES FOR TIGERS
Greg Bateman and Tom Youngs are replaced in the front-row by Ellis Genge and Tatafu Polota-Nau respectively.
HEAR THE TIGERS ROAR
The #TigersFamily comes alive as a turnover inside our own 22 ends with a brilliant defensive effort inside Wasps own end.
WADE FINDING SPACE TODAY
Christian Wade finds space again, stepping inside and out around defenders but a knock on from Wasps inside the Tigers 22 ends the attack.
PENALTY - TIGERS
George Ford closes the Wasps lead to five points with a successful penalty attempt.
WASPS RULED OFFSIDE
The Tigers crowd let out a cheer as Wasps are penalised for offside 38m out and in front of the posts. George Ford will kick for three points as Tom Youngs points to the uprights.
WASPS ATTACK ENDS INSIDE TIGERS 22
The visitors show an immediate want to attack, moving the ball wide to find themselves inside the Tigers 22 bu are penalised within
GREG BATEMAN VOTED PLAYER OF THE MONTH
SECOND HALF UNDERWAY
We are back underway at Welford Road with Wasps kicking off and Tigers running towards the Nottingham Building Society Stand.
PLAYERS BACK ON TO WELFORD ROAD
Both teams are back out for the second-half of this Premiership clash at Welford Road.
VISITORS LEAD AT THE BREAK
Wasps take an eight-point lead in to the changing rooms at the break as the half-time whistle is blown at Welford Road.
CANCEL THAT .. WASPS BALL
The decision is changed. Wasps scrum inside the Tigers 22.
WASPS ATTACK ENDED
The visitors move the ball side to side and all the way in to the Tigers 22 but, knock on 10 out and a scrum is awarded in the final minute of the first-half.
TIGERS SHOW THEIR SPEED
A brilliant showing from the lads there in attack, finding space out wide in attack and in to the Wasps half. Last pass finds touch though.
TAITTTTY WITH A TRY-SAVER
Mat Tait chases down a flying Dan Robson, who intercepted inside his own half and was thrown over the touch-line within just inches of the line. What an effort from the Mr Fix It of the Tigers side!
SCRUM PENALTY AGAINST WASPS
On their own attacking scrum, Wasps are penalised 5m out from the Tigers line as they're ruled to have pulled the set piece down.
George Ford finds touch in front of the Holland & Barrett Stand, 15 short of half-way.
WADE CAUSING TROUBLE
Christian Wade again with a chance, dancing his way around defenders with his speedy-feet, but George Ford cleans up after the Wasps winger grubbers ahead. Scrum, 5m out.
MALOUF RETURNS FROM SIN BIN
Nick Malouf is back in to the game as the sin bin ends, seeing Tigers and Wasps back to 15 on 15.
HALF AN HOUR GONE
The Welford Road clock ticks over in to the 30th minute and it has been an exciting half hour so far in this Aviva Premiership clash under a summer-like sun and perfect conditions to play exciting and entertaining rugby.
A penalty is blown against Wasps at the scrum. George Ford kicks for touch, finding it just shy of the half-way line.
WASPS SHOWING A WILL TO PLAY
The visitors are showing an intent to attack this afternoon, as another break in the middle of the field leads to a chance inside the Tigers 22. A knock-on prevents it though, handing Tigers a scrum 8m out from their line.
CONVERSION - WASPS
Danny Cipriani adds the extra two points from the left-hand touchline and extends the Wasps lead to eight points after 25 minutes here at Welford Road.
TRY - WASPS
A second try for the visitors as a midfield break from Juan De Jongh sets them up inside the Tigers 22 for Elliot Daly to cross out wide again.
PENALTY - WASPS
The visitors take the lead for the first time as Gopperth successful adds three points with a penalty from in front in the 21st minute.
SIN BIN - TIGERS
Nick Malouf is sent for a 10 minute break after the TMO intervened on a high-tackle on Christian Wade.
PENALTY ... AGAIN
Graham Kitchener now penalised at the line-out for taking James Haskell in the air. Wasps will shoot for 3 points in an attempt to take the lead.
BACK TO BACK PENALTIES FOR WASPS
The lads are penalised twice in as many minutes as Wasps kick their way, twice, deep in to our 22 for an attacking line-out.
No extra points for Wasps as Jimmy Gopperth's attempt sails away to the right-hand side of the posts and keeps Tigers in the lead, 7-5, as we approach the 15th minute at Welford Road.
TRY - WASPS
The visitors find their way over the line, with scrum-half Dan Robson firing a pass to the left wing for England and Wasps winger Elliot Daly to run over untouched and score out wide in the 13th minute.
WASPS 5M SCRUM
The visitors with a 5m scrum after being held-up and the crowd are getting behind the home side.
WASPS HELD UP
Matt Toomua and Mat Tait combine in defence on the line to prevent a try for a hard-running Wasps back-rower Thomas Young.
MAY IS ON HIS FEET
Jonny May is on his feet and walks from the field, to a huge applause, as action gets set to re-start with a Wasps line-out 40 out from the Tigers line.
DOUBLE CHANGE FOR TIGERS
Some concern here at Welford Road as both Jonny May and Manu Tuilagi are replaced, by Nick Malouf and Mat Tait respectively, with May being attended to by medical staff for what appears to be a knock to the head after colliding with Christian Wade at full flight.
VEAINU BREAKS THROUGH
Telusa Veainu breaks through and races away, before passing inside for Sam Harrison, who is brought down just inches out and loses possession. Wasps clear for touch.
The kick fades away and misses.
Wasps will re-start from the 22.
PENALTY TO TIGERS
Wasps are again penalised at the ruck, this time 13m inside their own side of the half-way line, and George Ford will shoot for three points from near in front and 37m out.
WASPS PENALISED IN ATTACK
The lads get a reprieve inside the 22, after a knock-on at the re-start, as the visitors are penalised for side entry after several phases attempting to break the defensive line.
George Ford kicks for touch and finds it on half-way.
CONVERSION - TIGERS
George Ford makes no mistake with the conversion attempt and we lead by seven after just three minutes here at Welford Road.
TRY - TIGERS
TRY!! The lads are over, as we push our way over the Wasps pack from 5m out to score the first for the afternoon here at Welford Road!
TIGERS TURN IT OVER
Wasps, inside their own 22, are penalised at the ruck as England front-rower Dan Cole forces the referee's hand.
George Ford kicks for the corner. Tigers 5m line-out.
George Ford gets the game underway at Welford Road!
TIGERS TO KICK-OFF
The home side will kick-off, running towards the Mattioli Woods Stand here at Welford Road.
HERE COME THE TIGERS!
Tom Youngs leads the Tigers on to the field, met by a HUGE reception from this packed #TigersFamily crowd!!
WASPS WELCOMED TO WELFORD ROAD
The visitors make their way out on to the Welford Road pitch.
A CHAMPIONS WELCOME
A standing ovation at Welford Road for the BT Super Series championship-winning Wheelchair Rugby Team, who are introduced to the 25,000 supporters in for today's match!
WARMED UP AND READY TO GO
We are not far away from kick-off now at Welford Road with both sides back in the changing rooms after warming up under this summer-like sun!
A WELL DESERVED SELL OUT
No general tickets remain available for today's match with the club announcing earlier today that the fixture was an official sell out, with all 25,849 seats sold ... and why wouldn't they be? What a game it will be?!
TAKE A SEAT #TIGERSFAMILY
It is a busy, busy Welford Road for this afternoon's fixture ... please make your way to your seat as quickly as possible to ensure all fans are in the venue for kick-off!
RAISE THE BAT MIKE FITZGERALD
While his fellow countrymen do a decent job in their own cricket outings, New Zealand born Tigers lock Mike Fitzgerald raises the bat today for a personal milestone as he reaches 50 Premiership appearances for Leicester. Congratulations Fitz!
Ahead of the match, LTTV caught up with the second-rower to talk about today's crucial fixture. Head over to the club's YouTube Channel to check it out now.
HOW THEY'LL LINE UP...
Neither side has made any changes for today's clash, with a host of England stars from the recent Six Nations in action for the first time since returning from international duty.
For Tigers, that means a move back to inside centre for Matt Toomua as George Ford lines up at fly-half. Jonny May also returns on the left wing and Dan Cole at tight-head prop.
WELL .. WELL .. WELFORD ROAD!!
Here we are, 35 days since our last home game, back among #TigersFamily and friends for a mouth-watering fixture with long-time rivals Wasps ... and we are excited!!