A depleted Leicester Tigers grabbed a spirited 19-14 win over Wasps at Welford Road on Saturday to end a run of five defeats.
It came at a cost with a succession of first-half injuries which resulted in Jonah Holmes moving from wing to scrum-half and Will Evans playing in the backline as Tigers trailed 14-9 down at half-time before fighting back to lead with Joe Ford converting his own try approaching the 50-minute mark.
Ford, who scored all 19 points on the day, put Tigers five in front with quarter of an hour remaining with another penalty but they had to survive a final big push and a call for a last-gasp try from the visitors before taking the four points.
Tigers were back at Welford Road for the first time since January 19 in the opening leg of successive home games against Wasps and Northampton – a ‘Battle of the Midlands’ double – and in front of the biggest crowd of the season so far with more than 25,000 tickets sold.
After a win for Bristol against Gloucester on Friday evening, Tigers slipped to 10th in the table before kick-off, five points behind sixth-placed Wasps going into the game in Round 15 of the Gallagher Premiership season.
Will Spencer and Guy Thompson returned to the Tigers pack after featuring among the replacements at Worcester last week on their recovery from injury, and there was a first Premiership start for Sam Aspland-Robinson and Facundo Gigena. Head coach Geordan Murphy, though, was without his five England players as well as Matt Toomua who was ruled out by a head injury suffered in the first half at Worcester last Sunday.
After scrum-half Joe Simpson led out Wasps in his 250th appearance for the club, fly-half Rob Miller got the game under way towards the Robin Hood Stand end but the visitors were forced into a change just three minutes into the game when Thomas Young limped off, to be replaced by Jack Willis.
Wasps opened the scoring as they pushed penalty into Tigers territory and they used it to punch ball up through the forwards before spreading play to the other flank where wing Marcus Watson was free to run in with just eight minutes gone. Miller judged his conversion kick to perfection as he made it into a seven-point lead.
By that stage, Sam Harrison had emerged from the bench as a temporary replacement for Ben White at scrum-half for Tigers and he was needed in defence as Gaby Lovobalavu threatened a break in midfield.
A high tackle near halfway gave Tigers a penalty and Ford landed a pinpoint kick into the left-hand corner but Wasps swarmed around the lineout to turn over ball.
White returned from an HIA as Tigers had a penalty into the right-hand corner and got within a metre of the tryline through the forwards under the posts before the whistle went again.
This time, Ford took the points on offer with a kick from in front of the posts and cut the deficit to 3-7 with a quarter of the game played.
Leonardo Sarto came on for his Premiership debut at the restart with Gareth Owen leaving the field, then White left the field a second time after making a tackle, with Harrison back on at half-back.
Ashley Johnson’s high tackle on George Worth brought whistles from the crowd as well as from referee JP Doyle, but Tigers were then stopped by a deliberate knock-on in midfield and Ford added a second penalty to make it 6-7.
But Wasps replied immediately with a second try from Watson, capitalising on ball in broken-field to run in on the right again. Miller added the conversion.
The half ended with more drama as Simpson’s boot connected with Harrison’s head as he dived on loose ball. The Tigers scrum-half left the field, with Holmes taking over in his position and flanker Evans joining the backline from the bench.
After viewing replays of the incident, no further action was taken, but Tigers did get a penalty at the scrum which restarted the game and Ford brought the half to a close with another three-pointer and with his team 9-14 down.
The opening phases of the second half saw Tommy Taylor sin-binned as team offences mounted up against Wasps and, when Tigers went to the corner, Johnson was penalised as the maul drove towards the line. Tigers went for a repeat and this time, when the forwards were stopped, Holmes found Ford and he scored to the right of the posts.
The fly-half added the extras and Tigers were in front for the first time in the game at 16-14 on 48 minutes.
Aspland-Robinson made a timely intervention as No8 Nizaam Carr broke the defensive line, then Thompson was called into action on the touchline in front of the Terrace as Wasps looked to build a response in attack.
Facundo Gigena’s day was done on 50 minutes as he limped off, with Campese Ma’afu joining the Tigers front row with defensive work to be done.
Taylor returned from his yellow card but then missed his man at an attacking lineout and Sione Kalamfaoni carried out for Tigers.
Wasps momentarily thought they’d spotted a gap in midfield when Carr offloaded for Willis but the ball had gone forward on the Tigers 22 and the middle chunk of the half became a disjointed affair as Tigers protected a narrow lead.
A penalty in the centre of the field gave Wasps a chance to get forward and, when Johnson broke through two tackles Tigers were on the back foot. Dan Cole brought him down but they had two dives for the tryline, claiming a score, before the TMO confirmed the referee’s suspicion that control had been lost by Willis as he tried to dot down.
It took Tigers several phases from the resulting scrum to clear their lines, with Ford stepping in to take play 20 metres upfield, and Thompson earned welcome relief as he got over the ball at the breakdown and earned a priceless penalty to take the game back up to halfway.
Jake Kerr replaced Tom Youngs just after the hour mark, with Mike Fitzgerald on for Mike Williams
A break by Thompson had the Wasps defence scrambling and picked up the noise in the crowd, which increased when the visitors were blown up at a tackle and then marched back 10 metres for something said to the referee.
Ford, from 25 metres, kicked his fourth penalty of the afternoon to make it 19-14 with less than 15 minutes remaining.
Willie Le Roux’s prodded kick down the right forced Tigers back and gave Wasps a big chance at a lineout but they missed their jumper at the back again and when Ford booted clear, Josh Bassett misjudged his catch and put a toe in touch in front of the home dug-out.
Graham Kitchener took a brave catch under pressure at the lineout but the ball was wrapped up by the forwards as the clock continued to tick down. There was an element of fortune for Tigers, too, as James Gaskell charged down the clearing kick but was frustrated that the ball did not bounce favourably.
A superb tackle from Cole halted Watson at his most dangerous as he picked his way through broken field as nerves started to jangle in Leicester ranks.
Wasps pushed another penalty to the right and, although Evans stopped Johnson’s drive, the whistle blew again and play remained in the danger area. Aspland-Robinson, though, closed down dangerman Watson as Le Roux found him on the left touchline and the chance was gone.
Fitzgerald claimed the defensive lineout to take play towards the 22 but a knock-on kept Tigers pinned back with the clock up to 77 minutes.
The tension continued to rise and a huge cheer greeted powerful defence from George Worth which forced Wasps back another few metres and then when a tackle on Le Roux took him into touch on the Tigers left. Although the visitors had the throw and retained possession, Tigers refused to let them in, but Wasps won lineout ball with 30 seconds left to create one more push forward.
It ended with Tigers defending the tryline until Wasps prop Biyi Alo thought he’d scored. The referee called for assistance from the TMO and, with home fans holding their breath, eventually ruled that the ball had been held up. With no time to restart, Tigers had a precious home win after five successive defeats.
Thank you to everyone who joined us at Welford Road this afternoon - a season high crowd of 25,258 of you saw us see of Wasps.
Thanks also to those of you who followed on Matchday Live. Join us again when Tigers travel to Sale next Friday, March 8.
Supporters have been voting throughout the game this afternoon, and your LeoVegas Fans Favourite Man of the Match is...Joe Ford!
The fly-half scored all 19 of his side's points in the win over Wasps.
Full Time | Tigers WIN!
Tigers 19 - 14 Wasps
No Try! Tigers Win!!!
TMO Sean Davey can't find an angle, and JP Doyle thinks the ball has been held up.
Welford Road goes WILD! Tigers WIN!!!
Yes Or No?
Wasps batter up to the line, and as the clock ticks into the red they think they've scored. JP Doyle says he can't see a grounding, so is checking with his TMO...
There's nothing in it, Sean Davey says. Wasps comes away with the ball from their lineout, stretch the Tigers line inside, but Lovobalavu messes up the final pass and we've got a Wasps lineout with just seconds to go...
Tigers Fight Back
Tigers disrupt the Wasps lineout, before pushing them back on their ball at scrum time.
Willie Le Roux tries to create something on this near side, but his fend on Aspland-Robinson is being checked by the TMO...
Great Tackle From The Young Man
Wasps claim their lineout, but they can't seem to find a way through the green, white and red line.
Le Roux gets the ball out to Bassett, but Sam Aspland-Robinson makes a fantastic tackle and bundles his amn into touch.
Graham Kitchener is replaced by Harry Wells.
Joe Heyes is on for Dan Cole in the Tigers front row.
Tackle Off The Ball
Wasps are running some really dangerous-looking lines on the fringes of the Tigers 22.
Dan Cole is penalised for tackling a man off the ball and Rob Miller kicks to touch seven metres out.
Biyi Alo has replaced Will Stuart at tighthead prop for the visitors.
Jake Kerr feeds Kitchener again at the lineout, but it's messy on the floor. James Gaskell charges down the clearing kick, so we'll go for another throw, just inside the Tigers half...
Wasps claim their own lineout on the far side, before pushing into the Tigers 22 through some more solid runners.
But theys pill the next one on this near side, and Joe Ford clears his lines perfectly. Josh Bassett catches the kick, but the terrace have seen his foot in touch...
Charlie Matthews replaces Will Rowlands in the Wasps second row.
Tommy Taylor and Ben Harris are both off, replaced by Tom Cruse and Tom West.
Tigers claim the restart, but after a high box kick Wasps come away with the ball.
Willie Le Roux tries to ship the ball onto the right wing, but his pass is forward. Tigers keep the ball from the scrum.
Another Three From Ford
Joe Ford makes no mistake with the kick to make it 19-14 to Tigers.
Home Crowd Roaring
We've missed you, Welford Road! The crowd are in great voice as Guy Thompson takes the ball up towards his former side, making 20 metres or so in the process.
Tigers recycle the ball well, and Wasps are done for not rolling away. It's all Leicester at the moment.
Tom Youngs and Mike Williams have both put in absolute shifts his afternoon, and come off to great applause as they're replaced by Jake Kerr and Mike Fitzgerald.
Wasps may have claimed their lineout, but they're pinged on the ground for not releasing. Joe 'the metronome' Ford kicks beyond halfway for another Tigers throw.
Will Evans takes the ball up field on this near side, but it's spilled a couple of phases later. Wasps throw the ball into touch...
Tigers Relieve Pressure
Kalamafoni scoops the ball out the back of a solid Tigers scrum, and nudges his team forwards for a vital few metres before Ford kicks to touch beyond the home side's 22.
Replays show the ball was knocked on, so Tigers now have a scrum on their own line.
Back With TMO...
Wasps come away with the ball quickly ff their lineout, and a barnstorming run from Ashley Johnson is halted just metres from Tigers' tryline.
The ball is recycled and Wasps think they've got it, but JP is with the TMO to check for a knock on...
Crouch, Bind, Set!
After a couple of reset scrums, makeshift scrum-half Jonah Holmes comes away with the ball to feed his backs division, and George Worth gets Tigers over the halfway line.
Tom Youngs is next with a gut-busting carry on the far side, but in the next phase Dan Cole is pinged for no releasing and Wasps kick back to the Tigers 22.
Wasps Forward Pass
Juan De Jongh thought he was through, then. But it wasn't to be.
JP Doyle brings us back for a forward pass in midfield, and Tigers have the scrum just on the edge of their 22.
Kalamafoni makes up for his earlier error by stealing the Wasps lineout!
Tommy Taylor Returns
Wasps hooker Tommy Taylor is back from the sin bin.
Wasps claim their lienout, but Sione Kalamafoni is adjudged to have collapsed the maul. The visitors boot the ball towards the terrace for another bite of the cherry.
Campese Ma'afu is on for Facundo Gigena.
End To End Stuff
This game has really kicked into life at the start of this second half - but neither team seems to be able to string more than a few phases together.
After a scrappy couple of phases, Wasps have a lineout on Tigers' 22.
Joe Ford converts. He's taken all 16 of his team's points so far. Tigers lead 16-14!
Joe Ford Try!
The ball makes its way out to Joe Ford, who barrels over the whitewash in front of the Robin Hood Stand to score Tigers' first try of the afternoon.
On The Tryline!
Kitchener claims the ball at the lineout, but the maul is stopped just short of the line.
Now Tigers try it with one out runners, battering the visitors' line...
Solid Tigers Scrum
After a couple of resets, Tigers win the scrum penalty to the delight of their home crowd. Ford boots the ball into the corner...
Yellow Card for Wasps
Tommy Taylor has been shown a yellow card for his team's repeated infringements at the ruck. Tigers look to make the most of the advantage immediately.
Wasps field the ball from the kick off, but Tigers pressure means they look to the touchline for relief. Tigers lineout on the visitors' 10-metre line.
Second Half Underway
Joe Ford gets us underway for the second half.
Tigers 9 - 14 Wasps
The wind has really picked up, so skipper Tom Youngs has to hold the ball on the tee...but it's good! That makes the score 9-14 to Wasps at half time.
That was all down to the feed, right Jonah?
A fantastic Tigers scrum on halfway wins the home side the penalty and an opportunity for points with last kick of the half. Joe Ford steps up to the tee...
Joe Simpson goes for a loose ball on the ground, and catches Harrison on the head with his leg.
Harrison is replaced by Will Evans, which means Jonah Holmes will play the rest of the match at scrum-half...
More Tigers Pressure
Tigers take the ball well from their lineout, but it's a real struggle to break through the white and gold line.
Bassett knocks the ball on as Tigers ship the ball back to this nearside, and now TMO Sean Davey is checking for contact on Sam Harrison...
Crooked From Wasps
It's a bit windy here at Welford Road...but not *that* windy.
JP Doyle calls Wasps back for a crooked lineout, and it's time to pack down for a Tigers scrum.
Wasps loosehead Ben Harris goes down, and Joe Ford does really well to make about 40 metres with the kick.
...it's messy, though, and we go back for a Wasps scrum. They get the ball away quickly, and kick down the pitch for territory.
Sarto gathers a dangerous chip-and-chase 10 minutes from the Tigers line, before the ball is booted downfield to relieve pressure...for now.
Tigers Push On
Tigers want to get right back in this game, and there are some hefty carries going on.
But as replacement scrum-half Sam Harrison gets knocked out of the ruck, JP Doyle awards another penalty to the home side. Ford drills it into the Holland & Barrett and we've got a lineout on the Wasps 22.
Rob Miller converts Marcus Watson's try to make it 6-14 to the visitors.
Wasps claim the ball from the kick off, but after Tigers chip ahead Marcus Watson finds a gap on the right wing and gallops in to take his second try of the afternoon.
Joe Ford drills it between the posts once again to make this a one-point game at 6-7, with 11 minutes left of this first half.
Kitchener climbs highest at the lineout, and Tigers take the ball wide after a strong driving maul.
We play on from a Wasps knock on in midfield, but as Holmes nudges the ball up on the far side we're brought back for a potential deliberate knock on from Wasps, but TMO Sean Davey decides penalty only.
Tigers really applying pressure, here. Jonah Holmes is taken high by both Ashley Johnson and Gaby Lovobalavu, and while we initially play on, we're back on halfway for the original offence. Penalty only.
Ben White slowly trudges off - looks like it could be another HIA - and so Sam Harrison is back with us.
Wasps Buzzing Around Tigers 22
Willie Le Roux makes a mazy run down the right wing to get his side back into Tigers' 22, but after all his hard work he kicks the ball out on the full and Leicester have another lineout.
Gareth Owen had been holding his shoulder from an early contact, and he's had to go off for treatment. Leonardo Sarto now on to make his Gallagher Premeirship debut in front of a home crowd.
Success! Joe Ford splits the posts from the tee to make the score 3-7.
Battering The Line
Some really solid stuff from the Tigers pack, here. They're taking the ball up to the Wasps defenders and battering the backwards and are now within millimetres of the tryline.
But, once Wasps give away the penalty Joe Ford decides to get his side onto the scoreboard and opts for the posts...
Ben White is back with us after passing his HIA. Sam Harrison returns to the bench.
Spencer plucks the ball out of the air at the lineout, and the ball gets into midfield where Joe Ford takes the ball to the line really well, and forces a Wasps offside.
Tigers get the ball down into the Wasps 22...
The Leicester forwards consume the ball from the throw in, but after a couple of phases of possession Wasps' pack manage to turn over the ball, to howls from the home crowd. Miller clears the ball to just short of halfway.
Another Wasps Penalty
Wasps give away another penalty, this time just into their own half. Ford once again makes no mistake, and we're now deep into Wasps territory for another lineout.
Big Hits In Defence
Wasps work their way back into the Tigers half from the kick off, but after the home side absorb the pressure well, Doyle penalises Wasps and Joe Ford boots the ball into touch for a lineout.
Rob Miller nails the conversion to give the visitors an early 0-7 lead.
The pressure tells, and Marcus Watson makes the most of the overlap to cross in the far corner.
Wasps ship the ball out to the left wing via a basketball-style pass from Willie Le Roux, and Jonah Holmes is penalised for not rolling away.
Tigers do well to hold up the maul from the ensuing lineout. Wasps now battering the Leicester line.
Ben White is replaced by Sam Harrison for a head injury assessment.
End To End Stuff
Wasps make the most of the territory and get the ball into Tigers' 22, but the Leicester players hold strong.
He Thought He Was Away!
Another good lineout over on the far side, and Ben White puts boot to ball. Aspland-Robinson gathers and ships the ball onto Guy Thompson, who sprints towards the try line to a roar from the home crowd, but referee JP Doyle brings us back for a knock on.
Slight break here while the Wasps medics attend to Thomas Young, who is replaced by Jack Willis.
Early Line Out To Tigers
Both sides feeling each other out in the opening minute here. An early lineout in front of the Breedon Stand is straight as an arrow, and Sione Kalamafoni takes it well.
Tigers now pushing up towards the Wasps 22...
Kick Off At Welford Road
Rob Miller for Wasps gets us underway at Welford Road. Tigers are playing towards the Mattioli Woods Stand in this first half.
Moments To Kick Off...
Both teams are back in from their warm-ups. We're just moments away from the first rugby action at Welford Road for more than 1,000 hours...
And with just over 10 minutes until we get udnerway, your confirmed teams are...
We've got plenty happening around Welford Road this afternoon, with huge crowds gathering to join in the celebrations on the plaza outside the Holland & Barrett Stand.
Welcome to Matchday Live!
Welcome to Welford Road for Tigers' first home fixture in six weeks!
We take on Wasps in a Battle of the Midlands this afternoon in Round 15 of the Gallagher Premiership, and if you're not lucky enough to be at the ground you can follow all of the action LIVE, right here.