Leicester Tigers’ run of Aviva Premiership victories ended with a 27-31 defeat at home to Worcester Warriors at Welford Road on Saturday.
Two tries in the opening seven minutes gave the visitors a 12-0 lead before Tigers had even been in the opposition half of the field and the home side never quite made up lost ground as Worcester won at Welford Road for the first time.
Scores from Mike Fitzgerald and skipper Sam Harrison gave Tigers a foothold but they still trailed 17-19 at half-time after a third score from the visitors.
And in the second half, the Warriors claimed two more scores against one from Gareth Owen on the way to the win.
Tigers had made it six Aviva Premiership wins in a row with a bonus-point triumph against Sale Sharks in Round 8 to build their best sequence in the tournament since the 2013/14 season, while Warriors enjoyed a big win over Northampton Saints to climb off the foot of the league table.
Tigers recalled Harry Thacker and Pat Cilliers into the front row, with Brendon O’Connor starting at openside, but were forced into a late change when Dom Barrow failed a fitness cfheck. Mike Fitzgerald stepped up to the starting line-up, as he did in the win over Sale in Round 8, with Harry Wells called into the matchday squad.
Telusa Veainu, who scored the club’s try of the Season in the corresponding fixture last season, started at full-back in his 50th appearance for the club.
Warriors, who climbed off the foot of the table with a first win of the season in Round 8, unsurprisingly retained the same starting line-up from that victory over Northampton Saints.
Worcester made their first visit to Welford Road back in 1895 in the Midland Counties Cup but the teams have met on only 27 occasions in more than a century.
Warriors were first on the board, after just four minutes, with flanker Alafoti Faosiliva the man on the ball as they drove over from a five-metre lineout. Chris Pennell, though, was wide with the conversion from the right touchline.
By that stage, Tigers had already called prop Kyle Traynor into the action from the bench after a knock to Pat Cilliers,
And they barely had time to regroup before Worcester, without a win in their history at Welford Road, had stretched the lead to 12-0 when Josh Adams collected a chip in behind the Tigers defence to score. Pennell this time provided the conversion.
Cilliers returned after 16 minutes with Tigers still in their own territory and Tigers had to wait another five minutes for a breakthrough.
It came after some physical defence from Worcester with Tigers building phase after phase of possession and eventually it was Fitzgerald, wide on the left, who stepped into to score. Ford put the kick over to bring Tigers back within a score at 7-12.
Ford had the kicking tee back on moments later when Warriors were whistled at a lineout and struck the kick firmly through the posts to make it 10-12 approaching the half-hour mark.
Tigers, though, had to weather another storm as Warriors sniffed an opportunity from an attacking scrum and, after Gareth Owen had made a fingertip tackle, the forwards blocked out their opposition and then gained scrum put-in when Worcester knocked –on just five metres out.
Warriors then grabbed a third try just before half-time when Adams sliced through the Tigers defenders to score to the right of the posts. Many of the home crowd felt the scoring pass had gone forward but the referee signalled the score and Pennell added the conversion with a drop-kick to make it 10-19.
Warriors, in turn, felt they were harshly penalised on the edge of their 22 for not releasing in the tackle with the clock already up to 40 minutes. But Tgers went to the corner and earned a second penalty when David Denton collapsed the driving maul.
This time, Tigers made sure aftrer Kitchener caught the lineout and Thacker took control at the maul, before Sam Harrison was credited with the final touch over the tryline. Ford’s conversion cut the gap to two points at half-time.
Will Evans replaced Brendon O’Connor in the Tigers back row at the start of the second half, but it was Warriors who claimed the breakthrough score, hooker Jack Singleton getting on the end of a sweeping move initiated by Bryce Heem to claim the bonus-point try on the right. Pennell added the conversion to lead by nine.
A chance for a response was lost when Tigers were unable to claim clean lineout ball from a penalty into the Warriors 22 but Denton was then whistled at another throw-in and Tigers went back to the left-hand corner. Safe ball was secured this time but, after Telusa Veainu and Evans had been held out on the opposite flank, Tigers spilled ball at the next phase.
Warriors should have been able to clear from the scrum but with a big shove from the home side and Harrison snapping at No8 Denton, ball was spilled and Tigers got the put-in at the next set-piece.
The position looked promising but ended with Heem claiming ball behind his own line and the crowd growing frustrated after Owen had been tackled heavily in midfield. Referee Greg Macdonald, having checked with the TMO, restarted play with a drop-out f0or the visitors.
Tigers attacked again with a penalty down the right touchline but again lost possession as play opened up.
The penalty count was starting to mount up, and prop Nick Schonert was yellow-carded for the next offence near his own tryline as Tigers maintained the pressure but still looked for a decisive break.
A Ford penalty kick brought it back to 20-26 with 15 minutes remaining on the clock as the game continued in Warriors territory.
The game, though, slipped further from Tigers’ grasp when Worcester were finally able to get upfield and centre Ryan Mills wriggled free to score on the left. Pennell’s conversion attempt hit the outside of the left-hand post but Warriors were still 11 points in front.
Tigers were quickly back on the attack and Owen scored for a second successive week, picking up ball just inside the 22 and breaking away to score. Ford added the conversion with the lock just short of 79 minutes.
The ball was back ibn Tigers hands from the restart but Warriors continued to bite into their tackles until being penalised at a breakdown and then marched back for chat to the referee.
The home crowd willed Tigers towards the tryline once more but, after an initial drive from a lineout on the right, the match closed with Tigers taking play into touch on the opposite flank as Warriors celebrated an historic victory.
ENGLAND V SAMOA
Watch the full game, as live, now in the Final Whistle Bar in the Holland & Barrett Stand at Welford Road.
Tigers are back at Welford Road on Sunday, December 17 when Munster Rugby are the visitors in Europe's Champions Cup. Match tickets are on sale now.
Aviva Premiership top four
The losing bonus point takes Tigers back into the Aviva Premiership top four.
Spire Man of the Match
Tigers fans have voted Sam Harrison their Spire Man of the Match. Thank you for voting.
Tigers again set up the lineout but with bodies everywhere they have to go wide, but Thompstone cannot control the ball and Warriors claim the win.
What a kick!
Ford sends the penalty right into the corner. This is the last chance.
Ford lands a simple conversion. Worcester run down the clock before getting us going again. Tigers have to go from deep with 60 seconds left.
is the comeback on?
Gareth Owen has given Tigers hope with his second try in as many games. He span out of a bundle of bodies and over from 10m.
... but Tigers make a mistake again, as they lose the ball in contact and Worcester clear. Time is running out.
Another lineout chance
Ford's kicking out of hand has been superb. he finds touch 5m out and Tigers have the lineout ...
Try for Worcester
Tigers have it all to do now. Worcester keep patient, keep possession and eventually Ryan Mills spins out of a tackle to score their fifth try. It goes uncconverted.
Raft of replacements
George McGuigan, Mat Tait and Harry Wells replace Harry Thacker, Matt Smith and Mike Fitzgerald.
Points on the board
Worcester are pinged for a deliberate knock-on in their 22. Many expected another card, but it didn't follow. Instead, Ford kicks the penalty to bring Tigers within seven points.
Sin bin for Warriors
Finally, after repeated infringements, Nick Schonert receives a team yellow card for pulling down the maul.
Another Tigers penalty
Yet another penalty against the Warriors, this time for accidental offside. And again Ford is on the money with his kick.
Tigers have possession
Tigers are hammering away and have a penalty on their 22. Now 10m further forward after some chat from the Warriors ...
Chance goes away
Tigers give themselves the platform at the lineout, but when it goes wide Veainu takes his eye off the ball as the tackle comes in and knocks on.
Welford Road fans unhappy as the officials rule there is no offence. But Tigers now have a penalty for Hougaard kicking the ball out of a ruck. Ford to the corner again. Will the pressure tell?
Is that a no-arms tackle?
Referee Greg Macdonald consults his TMO over a tackle by Jackson Willison on Gareth Owens.
Knock-on against Worcester
A huge scrum by Tigers and Hougaard knocks on at the base. Put-in Leicester 5m out as Tiiggeerrss rings round Welford Road.
Tigers do brilliantly to stretch the Worcester defence but Cilliers takes his eye off the ball and knocks on as Tigers look threatening.
Another lineout chance
A third Worcester penalty in three minutes and Ford again finds touch deep in the Warriors 22.
Ford has found touch 10m out with a penalty, but Tigers cannot secure the ball and Hougaard clears to the Worcester 10m line.
Pennell adds the extras from out wide and Worcester lead 26-17.
Bonus point for Worcester
Heem's brilliant run from deep opened up the Tigers defence. Pennell was in support and his offload found Jack Singleton to score at the corner.
Worcester are looking a real threat with ball in hand. However, a mistake by Heem, who knocks on with Tigers stretched, brings the attack to an end.
Strong Warriors start
A similar pattern at the start of the second half to that of the first, with Warriors enjoying plenty of possession. Adam Thompstone eventually forces Heem into touch 18m out on the Leicester left.
First change for Tigers
Tigers have replaced Brendon O'Connor with Will Evans during the break.
We're off again at Welford Road
Our visitors from Worcester are first out, followed by the Tigers. Joe Ford will get the second-half going attacking the Mattioli Woods Stand end.
That's the first half
After a slow start, a very slow start, in which Worcester raced into a 12-0 lead, Tigers have rallied with tries for Mike Fitzgerald and Sam Harrison. Tigers trail 19-17.
Joe Ford, with the last kick of the half, adds the extras. Tigers trail 19-17.
Relief all around Welford Road as Tigers make the lineout drive pay. Kitchener set it up, Harrison controlled from the base and the skipper added the finish.
Tigers have the advantage after Worcester pull down the maul. Same again from Tigers. Thacker to throw in ...
Penalty to Tigers
Tigers have a penalty with time up on the clock. Ford is going to the corner ...
Full-back Pennell extends the Worcester lead with the conversion. They lead 19-10 with half-time approaching.
Worcester stretch their lead
Adams races on to Hougarrd's inside pass, skips past Veainu and goes over for his second try and Worcester's third of the game.
Spire Man of the Match
Voting for the Spire Man of the Match opens at half-time. Who gets your vote so far?
Tigers stand firm
Tigers have to defend their line, with Worcester throwing everything at them. They stand firm and force the mistake from Warriors scrum-half Francois Hougaard, who throws a forward pass.
The Worcester backline are a constant threat. Again they make space in the outside channels but Adams' kick behind goes into touch. Tigers make a mess of their lineout and Worcester have the scrum, 12m out.
Ford strikes a clean penalty straight through the middle. Tigers have hauled themselves back into this game, but are still 12-10 down.
At the resulting lineout, Will Spencer played Kitchener without the ball. Ford has a penalty to cut the deficit to two points.
Tigers growing into the game
Lovely hands from Ford, Gareth Owen and Graham Kitchener finds Telusa Veainu on the left flank, where he makes 15m before being tackled into touch.
More on the try
Tigers secured their ball at the lineout and then showed plenty of patience, going through the phases, before Fitzgerald found the gap for his fifth try for the club.
Joe Ford adds the extras to complete the scoring. Come on Tigers!
Try time for the Tigers!
Their first period of possession and pressure brings Tigers their first try. And it's Mike Fitzgerald who steps off his left foot and barges over from close range.
Tigers cannot get going
Tigers are really struggling to get a foothold in the game. But good work on the floor by Brendon O'Connor wins the holding-on penalty. Lineout to Tigers on the 22.
Cilliers is back on the field, with Traynor returning to the bench. Welford Road is all a bit stunned by the opening minutes.
Good work by Thacker
Tigers have yet to show in this game, but Harry Thacker wins a holding-on penalty for Ford to find touch on the Worcester 22.
Chris Pennell lands a simple conversion to complete the seven-point score.
Worcester have a second
A flowing counterattack from the Warriors ends with their second try. Josh Adams collects the ball from Jono Lance's angled kick to score behind the posts.
Worcester open the scoring
The Warriors drive over for the first try. Lock Will Spencer set up the drive from a 5m lineout and it was Alafoti Faosiliva who finished. The try goes unconverted.
Prop Pat Cilliers has gone off for a HIA with Kyle Traynor coming on. Looks like Greg Bateman will pack down at tighthead for the time being.
Worcester are enjoying all of the possession in the opening stages but are being repelled by solid Tigers defence on their 22 before Bryce Heem's kick is run into touch by Harrison 5m from his line.
Worcester have the put in at the first scrum of the game on the Tigers 22 ...
Worcester get us going, with Tigers attacking the Robin Hood Stand in the first period.
Here come the Tigers
The Tigers, led by Sam Harrison, run through the home support on the famous Crumbie Terrace to take their places.
Here come the visitors
Worcester are first out, led by Donncha O'Callaghan ...
It's a bright, chilly afternoon at Welford Road. Temperatures of around 4C with a cold wind blowing down the ground.
The teams are back in the changing rooms for a final few words before kick-off.
TEAMS ARE IN
A late change has been made by Matt O'Connor for this afternoon's Round 9 Aviva Premiership clash.
Mike Fitzgerald has been promoted from the bench in place of Dom Barrow, who was named to start and captain the side yesterday afternoon.
In Barrow's absence, Sam Harrison will lead the side and Harry Wells comes in to the Matchday 23 on the bench.
The side is as named otherwise, including Telusa Veainu at fullback who today plays his 50th match for the #tigersfamily!
WELCOME TO WELFORD ROAD
Here we are once again, just six days after a bonus-point victory over Sale to welcome Worcester to our historic home!
Welcome to all fans, home or away, on this sunny but 'fresh' afternoon at Welford Road.