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Tigers dig deep to win thrilling derby

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Leicester Tigers kept their heads in a pulsating East Midlands derby to beat Northampton Saints 36-31 and move back into the Aviva Premiership top four.  

It was a breathless clash from start to finish at a sold-out Franklin’s Gardens as Tigers recorded a seventh successive victory in all competitions against their neighbours.

On what was Aaron Mauger’s last game as interim boss, Tigers had to do it the hard way, coming from behind three times and only holding the lead for a total of 10 minutes in the game.
Northampton swept into a second-minute lead through Nafi Tuitavake’s try but Tigers hit back immediately with Adam Thompstone’s eighth of the season. It set the tone for a thrilling game.
Saints, with their France international No8 Louis Picamoles at the heart of everything, led 22-16 at the break. Picamoles’s run and offload created a try for Ahsee Tuala before the back-rower scored himself. Tigers kept themselves in touch through two Freddie Burns penalties and a drop goal.
There was no let-up in the second-half. Tigers scored a beautifully-crafted try through Ben Youngs to take the lead for the first time. But Stephen Myler’s boot kept the scoreboard ticking over for Northampton.
However, with Tigers down to 14 men with Mike Williams in the sin bin, Myler missed a simple penalty to put daylight between the teams. Tigers broke upfield and scored through Lachlan McCaffrey. Williams’s conversion put Leicester back into the lead.
But Saints did not lie down and Tigers had to come from behind again to win it through two late Williams penalties.
The result moved Tigers into fourth in the table with four rounds of games remaining. Tigers meet fifth-placed Bath Rugby at Twickenham in the next round of fixtures.
Mauger, in his last game as head coach before the arrival of Matt O'Connor in early April, brought England internationals Ben Youngs and Dan Cole into the starting XV after their successful Six Nations campaign. Mathew Tait, Freddie Burns, Ellis Genge and Graham Kitchener were retained from the team that started last Sunday's Anglo-Welsh Cup Final.
Northampton brought back their Six Nations internationals as well, including the England forwards Dylan Hartley, Courtney Lawes and Tom Wood, France’s Picamoles and the Wales wing George North.
Saints got off to a flying start with a try inside 90 seconds. Telusa Veainu was unable to deal with Myler’s high kick in the swirling wind and the ball dropped to centre Nafi Tuitavake to score next to the posts. Myler added the extras to give Saints a 7-0 lead.
Tigers responded with a try from their first attack of the game. With Ben Youngs at the heart of things, Tigers pulled the Saints defence out of position through some 15 phases before Thompstone latched onto a Youngs pass to score under the posts. Burns converted to level the scores.
It was a wide open start to the game with both sides attacking from all over the pitch. Saints were next to show when they worked an overlap on the right for Picamoles, who had Ahsee Tuala running an inside line to score behind the posts. Myler’s conversion gave Saints a 14-7 lead after 10 minutes.
Back Tigers came with Burns ghosting through a gap in midfield. Veainu ran the supporting line and was tackled just short. Thompstone went again at the next phase but was ruled to have knocked on as he reached for the line.
Tigers were awarded a penalty at the resulting scrum and Burns landed his kick to cut the deficit to 14-10.
After missing touch with a penalty, Burns and Tigers were given a reprieve when Tuala’s booming clearance went dead in-goal to give Tigers a scrum 30m from the Saints line. And when they won a second scrum penalty of the contest, Burns’s kick left Tigers 14-13 behind.
Tigers failed to deal with the running power of Picamoles and it was his break that gave Saints front-foot ball at the restart. The hosts made further yards around the breakdown before Picamoles was invited to crash onto a pop pass and score from close-range. Unconverted, Saints led 19-13 after 24 minutes.
It was end-to-end stuff in the sunshine. Tigers continued to come away with points whenever they entered the Saints 22, and they did so again in the 28th minute. This time, with a penalty advantage, Burns landed a drop goal to cut the deficit to three points.
Saints looked dangerous every time they had possession and threatened a bonus-point try when Nic Groom burst through on a penalty advantage. However, the scrum-half’s pass for Wood went forward and play came back for Brendon O’Connor’s earlier high tackle. Myler landed a simple penalty to restore Northampton’s six-point lead.

A brilliant tackle by JP Pietersen prevented Northampton scoring a fourth try right on half-time. Picamoles was again at the heart of things for the hosts as they swept upfield from their own 22. O’Connor was down receiving treatment and Saints almost made the extra man count, creating space for Christian Day on the right but a last-ditch tackle from Pietersen forced the lock into touch as he reached for the line. Saints led 22-16 at the break.
Lachlan McCaffrey and Owen Williams replaced O’Connor and Burns for the start of the second half.
Tigers threatened a try of their own in the opening moments of the second period. Kitchener broke a tackle 15m out and had McCaffrey in support. McCaffrey was stopped just short and then had to relinquish possession as Saints latched on.
Ben Youngs was alert to Tuala's attempted chip into space and launched a counterattack to brilliant effect. The scrum-half exchanged passes before pinning his ears back to beat Ben Foden to the left corner. Williams’s conversion gave Tigers the lead for the first time in the game.
The lead lasted three minutes. Tigers again failed to deal with the restart as Tait’s clearance was charged down and Saints gathered possession. Tigers infringed in defence and Myler landed a simple penalty to give them a 25-23 lead with 30 minutes to go.
Saints fans demanded a yellow card against McCaffrey for a high tackle on Tuitavake in midfield but referee Garner was satisfied with the award of a penalty. Northampton kicked to the corner and put Tigers under siege through their back-row carriers. Tigers stood firm, but did concede a penalty next to the posts, and Myler nudged the hosts into a 28-23 lead.
The end-to-end nature of the game was summed up in one passage midway through the second half. Veainu collected an up-and-under on the Saints 10m line and made ground to the 22. However, he was stripped of possession before support could arrive and Tuala counterattacked. He won the race to his own kick inside the Leicester 22 but the visitors managed to get back and win a holding-on penalty.
Paul Hill and Mikey Haywood replaced Brookes and Hartley in the Saints front row. But Tigers continued to dominate the scrum and won a penalty at the next set-piece. However, Williams was wide with his kick from a central position.
Tigers went down to 14 men with 12 minutes remaining. Mike Williams, who had come on for Mike Fitzgerald, was shown a yellow card for his clear-out on Teimana Harrison at a ruck. Myler had the chance to punish Tigers further and move Saints more than a score ahead but he was off target with his penalty.
Tigers made the most of the reprieve and swept to the other end of the field to score their third try of the game. Veainu was at the heart of the move. His break from his own 22 took Tigers into the Saints 22, and his pass invited Pietersen to go for the corner. The winger was stopped on the line but McCaffrey followed up to score and level the scores. Williams’s conversion moved Tigers into a 30-28 lead with nine minutes left.
Again it was a short-lived lead. And again Tigers were pinged for a high tackle, this time Tait on Luther Burrell. Myler landed his penalty to give Northampton a 31-30 lead with six minutes left.
There was four minutes on the clock when Burrell deliberately knocked on Youngs’s pass on the left flank. Williams used up the full minute before banging over the penalty to give Tigers the lead for a third and final time.
Tigers had struggled with restarts all afternoon. But Myler kicked out on the full and Mike Williams returned from his yellow card in time for the scrum. The Leicester pack won another scrum penalty and Owen Williams landed his kick from halfway to extend the lead to 36-31 with 30 second to go.
There was still time for Saints to win back possession at the restart and a penalty as the clock went dead. But Tigers stood firm at the defensive set, forced the turnover and Tait for full-time on a frenetic clash.

Match Details

HT ScoreHalf Time Score

NOR 22-16 LEI

FT ScoreFull Time Score

NOR 31-36 LEI




Greg Garner

Northampton Saints
Northampton Saints

Full Time

Leicester Tigers
Leicester Tigers

Match Stats

Northampton Saints
Leicester Tigers
Penalties Conceded
Yellow Cards
Red Cards
Tackles Won
93/104 89%
121/137 88%
Scrums Won
4/7 43%
7/7 0%
Lineouts Won
5/5 100%
8/8 100%

Player Stats

Northampton Saints
Leicester Tigers
Leicester Tigers
15Telusa Veainu
14Adam Thompstone1T
13Mathew Tait
12Maxime Mermoz
11JP Pietersen
10Freddie Burns1C1D2P
9Ben Youngs1T
1Ellis Genge
2Tom Youngs
3Dan Cole
4Dom Barrow
5Graham Kitchener
6Michael Fitzgerald
7Brendon O'Connor
16George McGuigan
17Michele Rizzo
19Mike Williams
20Lachlan McCaffrey1T
21Ben White
22Owen Williams2C2P
23Jack Roberts

Opposition Lineup

Starting XV

Ahsee Tuala
Ben Foden
Nafi Tuitavake
George North
Stephen Myler
Alex Waller
Dylan Hartley
Kieran Brookes
Courtney Lawes
Christian Day
Tom Wood
Louis Picamoles


Mike Haywood
Ethan Waller
Paul Hill
Teimana Harrison
Lee Dickson
Luther Burrell
Ken Pisi

Derby day preview: Saints v Tigers

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Leicester Tigers and Northampton Saints meet in the East Midlands derby this afternoon in Round 18 of the Aviva Premiership season with just three points separating the local rivals in the league table.

Tigers go into the game on the back of an Anglo-Welsh Cup Final triumph last weekend and in fifth place in the league table, one place and three points in front of Saturday’s hosts.
Saints have won their last five home games in all tournaments since defeat by Leinster in the European Champions Cup in December and have not lost a Premiership game at home since Round 9.
Tigers travel to Franklin’s Gardens for the 238th East Midlands derby searching to add to 46 previous victories on Saints soil, including a 30-24 verdict last season sealed with tries from Harry Thacker, Vereniki Goneva and Freddie Burns. Click here to relive all the details of that afternoon including Thacker’s solo score which clinched the vote as the supporters’ Try of the Season.
Both teams welcome their internationals back to club duties after the Six Nations.
Ben Youngs and Dan Cole, who played in all five games for champions England, go straight into the Tigers line-up with just five games remaining in the league season, while there are also recalls for JP Pietersen, Maxime Mermoz and Telusa Veainu in the backline.
Saints include England trio Dylan Hartley, Courtney Lawes and Tom Wood in the starting line-up, alongside France No8 Louis Picamoles and Wales wing George North. Former Tigers prop Kieran Brookes starts and flanker Jamie Gibson is among the replacements.
Tigers won their last league game away from home, at Harlequins, and have since won at both Allianz Park and The Stoop again in the Anglo-Welsh Cup since home defeat by Exeter Chiefs at the start of March.
Tigers club captain Tom Youngs described derby day as “one of the best games of the season” as he prepared to make the short journey south.
“We know how important this game is, not just to get ourselves breathing distance from them in the league and to try to put us up into the top four, but the main thing is it is a derby,” Youngs said.
“This is the game you look forward to the most. I’m lucky enough that I have played in a few, it’s Northampton and Leicester, it has a real good edge to it and they are always good games.”
Referee for Saturday is Greg Garner, in charge of a Premiership fixture for the 113th time.
Tigers will be in the club’s alternate kit at Franklin’s Gardens.
Kick-off is at 3.00pm and the match is already announced as a sell-out. There is live coverage on BT Sport or keep in touch via the Tigers club website and official social media pages.
Supporters travelling to the game should be aware of congestion and roadworks warnings in the area around Franklin’s Gardens. Please allow extra time for your journey. Click here for full details.

posteamteam namepldwdlfadifftftatblbpts
Leicester Tigers
Leicester TigersLEI22140856744512258486466
Northampton Saints
Northampton SaintsNOR2210012476490-1452505752
Form Guide
Last Match
Beat Newcastle Falcons 38-13
Past Meeting
Lost 17-26
Last Match
Past Meeting
Last Match
Beat Ealing Trailfinders 29-21
Past Meeting
Won 26-17

Matchday Live

Northampton Saints31
Northampton Saints
Leicester Tigers36
Leicester Tigers
Full Time