Leicester Tigers were beaten 24-11 by Northampton Saints in the opening East Midlands derby of the season at Franklin’s Gardens on Saturday.
Tries from Luther Burrell and Dylan Hartley gave Saints a 14-point advantage in the opening half-hour before Tigers got on the board with a George Ford penalty and it was 17-3 at half-time with the visitors finding themselves pushed back on their own line for lengthy periods.
And the hosts grabbed the opening try of the second half when a quick interchange of passes around a ruck put Tom Collins on a clear run to the line.
Tigers claimed the final score of the day, with Jonny May showing his finishing skills on the left, but with only a penalty from Ford to add to it, they returned empty-handed in the second weekend of the Aviva Premiership season.
The Tigers line-up showed three changes to the starting team in Round 1 with Dan Cole and Luke Hamilton coming into the pack and Matt Smith added to the backline following injury to Manu Tuilagi.
Saints gave a debut to Australian centre Rob Horne and called wing George North into the team for the first time since the summer’s Lions tour, with former Tigers flanker Jamie Gibson included in the back row.
Both teams were looking to bounce back from defeat in Round 1, with Saints beaten heavily by Saracens at Twickenham while Tigers lost at home to Bath.
Tigers, in their all white alternate kit, received the kick-off, with Smith taking a clean catch, and the centre was involved three times in defence in the opening minutes.
Saints enjoyed the majority of possession early on, with Tigers getting through their tackles, especially in the middle of the pitch. Respite finally came with a penalty at a scrum near halfway, which allowed Ford to kick to the left touchline. But ball was lost on the long throw and Saints were able to start again.
A second penalty provided lineout ball but Tigers knocked-on in midfield and the crowd was quickly on its feet as Saints made a break through Tom Collins, only to be halted when Telusa Veainu brought down Michael Paterson 20 metres out.
A lineout miss from Tigers led to a breakthrough score for Saints as they retained ball in the attacking 22 and Luther Burrell found space on the right with the defence stretched to score. Harry Mallinder added the conversion for a seven-point lead on 13 minutes.
A big hit by Burrell on Jonny May stopped Tigers in their tracks near their own 10-metre line as they looked to get forward and referee JP Doyle soon drew together the captains to have a quick word about discipline as Saints were given a penalty just inside their own half.
Mallinder booted the kick to the left corner, but a huge hit by Hamilton on Gibson dislodged Saints possession just as they looked to threaten.
Ford had his first sight of the posts after 24 minutes after Tigers won a third scrum penalty, this time on the Saints 10-metre line. But the fly-half kicked wide of the right-hand post and the score remained 7-0.
Instead, Saints stretched their advantage with a second try as Dylan Hartley forced his way over at a close-range ruck, with the TMO check confirming the grounding. Mallinder’s kick made it 14-0.
Harry Thacker was called from the bench before the game restarted as Tom Youngs made way after a knock, and Tigers finally got points on the board in the 30th minute when a series of phases in the Saints half brought a penalty against Gibson, and Ford made the kick.
The final minutes of the half were played out close to the Tigers line, with a number of penalties against the visitors and Mallinder prodding play into the left-hand corner.
First, the Tigers defence kept out a forward drive, but the pressure stayed on and the referee called together both captains again as tensions rose.
While Tigers continued to make tackles, they were on a warning from referee Doyle when he blew again and Mallinder put the penalty over to bring the half to a close at 17-3.
Ford, captain in the absence of Tom Youngs, got the second half under way but Brendon O’Connor’s day lasted only another 60 seconds as he hobbled away after chipping ball down the right touchline. Dom Ryan came off the bench to slot into the back row.
Mike Williams replaced Graham Kitchener after the lock left for a head injury assessment, but the replacement was in trouble in less than three minites, penalised for a no-arms tackle and then receiving a yellow card for team offences after the first-half warning from referee Doyle.
A typically rampaging run from Genge near halfway promised to give Tigers a platform to get forward, but Ben Youngs was outnumbered in support and the ball was lost.
Ford kicked the first points of the second period, making it 17-6 after Saints had been penalised in fielding a Youngs box-kick.
Williams returned from the sin-bin without any points being conceded, but Tigers still had a long way to go to take something out of the game in the closing 20 minutes.
Obstruction at a ruck from Toomua gave Saints a penalty 40 metres out and Mallinder gave it a good thump, only to see the ball drift wide of the left-hand post with the lead still at 11 points.
But the hosts only had a moment to wait for their score, with wing Collins linking perfectly with the half-backs o the edge of a ruck to run free to the right of the posts. Mallinder this time made sure of the kick as the lead reached 24-6.
Tigers changed the props as the game restarted, introducing Logovi’i Mulipola and Greg Bateman, and smart work by Youngs and Toomua threatened a break but Saints quickly got back to cover and Jonny May had no space to work in as he received the ball on the left touchline.
May, though, had a better opportunity in the last minute of the game, claiming his third try for the club after Toomua gave him possession 40 metres out and the England win chipped ahead and then won the race to the decisive touch. With just 20 seconds remaining on the clock, Ford was unable to convert a hurried kick, though Tigers did win ball again at the restart before Saints managed to close out one final attack.
A LEAGUE KICKING OFF AT 7PM
We'll be back in half an hour here on Matchday Live for tonight's A League fixture, updating you with all the points throughout the second of today's two derby clashes with Saints in Northampton.
Full time on Derby Day
Derby day disappointment for Tigers as the referee blows the whistle for full-time and it ends 24-11 to Saints.
Saints kick-off for the final play of the game and Tigers run it back into the Saints half with a strong run by Nick Malouf. The ball was chipped ahead for Jonny May to chase but it was collected by Saints and the ball was kicked out to end the game.
George Ford is unable to add the conversion and it stays 24-11 in the 79th minute.
Referee checks with the TMO and awards to the try to Jonny May.
Tigers run the ball wide, Jonny May chips ahead and looks to have run it down to score, referee checks with the TMO.
Tigers work the ball from the lineout and work the ball into the Saints half with some big carries from Mulipola and Bateman.
Saints run the ball from the scrum and get up to the Tigers 5 metre line but Tigers win a penalty at the breakdown and kick for the lineout on half-way.
End to End
More running rugby on show as both teams trying to run the ball, Tigers knock-on and Saints win a scrum in Tigers half.
Sam Harrison has replaced Ben Youngs.
Tigers hold on to defend a Saints attack in the Tigers 22 working to the Tigers tryline but Tigers win the penalty and kick for the lineout on half-way.
Tigers build phases in the Saints half but are penalised for holding on in the ruck, Saints kick for the lineout on Tigers 22.
Greg Bateman and Logovi'i Mulipola have replaced Ellis Genge and Dan Cole.
Harry Mallinder adds the extras for Saints on 68 minutes.
Saints create an overlap and winger Tom Collins breaks through to score Saints third try.
Missed Penalty Saints
Saints win a penalty at the breakdown and go for posts with Harry Mallinder pushing the ball wide, remains 17-6.
Tigers win another scrum penalty and kick for touch and the lineout in Saints half.
End to End
Both teams trying to run the ball and the result is some end to end play, Tigers keep up the denfensive pressure and win a scrum after Saints knock-on.
End of the sin-bin
Mike Williams returns to the field.
George Ford adds to Tigers score and takes it to 17-6 in the 57th minute.
Tigers continue to build pressure and chip ahead into the Saints 22, the chasing tackle results in a turnover and Tigers win a penalty. Ford goes for the penalty.
Tiges prop Ellis Genge showing his power as he makes a run through the Saints defence. Saints knock-on in a tackle and Tigers have the scrum.
Tigers winger Nick Malouf joins the scrum as Tigers win a penalty, George Ford kicks for touch and Tigers have the lineout on half-way.
Saints immediately take advantage and work the ball wide with the extra man and George North looks to score in the corner but his foot is in touch. Referee calls a scrum for a forward pass, Tigers ball.
Tigers Mike Williams is shown a yellow card.
Mike Williams replaces Graham Kitchener
Tigers keep up the defence and force Saints to throw a loose pass into touch for a Tigers lineout.
Referee resets the scrum on the Saints 10 metre line before Saints run the ball wide and Tigers are penalised at the breakdown. Saints kick for the lineout.
Tigers build phases and work into the Saints half, with a lovely break by Harry Thacker but the rain is falling and Tigers knock-on a loose pass.
Saints test Tigers defense early in the second-half as they make a break and kick to touch in the Tigers 22.
No changes at half-time but Dominic Ryan has just replaced Brendon O'Connor.
Tigers kick-off the second-half
Tigers George Ford gets the second-half underway
FIRST HALF POINTS
Tries: Luther Burrell, Dylan Hartley
Conversions: Harry Mallinder 2/2
Penalty Goals: Harry Mallinder 1/1
Penalty Goals: George Ford 1/2
HALF TIME: SAINTS 17 - TIGERS 3
That's HT at Franklin's Gardens and the home side head in to the changing rooms with a 14-point, 17-3 lead over Tigers.
Harry Mallinder kicks the penalty to extend Saints lead to 17-3 as the referee calls half-time.
The first-half is still going as Saints win another penalty as Saints build phases in the Tigers 5 metre. Saints point to the posts for the penalty.
Saints win another penalty at the breakdown and the referee speaks to both captains. Saints go for another lineout.
Saints run the ball from the lineout, working into the Tigers 22 but knock-on. Referee pulls back for a high tackle against Tigers, Saints lineout on the 5 metre.
Tigers get the ball out the scrum and give Ford the ball who kicks for touch. Saints lineout.
Tigers hold up Saints driving maul and they are unable to use the ball, Tigers win the scrum.
Saints continue to put pressure on Tigers, winning a penalty at the breakdown and kicking for the lineout on Tigers 5 metre line.
The sun is shining across Franklins Gardens but supporters are reaching for coats and umbrellas and it starts to rain.
Tigers get the first points on the board as George Ford kicks the penalty as we enter the last five minutes of the first-half.
Tigers build the phases from the lineout and work into the Saints 22, winning a penalty for Saints not rolling away. Tigers point to posts and Ford will kick for the penalty.
Tigers win a penalty at the breakdown and kick for the lineout in Saints half.
Saints try running the ball down the far wing but a big tackle from Nick Malouf pushes them into touch.
Harry Thacker has come onto the field to replace Tom Youngs.
Harry Mallinder adds the conversion to extend Saints lead in the 28th minute.
TMO calls back the referee to check for a try and it is awarded, Dylan Hartley reaches through the ruck to ground it over the tryline.
Saints build phases from the lineout, working towards to tryline and the crowd think Saints have scored but ref calls held-up, scrum Saints.
Both sides showing some running rugby with very open play but Saints get the penalty when Matt Toomua is penalised for not releasing in the tackle.
George Ford pushes the penalty wide and Saints kick from the 22.
Tigers hold up Saints driving maul to win the penalty and Tigers point at the posts, Ford to take the kick.
Both teams trade some kicks trying to win territory and Tigers kick for the lineout on Saints 10 metre line, Saints to throw in.
Saints run the ball back into Tigers half but chip ahead, Jonny May runs the ball with a big tackle from Saints penalised by the referee.
Tigers drive the ball from the lineout but are held up and Saints win the scrum.
Tigers have a scrum just inside the Saints half and win a penalty, Ford kicks for the touch and gets Tigers a lineout on the 22.
Harry Mallinder adds the conversion as the clock hits 12 minutes to extend Saints lead to 7-0.
Saints show pressure from a lineout and create the space for Luther Burrell to cross the tryline in the 11th minute.
Both sides showing some scrappy exchanges with some loose ball and end to end runs. Still 0-0
Tigers get a scrum just inside our half but Saints are penalised, Ford kicks for the lineout on Saints 22.
Tigers and Saints exchange some cross-fields kicks and big hits early as Tigers win a scrum from Saints knock-on.
Derby Day Kicks-off
Here we go, Saints have kicked things off at Franklins Gardens.
Warm-ups have finished and the teams have left the field, just over five minutes to go until kick-off.
Today's teams are confirmed as we move closer to Derby Day kick-off.
DERBY DAY #1 IS HERE
One of the few fixtures we all look for as soon as the schedule is published for each Premiership Rugby season has arrived ... with the first East Midlands derby against arch-rivals Northampton Saints not far away now. Stay up to date with all that's happening LIVE right here from Franklin's Gardens throughout the match with us.
MOUTH WATERING MATCH-UPS
There's plenty of exciting match-ups for supporters of both teams today and we'll have confirmed line-ups in around 20 minutes from now when coaches Matt O'Connor and Jim Mallinder publish their sides.
TIGERS ARE IN THE BUILDING
GATES ARE OPEN AT FRANKLIN'S GARDENS
The first away trip of the new season has arrived and so have we here at Northampton for today's clash with Saints.
Kick off is now less than 90 minutes away here at Franklin's Gardens for today's East Midlands derby.