Leicester Tigers claimed a bonus-point win over Saracens at Allianz Park on Sunday. On a bright but bitterly cold afternoon in north London, a 28-20 victory represented a first in Premiership rugby at the venue.
Tigers got off to a strong start, retaining ball and testing the Sarries defence before Manu Tuilagi scored the breakthrough try after 10 minutes. Further first-half scores followed from Greg Bateman and Telusa Veainu as the visitors led 21-6 at half-time
A score from Jonah Holmes secured a bonus point midway through the second half before Saracens claimed a try from Max Malins, but they still trailed by 15 points with just 10 minutes remaining. Malins repeated the trick in the closing stages but Sarries emerged empty-handed from the encounter.
Sarries started the weekend on top of the league table, though they were leapfrogged by Exeter Chiefs on Saturday afternoon thanks to their last-minute win over Northampton Saints. They went into the game on a run of five successive league wins and with just one defeat in their previous 22 home games in the Aviva Premiership.
Tigers, in contrast, had never won a league game at the Allianz and had not beaten Saracens in Premiership Rugby since March 2016.
In team news announced on Friday, Tigers called Tatafu Polota-Nau into the front row in the only change from the starting line-up in the win over Harlequins, while the hosts made two changes with Nathan Earle coming in on the wing and Schalk Brits back in the pack after injury.
Kick-off followed a minute’s silence in respect of former Doncaster Knights prop Ian Williams who died last week and the match was less than two minutes old when Tigers were forced into a change. Gareth Owen stayed down after being tackled on halfway and, after being helped off holding his shoulder, he was replaced by Mathew Tait.
Polota-Nau also received physio treatment in the next phase of possession, while Matt Toomua waited to kick a penalty down the left touchline from halfway. Mike Williams claimed lineout ball on the Sarries 22 but the hosts then won turnover ball and cleared.
The Tigers forwards carried impressively in the next set of phases after a break from Brendon O’Connor, but just as there appeared to be an opening on the right, Veainu knocked on as he over-ran a pass.
The reward for the visitors’ patience in possession, however, came on 10 minutes when Tuilagi picked up at a breakdown 15 metres out and ran through to score. Toomua added the kick for a seven-point lead.
Toomua put a penalty wide five minutes later after referee Craig Maxwell-Keys blew for as high tackle on the fly-half.
Saracens also had to make an early change when Calum Clark went off injured on 17 minutes, to be replaced by Sione Vailanu as the packs came together for a scrum on the home 10-metre line.
The referee spoke to Sarries captain Brad Barritt and to Schalk Burger after the flanker had been whistled at the tackle zone, but from the lineout drive at the resultant penalty Tigers turned over possession just 10 metres out from the tryline.
The first 20 minutes had been played almost exclusively in the Sarries half before they were awarded a penalty on halfway and Ben Spencer pushed play into the opposition 22. But, after resisting a drive, Tigers then won turnover ball and cleared.
Sarries had a second chance when Graham Kitchener was penalised at the next lineout and this time Spencer pointed for a shot at goal. He made no mistake with the kick and got the hosts off the mark on 26 minutes.
Vailanu’s afternoon lasted only 10 minutes as he limped off approaching the half-hour, with replacement hooker Scott Spurling joining the Sarries pack.
Tigers claimed a second try of the afternoon, quickly turning defence into attack for Bateman to score next to the right-hand post.
Jonah Holmes started the work on the left, flanker O’Connor provided the support and then Williams made a punishing carry up inside the Sarries 22 before Bateman picked up ran in from 20 metres to score. Toomua’s extras made it 14-3 with 32 minutes played.
From the restart, Williams took a crashing fall as he tried to claim aerial ball. After treatment from the medical team, he left the field for a head injury assessment and play restarted with a scrum.
Tigers, though, were finding it difficult to clear fully and Sarries ran the ball back, being rewarded with a penalty for a tackle on Spencer on the Tigers 22. Spencer got up to kick the points and make it 6-14 with three minutes remaining in the half.
The response was almost immediate, though, with Veainu providing a fine finish for Tigers’ third try of the half.
Toomua made the initial break and the pass to his left shoulder found Veainu who broke through, checked left and then accelerated right again to dive over for his sixth try of the season.
Fly-half Toomua kicked his third conversion and, although there was still enough time to restart the game, Tigers managed to reclaim ball and bring the half to a close with a 15-point advantage.
Williams did not re-emerge for the second half, but Tigers started brightly again, retaining ball for the opening five minutes and almost manufactured a chance on the left, only for play to be called back for a forward pass from Veainu with the Sarries defence outnumbered.
Twelves minutes of the second period had gone when the home fans in a crowd of 9.772 had something to cheer when the Sarries forwards gained valuable ground and had Tigers defending on their own line. Their forwards pounded at the line before, eventually, Nathan Earle dived over on the right, with Holmes trying to wrap up man and ball.
The referee went to the TMO to look for grounding and the player’s position in relation to the touchline and decided no try. Advantage was being played, however, and play came back for a penalty. Sarries elected to go for the scrum and worked the ball to Earle again on the right. But, just as the crowd began to celebrate, the referee checked the grounding once more and confirmed that the wing had knocked-on.
From the resulting scrum, Tigers were awarded penalty and Toomua kicked up to the 10-metre line to provide a release.
Tom Youngs announced himself into the action with a big hit in midfield as Harrison box-kicked into Sarries territory, but it was the visitors’ turn to go through their defensive drills as Saracens retained ball on halfway for several minutes.
A scrum on the 22, though, provided a chance for Tigers, loosehead replacement Hayden Thompson-Stringer judged to have gone to ground. Toomua pushed the kicked across the posts and the lead stayed at 21-6 with an hour played.
Hamilton gained a superb turnover in the tackle on halfway as Tigers forced their rivals to play out from deep.
There were 65 minutes on the clock when Tigers grabbed a bonus-point score, Tuilagi capitalising on spilled ball in the Sarries half to hand off Marcelo Bosch and make his way up to the line before passing inside for Holmes to do down to the left of the posts. Toomua kicked the conversion as the lead reached 28-6.
Sarries finally got a try of their own when replacement Malins somehow wriggled his way through after a lineout on the left and Spencer added the kick to cut the deficit to 13-2 with 10 minutes remaining on the clock.
A big scrum on halfway, which brought a penalty, relieved the pressure and, importantly, ticked the clock down, as Toom,ua took play right up to the Sarries line. But, after setting up a drive, ball was wrapped up off the floor and Sarries had the put-in at the scrum.
Just five minutes remained, though, and the Tigers defence made sure their hosts had to work hard to get out of their own territory.
A penalty at a scrum on halfway, however, gave Malins the chance to push play down the left. Another penalty followed against Michele Rizzo as Sarries stayed in the corner. Rizzo was yellow-carded seconds later for collapsing a maul as time was played out five metres from the Tigers tryline.
Malins, though, found a gap again, running left and then right to score under the posts. A hasty conversion from Alex Lozowski made it 20-28 with 20 seconds left on the clock and, although, they had one more attack, they spilled ball on the Tigers 22 to signal the end of the game and five vital points.
Thank you for your support
The Tigers players head back out to thank the travelling support. Great stuff from players and fans. Thank you for your support wherever you were following.
Well done boys
Tigers have secured their first win at Allianz Park in the Aviva Premiership ... and what a way to do it. Tries from Manu Tuilagi, Greg Bateman and Telusa Veainu in the first-half and one after the break for Jonah Holmes give Tigers the bonus point to take back up the M1.
Full-time at Allianz Park
Saracen threaten another score to grab a losing bonus point. But Rotimi Segun drops the ball and that is that.
Lozowski lands the conversion with a drop goal as the hosts hunt a losing bonus point.
Second Sarries try
Saracens have their second and it's Malins again. The replacement finds a gap inside the Leicester 22 and dives under the posts to score.
Tigers end with 14
Michele Rizzo is sent to the bin for pulling down a maul. Tigers will end the game with 14 men.
Man of the Match
The Aviva Man of the Match is Brendon O'Connor. Well played Bren.
Another scum penalty
Tigers ease the pressure with a big scrum that wins a penalty for Toomua to kick Leicester into the Saracens 22.
Alex Lozowski lands the touchline conversion and Tigers now lead by 15 points.
Sarries cross to score
There looks little danger when Max Malins gets possession as Tigers drive a Sarries lineout backwards. But he dances a line through to score on the left.
Cilliers, Wells and Simmons on for Logo, Fitzgerald and Harrison.
Toomua converts again
Toomua knocks over the conversion and Tigers now lead by 22 points and have the try bonus point.
Tigers are in for the bonus-point try. Brute strength from Tuilagi sees him capitalise on a mistake and arrow down the left. He then passes inside to Holmes to score and run round by the posts.
Tigers are on top again at the scrum and win the penalty. Toomua goes for the posts but pushes it across the face. The second-half is still pointless so far.
Tigers are tenacious in defence and force Burger into a mistake. O'Connor is there. Again. Harrison puts the ball into space and it bounces into touch on the Saracens 10m line.
Front row replacements for the hosts
Thompson-Strinmger and Lamositele on for Saracens in place of Barrington and Figallo.
Tatafu Polota-Nau comes off after a brilliant display. Tom Youngs is on for him.
Tigers have survived that period with their line intact. And win a scrum penalty to ease the pressure. That could be a key moment in the match.
NO TRY - AGAIN!
No Try is the ruling, he's dropped it over the line.
BACK UPSTAIRS WE GO
We're having another look at a potential try for Earle but Brendon O'Connor looks to have forced an error as he appears to drop it.
Jonah Holmes and Telusa Veainu have prevented the try and we're going back for a 5m scrum to Saracens in front of the posts.
CHECKING FOR SARRIES TRY
We're going upstairs to check for a potential try to Nathan Earle.
O'Connor wins another turnover, but Kitchener is pinged for holding on as Tigers try to hammer home the position.
Tigers put Sarries under huge pressure at a scrum. The ball pops out but Harrison knocks on. Sarries get the put-in again.
Tigers produce a beautiful move to put Jonah Holmes away down the left. However, he is pulled back for a forward pass in the build-up. Cracking stuff again from the Tigers.
Early Sarries mistake
Tigers have the scrum put-in after Schalk Brits errs at the first lineout of the game.
We're back underway at Allianz Park. Tigers are attacking the end to our left. Hamilton for Williams is a permanent replacement.
Red hot Tigers
That was a half to warm the travelling Tigers fans. Great stuff from Leicester in the first 40 minutes at Allianz Park. Can they keep it up in the second 40?
Tigers lead at the break
Tigers lead 21-6 at Allianz Park at half-time of this Aviva Premiership Round 16 clash. Tries for Manu Tuilagi, Greg Bateman and Telusa Veainu, all converted by Matt Toomua.
Toomua extends the lead
Toomua kicks his third conversion and Tigers stretch their lead to 21-6 moments before the break.
What a try!
Toomua bursts through a gap and finds Veainu on his shoulder. Veainu steps past Alex Goode and then holds off Nathan Earle to go over for Tigers' third try. Brilliant stuff.Toomua bursts through a gap and finds Veainu on his shoulder. Veainu steps past Alex Goode and then holds off Nathan Earle to go over for Tigers' third try. Brilliant stuff.
Sarries cut Tigers' lead
Bateman comes through a ruck but is pinged for playing the nine. Spencer dusts himself down and lands the penalty. Tigers lead 14-6.
Hamilton on for Tigers
Williams goes off for an HIA and is replaced by Luke Hamilton. Play restarts with a scrum, Tigers secure the ball for Toomua to find touch. It feels like a huge period in the game going into half-time.
Treatment for Williams
Lots of concern for Mike Williams as he falls head first after collecting the restart. He is sitting up, which is a relief. And is now walking off the pitch with club doctor Martyn Newey.
Toomua lands a simple conversion to move Tigers 14-3 ahead. This has been an excellent half so far for Tigers.
Try time Tigers
Another pick and go at a ruck and another try for the Tigers. It's Bateman with a turn of pace to get away and dive over. Great stuff from the hooker.
Tackled by the whitewash
Some lovely running lines by Tuilagi and Bateman create a hint of an opening for Veainu, but he loses his feet on the halfway line.
Sarries replacement Vailanu is off with a hamstring injury. On is Scott Spurling, the Saracens replacement hooker.
Sarries on the board
Saracens put points on the board with their first opportunity, Spencer landing a penalty from distance. Tigers lead 7-3.
Sarries to go for goal
Kitchener is pinged for pulling down in the lineout and Saracens will go for the posts. Meanwhile, Vailanu is getting treatment for the hosts.
O'Connor on the ball
Brendon O'Connor turns over Barritt brilliantly on the Leicester 22 and Harrison finds touch.
First penalty against Tigers
Sarries have made 85 tackles already this game. And this time they win the penalty as Tigers are pinged for holding on. Saracens into the Leicester 22 for the first time.
Referee Maxwell-Keys warns Barritt after Schalk Burger gives away another breakdown penalty. Toomua finds touch in the Sarries 22.
Clark comes off
That's Clark's game over. He is off with what also looks like a shoulder injury. Sione Vailanu is on for the hosts.
Sarries flying up
Saracens are sailing close to the wind in defence and have looked offside on more than one occasion as they fly up. Sam Harrison is prepared to snipe, which is keeping Sarries thinking. There is now a break in play as Calum Clark receives attention.
Toomua strikes his kick with ease, but pushes the ball wide of the posts. It remains 7-0 to the Tigers.
Take your pick!
Saracens are offside and not rolling at the same ruck, giving referee Craig Maxwell-Keys a choice of offences to punish. He has a word with Barritt too. Toomua to kick for goal against a stiff wind.
Toomua tidies up
Toomua puts in a huge clearance into touch in the Saracens half as Marcelo Bosch leads the charge on Spencer's kick.
Toomua knocks over the conversion from in front of the posts to give Tigers a 7-0 lead.
Tuilagi try for Tigers
Tigers make the most of their excellent start by scoring the first try of the game. Tuilagi catches the Saracens guards napping at a ruck and bulldozes his way to score his third of the season.
Scrum in a good position
Spencer makes an unforced error as he picks up at a scrum, knocking on to give Tigers the put-in on the Sarries 22.
Tigers on the attack
Tigers have made a settled start to the game, keeping possession well through the phases. Brendon O'Connor made a half break, Greg Bateman and Logovi'i Mulipola linked well before Telusa Veainu knocked-on.
Tigers into Sarries 22
Toomua angles a penalty into the Saracens 22, but Tigers' lineout ball is poor and Sarries overturn Harrison for Ben Spencer to clear.
Owen has been helped from the field holding his shoulder. He has been replaced by Mathew Tait for his 100th Tigers appearance in Premiership Rugby.
Break in play
There is a break in play as Gareth Owen receives treatment after being hurt in his first carry of the game. It doesn't look good for the Tigers centre.
Toomua gets the game going, with Tigers attacking the end to our right. Come on you Tigers!
The minute's silence was perfectly observed by players, supporters and officials.
The two teams line-up to observe a minute's silence in memory of Ian Williams, the Doncaster prop forward, who died earlier this week.
Sarries are out
Saracens take to the pitch, led by their captain Brad Barritt
Here come the Tigers
Led out by this afternoon's captain Matt Toomua, the Tigers take to the field.
Good luck to scrum-half Sam Harrison, making the 100th Premiership appearance of his career, and Mathew Tait, who will make a 100th top-flight appearance in Tigers' colours if he is used from the bench.
Tigers have completed their warm-up and head to the changing rooms for final preparations. Kick-off is moments away.
How the teams line up at Allianz Park
Sarries head off the pitch
Hosts Saracens have finished their warm-up and head to the changing rooms while Tigers continue to go through their drills in brilliant February sunshine.
The warm-ups are underway on the pitch - and the Bovril is being served in the press box to try to heat the hands. Have we mentioned it's cold?
Sarries v Tigers
Welcome to a bitterly cold Allianz Park for this afternoon's Aviva Premiership Round 16 clash between Saracens and Leicester Tigers.