Leicester Tigers took a losing bonus point from a 34-27 defeat at Saracens on Saturday.
Trailing 22-13 at half-time after playing into a fierce wind in the opening period, Tigers fought back to trail by just two points and set up the prospect of a grandstand finish before the hosts made sure with the final score in the last minute of the game.
Sarries had slipped into third place in the table overnight following a Friday win for Harlequins, but took five points from their five-try haul to reclaim their place behind leaders Tigers.
Tigers had drawn first blood with a try from Eli Snyman but three tries in the second quarter of the game put Sarries into the driving seat as they led 22-13 at half-time.
They added another after the restart before tries from Nic Dolly and then Ollie Chessum chipped away at the lead in the first meeting of the two teams in north London since the start of lockdown in March 2020.
George Ford led out Tigers after his return during a fallow week in the Six Nations, with Ollie Chessum making his first club appearance as an international. Matt Scott and Matías Moroni started together in the midfield for just the second time this season.
Saracens had Andy Christie (Scotland), Nick Tompkins (Wales) and Elliot Daly (England) back in club colours during this fallow week in Six Nations action but lost captain Mako Vunipola to injury just three minutes into the game on a cold and blustery afternoon.
A penalty near halfway provided a first chance for the Tigers set-piece down the right and they were able to make steady progress as the referee’s whistle blew twice more until, finally, Snyman supplied the final push over the line for the day’s opening points.
Ford added the conversion for a 7-0 lead on 12 minutes and Tigers were back on the attack soon afterwards, only to lose ball on the floor in midfield.
But Sarries used the string wind at the backs – and the difficulties in kicking clear into it – to build a platform in possession.
Harry Potter showed good awareness to pick off a kick to the corner, but his kick up the line went out on the 22 and, when Sarries attacked again, Elliot Daly over-ran an inside pass from Lewington and ball was lost just 10 metres out from the tryline.
Chessum clawed ball back from a Sarries lineout and then Moroni led the defensive effort on the opposite touchline to keep out another dangerous attack.
But play came back for a penalty and this time Sarries managed to control the drive up to the tryine for hooker Tom Wolstencroft to score. Alex Lozowski added the conversion to level the scores midway through the first half.
Ford thumped a penalty against the post but Matt Scott followed up to retain ball and, although Tigers were held up over the line, play came back for another penalty and this time the fly-half kicked the points for a 10-7 lead.
But Sarries got front with a 10-point score just after the half-hour.
First, Lewington got on the end of a sweeping attack on the left and, when Kini Murimurivalu was sin-binned for his challenge in the act of the score, Lozowski followed the conversion with a penalty from the restart and suddenly the home side led 17-10.
A clash from the restart required physio treatment on each side but a push from Jackson Wray meant the verdict was a Tigers penalty.
When Lozowski was penalised as he fell on the wrong side of a tackle on the edge of the Sarries 22 after good work by Tigers hooker Nic Dolly, fly-half Ford kicked the three points.
But the reply was instant as Sarries reached the right-hand corner and Sean Maitland forced his way over. Lozowski was this time off-target with the kick but the hosts led 22-13 as half-time approached.
The second half started with a fourth Sarries try, playing with san advantage before putting prop Vincent Koch through to the tryline and the conversion made it 29-13.
But Tigers then built some strong phases of attack, using lineout ball in the right-hand with Potter staying on his feet to almost reached the line and then lineout ball on the right giving Scott and Moroni a chance to test the defence through the middle.
When the whistle went again, Tigers turned the screw and a big push ended with a try for Dolly. Ford judged a tricky conversion perfectly to trim the deficit to 29-20.
A mazy run from Scott set up another good period of Tigers attack, encouraged by another lineout steal near the tryline by Chessum, and carries from replacements Jasper Wiese and Nemani Nadolo.
The home side lost scrum-half Aled Davies to a yellow card after a head contact with Ford, but the 14 men won a penalty in defence as Tigers threatened in front of the posts.
Ford kept up the pressure by belting a penalty into the left-hand corner and, when the drive got to within two metres of the chalk, the whistle went again but Sarries emerged with the next penalty still on their own line.
Play returned to that end of the field with another Ford penalty down the left after a high tackle on Scott, but again the home side were rewarded as Billy Vunipola contested the breakdown.
Scott was again on the ball in attack, looping around Nadolo to get Tigers forward, and Tigers remained on the front foot to add a third try.
First, Charlie Clare almost reached the line from a destructive maul, then Francois van Wyk and Nephi Leatigaga were just short. But Chessum was next to go and this time reached out for the try, which Ford converted to make it 29-27 with seven minutes to go.
Saracens, though, set up a score in reply with a lineout drive from a penalty on the left. After looking like their progress had stalled, they set again and Woolstencroft claimed his second of the day for a 34-27 lead.
The miss meant Tigers were still within seven-point range, but when the home side contested the restart, they won back ball and kicked out for take five points while Tigers had a one-point consolation as they retained top spot in the table.
The whistle goes on an engrossing afternoon as Tigers take a point in a 34-27 defeat at Saracens.
Try for Wolstencroft from a lineout drive, but Lozowski misses the conversion. It's 34-27.
Ford conversion cuts the gap to 29-27 on 74mins
OLLIE CHESSUM forces his way over to score. Tigers are now 29-25 behind. 7mins to play.
Big spell of pressure here from Tigers, but so far Sarries standing up in defence on their own line. They still lead 29-20
Sarries 9 Aled Davies is in sin bin after clash of heads with Ford.
Excellent conversion from wide on the right by Ford makes it 29-20. Tigers send on Clare, Wiese, Porter & Nadolo,
Lineout drive and NIC DOLLY scores.
Lozowski makes it 29-13 with the conversion.
Playing with penalty advantage, Sarries create a bonus-point scorer for prop Vincent Koch. They lead 27-13.
Game is back under way with Saracens 22-13 ahead.
Saracens 22-13 Tigers at the break. Tries from Wolstencroft, Lewington & Maitland against one from Eli Snyman on a cold and windy afternoon.
Lozowski off target with the conversion but Sarries lead 22-13 with 3 tries.
Sean Maitland is over in the right-hand corner for Saracens and their third try.
Penalty against Sarries after Nic Dolly's carry on the edge of their 22. Ford lands the kick to make it 17-13.
Sarries turn it into a 10-point score as Lozowski kicks the penalty from the restart to make it 17-10 on 33mins
Murimurivalu yellow card for foul play as the try is scored and play restarts with a penalty...
Lozowski adds the conversion... and there may be more.
Try for Alex Lewington in the left corner to give Sarries a 12-10 lead.
This time Ford thumps the penalty into the wind and through the posts for a 10-7 lead on 27mins.
Ford penalty thumps the post, but Matt Scott claims the rebound. Tigers held up over the tryline but have a penalty anyway.
Lozowski adds the conversion to make it 7-7.
Lineout drive for Saracens ends with a try for hooker Tom Wolstencroft after some big pressure in the Tiger 22. 5-7 on 22mins
Dangerous attack from Sarries but they just over-run it on the left and spill ball 10 metres out
George Ford adds the conversion of the Snyman try and Tigers lead 7-0 on 12min
ON THE BOARD
TRY TIGERS, Eli Snyman forcing his way over from set-piece ball on the right. 0-5 on 11min
An early change here as Mako Vunipola goes off with an injury, Richard Barrington on in Sarries front row,
WE ARE OFF
Sarries kick off on a wet and windy afternoon in north London.
KICK-OFF | Saracens v Leicester Tigers
It's the home team to get the game started after a moment's applause in support of the people of Ukraine. Tigers are playing left to right as we look from the dugouts side. And it's just started raining.
An overcast day in North London, windy and very cold inside the stadium too. Pass us the hot-water bottle. And a tea. And some gloves.
Saracens: 15 Elliot Daly, 14 Sean Maitland, 13 Alex Lozowski, 12 Nick Tompkins, 11 Alex Lewington, 10 Alex Goode, 9 Aled Davies; 1 Mako Vunipola (c), 2 Tom Woolstencroft, 3 Vincent Koch, 4 Callum Hunter-Hill, 5 Tim Swinson, 6 Andy Christie, 7 Jackson Wray, 8 Billy Vunipola
Replacements: 16 Ethan Lewis, 17 Richard Barrington, 18 Sam Wainwright, 19 Theo McFarland, 20 Ben Earl, 21 Ruben de Haas, 22 Duncan Taylor, 23 Rotimi Segun
There is a late change with Harry Wells ruled out by illness. Olly Robinson comes into the squad.
STARTING XV [with Tigers appearances]
15 Freddie Burns , 14 Harry Potter , 13 Matías Moroni , 12 Matt Scott , 11 Kini Murimurivalu , 10 George Ford (c) , 9 Jack van Poortvliet (vc) ; 1 James Whitcombe , 2 Nic Dolly , 3 Joe Heyes , 4 Eli Snyman , 5 Calum Green , 6 Ollie Chessum , 7 Tommy Reffell , 8 George Martin 
16 Charlie Clare , 17 Francois van Wyk , 18 Nephi Leatigaga , 19 Olly Robinson , 20 Jasper Wiese , 21 Richard Wigglesworth , 22 Guy Porter , 23 Nemani Nadolo 
MATCH PREVIEW | Saracens v Tigers
Leicester Tigers are at Saracens exactly two years since their last North London meeting in Premiership Rugby.
When the teams met in early March 2020, Sarries secured a 24-13 home win – with Richard Wigglesworth starting in their No9 shirt – in the final round of games before the Covid lockdown.
At that time the teams occupied the bottom two places in the league table. This week we approached the weekend in the top two in Round 19.
On eight previous league visits, Tigers have won just once here, in February 2018.
Scrum-half Jack van Poortvliet said: “Saracens have been the most consistent team for 5 or 10 years and have set the benchmark for the whole league really.
“We know it is a challenging place to go but we are excited and focused on what we can do better from last weekend because there is a lot we can improve on.”
Tigers wear the club’s change colours of white, black and orange.
Referee is Craig Maxwell-Keys.
WELCOME TO MATCHDAY LIVE!
We’re LIVE as Leicester Tigers travel to Saracens in the Gallagher Premiership. Kick-off is at 3.00pm.
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