Leicester Tigers were beaten by a last-minute try from hosts Wasps in Round 10 of the Aviva Premiership season in Coventry on Saturday.
Two tries in six second-half minutes from Jonah Holmes looked like they would give Tigers victory at the Ricoh Arena, but the contest remained in the balance until the final 70 seconds, just as it had in the semi-final between the two clubs on Leicester’s last visit in May.
And in the end, Kearnan Myall found a decisive gap to score as Wasps took five points in a 32-25 victory.
Tigers had built an early 10-point lead early on after a first try of the season for skipper Tom Youngs, but Wasps got back into the game with two tries of their own to take the lead for the first time around the half-hour mark and a long-range penalty from Elliot Daly gave them a 17-10 advantage at half-time.
The breathless action continued in the second half with Holmes providing two smart finishes and Daly scoring a fine try for the hosts as the scores were tied at 25-25 approaching the final minute.
In the 100th meeting of the teams – with Tigers ahead 59-35 in terms of wins ahead of kick-off at the Ricoh Arena – the teams ran out to sweeping rain and the 4.30pm start meant darkness had already fallen when Tom Youngs led out the visitors wearing the club’s white alternate kit.
Ellis Genge, Dan Cole, Ben Youngs and George Ford were back in Tigers colours after duty with England, though Jonny May was ruled out after a knock in the win over Samoa last week. Wasps included Elliot Daly in his England position on the wing but were without Joe Launchbury and Nathan Hughes.
The game was just a minute old when soft hands from Genge created pace in midfield and Gareth Owen broke through the Wasps defence before being caught just short of the line. Even then, Tigers recycled quickly and Mike Fitzgerald had a bite at the line and then Adam Thompstone on the right before being forced into touch.
But play came back for a penalty and Ford knocked over the kick for an early three-pointer.
Daly created the first promising attack for Wasps with a sniping run on the left which had the Tigers rearguard scrambling back, but the attack was brought to a halt when Danny Cipriani’s grub-kick ran dead.
Wasps, though, remained in Tigers territory until aggressive defence allowed Telusa Veainu to pick off a pass in midfield and Ford hammered the ball upfield.
More strong work in defence gave Ford the opportunity to punt a penalty to touch just 10 metres short of the tryline on the left and, after patient work in the forward drive and an intervention from Tait in midfield, the ball was kept alive and Tom Youngs applied the finish to the right of the posts. Ford added the extras for a 10-point lead with just 15 minutes played.
A big scrum, led by Genge and Cole, had the Wasps pack in trouble again and when Ford put the penalty into the corner, Tigers had the advantage of another penalty when Jonah Holmes was kept out in the corner. When play came back for the penalty, Tigers were unable to capitalise when they were whistled at the five-metre lineout.
Another blow of the whistle from referee Thomas Foley followed and Wasps were able to get back into Tigers territory and find their breakthrough score from No8 Nizaam Carr.
An initial break on the left looked to have ended when Tait grabbed Cipriani, but Thomas Young worked hard to provide go-forward and a carry from James Gaskell had Tigers packpedalling before Carr arrived to force his way over. Jimmy Gopperth added the kick to take the score to 7-10 with 24 minutes played.
Tigers used the scrum as a platform for another attack soon afterwards but, when Owen was wrapped up in midfield and then dispossessed, the hosts cleared up to halfway again.
Wasps took the lead for the first time with a try from scrum-half Dan Robson on 32 minutes, but not before the Tigers defence had kept out a series of phases close to the line.
Ben Youngs made a try-saving tackle on his opposite number within reach of the line, but after two more phases, Robson was able to pick up and go left, sniping his way over to score. Gopperth’s extras made it 14-10.
Owen left the field, replaced by Matt Smith, before the game restarted and Veainu also needed physio treatment after taking a heavy knock on halfway.
As half-time approached, Tigers were penalised at a maul wide and Daly landed an impressive kick from 40 metres to stretch the Wasps lead to seven points.
Valentino Mapapalangi twice looked like he’d broken tackles to get Tigers forward in the next phases of possession, but couldn’t make a decisive break.
There was no further score before the break, but Tigers were forced into another change when Genge made way, replaced by Mulipola in his first appearance since the end of September.
Wasps threatened early in the second half when second-rower Kearnan Myall latched on to good work by Jake Cooper-Woolley, and then created extra men on the left but threw the pass into touch on the edge of the Tigers 22.
Mapapalangi sat down Myall with his next carry of the ball and Tom Youngs twice took Tigers forward strongly before Cipriani was adjudged to have knocked-on deliberately 35 metres from his own tryline as Tigers opened up play.
The penalty award gave Ford a first sight of the posts since his conversion in the opening quarter of an hour and his kick struck the right-hand post, allowing Cipriani to clear.
But Wasps could not keep the visitors out for much longer, with Sione Kalamafoni carrying positively and the phases mounting up before the pressure finally told with a second try.
Remaining patient in possession, Tigers played and played through phases in the Wasps 22 before finally Holmes found himself in space to dive into the left-hand corner for his first Premiership try for the club.
Ford struck the kick well from the left touchline but fell just wide as Tigers trailed 15-17 with 53 minutes played.
There was no let-up in the pace of the game as Tom Youngs continued to show himself as a target in possession and Kalamafoni became increasingly influential on his return to action.
Tigers regained the lead with a second try from Holmes in a six-minute period, this time picking off a long, lopping pass from Daly intended for Wade to run free and score.
Holmes was well inside his own half when he claimed the ball, then fended off Wade to run clear and score under the posts. Ford’s extras made it 22-17 in favour of the visitors and had the travelling support in good voice, especially with many of them gathered at that end of the stadium.
Harry Thacker replaced Tom Youngs as the game restarted but Gopperth immediately cut the gap with a penalty from 25 metres.
And the lead lasted just a matter of minutes further when Daly provided a fine finish to a first-phase move from a lineout on halfway.
After taking ball at the back of the lineout, the Wasps backs immediately spread play along the line and Daly raced home into the left-hand corner. Gopperth was wide with the conversion attempt but the hosts were in front at 25-22 with 15 minutes remaining.
Holmes sniffed a potential hat-trick when Mapapalangi popped a pass to him on the left touchline, but was stopped five metres out and then had another go for the line as Tigers continued to pile forward, only for Robson to rip the ball and allow Gopperth to kick to touch.
Tigers still held ball and thumped at the Wasps door, getting some reward when the hosts were penalised at the breakdown 15 metres out and Ford made the kick to level the scores at 25-25 with 70 minutes played.
The game was proving to be as tight as the Tigers’ last visit and the whole crowd were on the edge of their seats when Wasps reached the Tigers line again, only to lose possession two metres out, as Thacker darted through a ruck to reclaim loose ball at the feet of scrum-half replacement Joe Simpson.
Wasps remained in the Tigers half, though, testing the Tigers defence and discipline through phases of possession and then creating a chance on the right for replacement Josh Bassett. Tigers, though, nailed their man five metres out and the Wasps wing knocked-on in the tackle. The scrum brought further release when referee Foley penalised Wasps, allowing Ford to take play back up to halfway with the kick to touch.
The impetus did not last, though, as a knock-on on the Tigers 10-metre line provided Wasps with another set-piece, though they lost hooker and captain Ashley Jonson before the game could restart.
Just 70 seconds remained on the clock when Wasps finally found a gap in the Tigers defence for Myall to score to the left of the posts and, as they had done in the semi-final in May, snatch a late victory. Gopperth added the kick to bring an epic battle to a close.
On to Europe
Attention now turns to Europe and next weekend's trip to Thomond Park to play Munster Rugby. Tigers are back on home soil for the return game against Munster on December 17. Match tickets are on sale now.
Aviva Premiership thriller
What a contest. It ebbed and flowed and was a wonderful advert for the Aviva Premiership.
Heartbreak for Tigers
It is a painful end again in Coventry. Tigers are undone by a last-gasp try for the second successive visit. But they have the consolation of a losing bonus point with which to head back up the M69.
Gopperth adds the extras with the last kick of the game.
is that the match-winning score?
Wasps have the lead, and a bonus-point try as well. Intense pressure finally told and Kearnan Myall slips his tackle to score next to the posts.
The home fans are trying to get a Wave going. Really? The game is at boiling point and they want to do a Wave!
The Tigers scrum does its job and eases the pressure by winning the penalty. Ford finds touch on the 10m line.
Bassett goes close
Bassett is involved straight away. He arcs on to Cipriani's pass but knocks-on 5m out as Holmes flies in with a huge tackle.
Bassett on for Wade for the final six minutes. Harris is also on for McIntyre in the front row.
The clock is off as Holmes and Youngs get some treatment. Play will resume with Wasps scrum put-in 30m out.
The Tigers were trouble defensively but somehow repelled the Wasps 5m out. And Evans swooped on loose ball to turnover possession. Ford's clearance touched a Wasps hand so Tigers lineout 30m from their line.
Mapapalangi and Fitzgerald off, Williams and Wells on for Tigers. Robson off and Simpson on for Wasps.
George Ford bangs over the penalty and we are all square.
Penalty to Tigers
That looked cynical by Wasps as Tigers batter away at their defence deep in the 22. Ben Youngs is tackled as he picks up and wins the penalty.
Tension around the ground
Tigers are hammering away at the Wasps line. Holmes reaches out for his hat-trick try but Robson rips the ball and finds touch 10m out.
Gopperth misses the conversion. Wasps 25 Tigers 22 with 16 minutes left.
Wasps lead again
A brilliant first phase try for the Wasps scored by Daly. James Haskell claims lineout ball and the ball is shifted to the left where Daly's pace takes him over.
Harry Thacker is on for the skipper and try-scorer Tom Youngs.
Wasps hit back
Wasps have the chance to hit back as Tigers go off their feet. Gopperth lands his kick to bring the hosts back to within two points.
Holmes's finish under the posts leaves Ford with an easy conversion. Tigers now lead 22-17.
What. A. Try.
What have we just seen there? Holmes intercepts near his 22. He has so far to go but holds off Wade, who flounders in his wake, and streaks clear for his second.
Tigers trail by two
The try goes unconverted but Tigers are right back in this. And the travelling support make themselves heard again. Wasps 17 Tigers 15.
Get in Tigers!
Tigers are in for their second. Great handling, great continuity and Tino Mapapalangi's surge opens up the defence for Holmes to finish at the left corner.
Ford strikes a post
Ford's kick strikes the left post and Wasps fail to find touch,. Tigers have it on the 22 ...
Penalty to Tigers
... the TMO rules a penalty to Tigers but no card for de Jongh. Ford to go for goal.
De Jongh has knocked on in midfield. Didn't look like much of an effort. The TMO looking at it ...
Water boys on, water boys off
It's like an edition of Wacky Races as the water boys from both teams race on during a break in play only to be told to get off the field by referee Tom Foley.
Good continuity and handling from the Wasps, probing the Tigers defensive line. But Tigers D up and eventually le Roux's pass goes into touch.
Teams back out
There's no love lost between Tigers and Wasps, however, as the two teams emerge for the second half. Wasps to kick-off, Tigers attacking the end to our left as we type.
Love is in the air
Wasps fan Jim has just proposed to his girlfriend Sam on the pitch. She said 'yes'! He is now going to buy her a season ticket. Who says love is dead?
That's half-time. Tigers made a cracking start, with Tom Youngs scoring his first try of the season and George Ford kicking the conversion and a penalty. But Wasps have fought back to lead by seven through tries for Nizaam Carr and Dan Robson.
Front row replacement
Ellis Genge comes off on the stroke of half-time. Great to see Logovi'i Mulipola back on the field after injury.
Wasps extend their lead
Daly is on the money with his kick. Wasps lead 17-10.
Tigers are whistled at a maul on the Wasps 10m line. Elliot Daly has come across from his position on the left to take it.
Replacement in midfield
Tigers bring on Matt Smith for Gareth Owen, who received treatment for a knock a few moments ago.
Gopperth lands his conversion from the left. Wasps lead 14-10 with seven minutes to half-time.
Tigers come under huge pressure as Wasps play advantage for a high tackle. Ben Youngs does well to stop Dan Robson's snipe 5m out but Robson goes again a couple of phases later to score their second.
Veainu gets the better, marginally, of his kick exchange with Willie Le Roux. Tigers lineout on halfway, but they cannot gather and Wasps have the ball.
Jimmy Gopperth lands a simple conversion to bring Wasps back to within three points. Tigers lead 10-7.
Wasps hit back
Commentators' curse! Wasps sweep upfield with some intricate handling and running lines. Tigers fail to stop the support run Simon McIntyre and Nizaam Carr goes over.
Penalty to Wasps
Tigers fail to make the pressure count after being pinged at the lineout, but Matt O'Connor's men look a real handful when running at the Wasps back division.
Tigers have another penalty advantage from the maul. Ben Younmgs and Ford combine down the short side where Jonah Holmes has the ball knocked from his grasp by Wade as he attempts to score.
Scrum on down!
The Wade mistake is compounded by the Tigers scrum, which wins a penalty. Ford kicks to the corner.
Good harrying by Will Evans forces a mistake from Christian Wade, who knocks on 22m from his own line.
Tom Youngs try
It was Tom Youngs's first try of the season and his 14th for the club. He told LTTV in the build-up to this game how frustrated he was at missing the Worcester defeat last week. He's taken some of that frustration out on Wasps.
Ford, from a similar position to his penalty, lands the extras and Tigers lead 10-0.
Try time Tigers
Tigers had the penalty advantage from the lineout, again Fitzgerald goes close but this time Tigers stay calm and Tom Youngs flies over at the next phase.
Cracking defensive work by the back-rowers wins a holding on penalty. Tigers lineout in the Wasps 22.
Wasps look a threat with ball in hand, but Veainu reads Juan de Jongh's pass to intercept before Ford finds a wonderful touch deep in the Wasps 22.
The PA man tries to get a chant going, but his mic seems to be broken and it peters out.
The rain before kick-off has made it a greasy surface and already both sides have made handling errors. Wasps have a scrum put-in near their 10m line.
Tigers in defence
Tigers defend the first Wasps attack solidly, closing the space on Danny Cipriani, who kicks the ball dead in goal.
... no mistake from Ford, slotting a simple penalty to give Tigers a 3-0 lead. Good start from the boys.
Ford to go for goal
George Ford takes a swig from a bottle to compose himself befoer he takes on the kick ...
Those Tigers fans are in full voice as Gareth Owen makes a brilliant break, but is stopped just short. Tigers have the penalty advantage as Mike Fitzgerald goes close and then Adam Thompstone is bundled into touch.
Tigers to kick-off
George Ford will get us going. Tigers, in their what away strip, are attacking the end to our right as we type. Come on you Tigers!
The Tigers fans are buzzing for this one, as a horrible buzzing noise comes over the PA for the arrival of Wasps. They are led out by Jake Cooper-Woolley on his 100th appearance for the hosts.
What a noise from the travelling Tigers Family to greet their team. Fantastic support.
Here come the Tigers
Captain Tom Youngs leads out his Tigers team ...
The rain appears to have stopped. Now, if someone could just turn up the heating a couple of degrees!
The warm-ups are over. Both teams are back in the changing rooms for a final few words. Kick-off is five minutes away.
The warm-ups are underway
A word from skipper Tom Youngs before the warm-ups begin.
100 not out
This afternoon is the 100th meeting of Tigers and Wasps. Tigers have won 59 games to date, Wasps 35 with five draws
Confirmed team news. No changes to either side.
It's a dark and dingy afternoon in Coventry. Fine rain is falling, that fine rain that soaks you through* and temperatures are around 7C. Still, there's an M69 derby ahead to warm us all up.
*(c) Peter Kay
Sent to Coventry
Tigers make the short journey down the M69 to Coventry for today's Aviva Premiership clash with Wasps.