Leicester Tigers suffered a first defeat of the season as they were beaten 16-13 at Wasps in Round 13 of the Gallagher Premiership season on Sunday.
A winning run which began on the same soil back in June was ended by three second-half penalties from Jimmy Gopperth, though Tigers still took one point from the game and remain on top of the table at the halfway mark in the campaign.
The run totalled 16 successive victories, including 15 in a row from the start of the season in all competitions and 11 in the league, just one short of the record achieved by Newcastle in 1997/98.
Tigers recovered from giving away a penalty try in the opening minutes – which also resulted in a yellow card for Tommy Reffell – to dominate the first half and led 13-7 following a score from Julian Montoya.
It could have been more too, with several charges up towards the tryline and George Ford missing two of his four penalty shots at goal.
But they ended the half a man down again after yellow for Ellis Genge and then found the scores level entering the last quarter after two Wasps penalties before Gopperth added the winning points with 12 minutes left on the clock in the 110th meeting of the clubs.
Genge was making his 100th appearance for Tigers, with Ollie Chessum and Jack van Poortvliet added to the starting line-up since the win over Newcastle last weekend. Jasper Wiese served the final game of his two-match suspension.
Wasps were forced into two late alterations when forwards Vaea Fifita and Tom West were ruled out by illness, providing a call-up for lock Tim Cardall and prop Robin Hislop in the starting pack. James Gaskell and Zac Nearchou were added to the bench.
After Ford got the game started, he quickly tested the Wasps back three with his kicking from hand, but it was a fortunate kick from the other end which provided a dream start for the hosts.
A clearing kick from Wasps was touched by a Tigers hand in flight, playing their retreating pack all onside near halfway. Brad Shields took play on and when hooker Tom Cruse was tackled short of the tryline and then the follow-up held up over it, referee Tom Foley checked replays before awarding a penalty try and yellow-carding Reffell for a tackle off the ball.
Tigers responded with a Ford penalty following a scrum 22 with eight minutes played.
They thought they’d done even more on 12 minutes when Harry Potter wriggled out of contact on the left and put in Jack van Poortvliet to score. But the referee had spotted an infringement in the build-up. He had been playing a penalty advantage, though, and Ford made the score 7-6 with the kick.
Ford missed his next two chances to put Tigers ahead, putting a 40-metre penalty wide and then thumping the post with a repeat on the 20-minute mark.
But Tigers, with Reffell back on the field, remained on the front foot with Potter and then Eli Snyman making indents in the defence before Wasps were able to clear the danger from well inside their own 22.
A penalty on halfway on 25 minutes finally gave Wasps an attacking platform, Jimmy Gopperth kicking to the right-hand corner. They were met with determined defence and, when Tigers were penalised again, Wasps built through a dozen phases close to the tryline before finally Dan Cole’s work over the ball was met with the referee’s whistle in his favour, to the delight of the large travelling support at the opposite end of the stadium.
Ford turned down a kick at goal on 32 minutes when Tigers got forward again, taking play instead into the right-hand corner, and it paid off with a try.
Montoya drove forward from the lineout with support from skipper Genge and then got on the ball again to score under a pile of bodies at the posts and Ford’s conversion made it 13-7 in Tigers’ favour.
A Genge surge took play up towards the line again but Tigers knocked-on as they looked to create space in the backline.
Reffell had to work hard to snuff out a counter-attack led by full-back Ali Crossdale and scrum-half Sam Wolstenholme, forcing a knock-on on the 10-metre line.
The scrum brought another Leicester penalty and a creative combination between Ford and Matt Scott in attack, but when Wasps were given a penalty at the tackle area, Genge was yellow-carded for a clash with Hougaard.
Wasps took play upfield but they remained 13-7 down when Gopperth put a penalty wide in the period’s closing action.
The hosts started the second half with more vigour with Gopperth and Charlie Atkinson trying to free the backline, and Dan Cole produced an important tackle in the corner as they threatened.
It was Cole’s last contribution as Borthwick sent on Joe Heyes, joined by Ben Youngs and Matias Moroni from the bench. But Wasps were enjoying a good spell of possession and brought the scores level with two Gopperth penalties in a three-minute spell approaching the hour mark.
Guy Porter made positive strides out of defence for Tigers and then stretched Wasps with a run down the right after Youngs had accelerated upfield on the opposite side.
But Wasps broke out of defence to gain a penalty which Gopperth slotted from the left to put them in front with just over 10 minutes left on the clock.
A miscue from Atkinson, screwing a kick infield directly to Youngs, put his side back under pressure, which increased when Crossdale knocked-on ball inside his own 22 near the touchline.
Tigers got a good shove at the scrum and then had a penalty on the opposite side when Kini Murimurivalu closed in on the tryline. They opted for a scrum in the corner, and had another whistle as the front rows popped up.
Youngs tapped and dived over the tryline but referee Foley wanted to come back for the penalty. Another whistle followed at the next scrum as Genge again called for the set-piece with Wasps under pressure.
Tigers played to the left where Chessum and then Youngs attacked the line, but just metres out, the scrum-half was penalised and Wasps could clear.
There was still time to find an opportunity for decisive points but Wasps got through their defensive duties as play remained within 30 metres of their tryline in the closing stages before a dropped ball gave them a chance to get out with the clock already on the 80-minute mark. Porter chased back to block the pass, though, to ensure that Tigers remained within losing bonus-point territory.