Worcester Warriors denied Leicester Tigers a victory on the opening day of the league season as they recorded a 24-16 win at their Sixways home on Saturday.
Neither side was able to stretch a lead to more than five points until the final seconds of the game when Duncan Weir kicked his fourth penalty to push Warriors eight in front and deny Tigers even a consolation losing bonus point as they lost on opening day for a third successive season.
Tom Youngs claimed Tigers’ first Premiership try of the season after just 10 minutes but Warriors scored two of their own to lead 15-13 in front at the break and both teams failed to find an attacking rhythm in the second period which brought just three Weir kicks against one from Tom Hardwick.
In a second trip to Sixways in a month following the Premiership Cup tie in September, Tigers gave a Gallagher Premiership debut to five players and included EW Viljoen in the team for the first time since his arrival from South Africa. Noel Reid, Hanro Liebenberg, Nephi Leatigaga and academy graduate Tommy Reffell all played in Premiership rugby for the first time.
But Tigers also had to make a late change when Kyle Eastmond was ruled out by illness, giving a chance to Hardwick in the No12 shirt. Andy Forsyth filled the void among the replacements.
Tigers were looking for a first opening-day win since 2016 – when they scored a bonus-point win over Gloucester at Kingsholm – while Warriors have only ever won on two occasions at this stage of the season, against Sale in 2011 and Northampton in 2015.
Reid got the game underway, with Tigers in their alternate fluoro-red kit, and they quickly earned a first penalty of the afternoon, with Worcester prop Callum Black called at the set-piece, and Hardwick landed the kick.
But the lead lasted barely three more minutes as flanker Ted Hill barged his way over one tackle to score on Worcester’s right. Weir’s conversion attempt bounced back off the far post with his side 5-3 in front as they defended a home record which showed just one Premiership defeat at the venue in 2019.
Only four more minutes had passed when Youngs finished a lineout drive to dot down and Hardwick quickly added the extras.
The young centre, though, missed his next kick at goal after referee Maxwell-Keys spotted a high tackle on Greg Bateman and checked with the TMO before confirming initial contact at shoulder level.
The 20-minute mark arrived with Tigers 10-5 in front but they had to work hard in defence when Weir pushed play into the visitors’ 22, until Reffell’s work over the ball gained a penalty and a chance to clear.
The Wales U20s international stole ball in the next Worcester attack, too, but Tigers struggled to take play far enough upfield and paid the cost when Worcester secured a second try.
Tigers Academy graduate Perry Humphreys dived over for the score after some clever work in keeping ball alive on their left. Weir’s conversion put his side 12-10 ahead.
There were five minutes left in the half when Kitchener was penalised on the floor and Hardwick kicked from 35 metres to make it 13-12 to Tigers.
The visitors, though, returned the favour back in their own half and Weir responded with the penalty that put Warriors 15-13 in front as Tigers missed an opportunity to set up a scoring chance from two quick-fire penalties into the left-hand corner as the clock passed the 40-minute mark.
The opening phases of the second half were scrappy from both sides, with Tigers losing ball at a breakdown, then Ben White ripping it back in a tackle, only for the visitors to lose possession again on the right touchline.
Jonah Holmes had to be alert when Chris Pennell chipped over the Tigers defence, and the Wales international wing cleared up and punted 50 metres forward to avert the danger.
A knock-on from Cornell du Preez on his own 22 gave Tigers scrum ball and the visitors’ pack won a penalty with their pressure. Hardwick kicked the penalty for a 16-15 lead as Youngs was replaced by Jake Kerr.
The referee had his hands full at scrum-time, with a series of free-kicks and resets interrupting the flow, while Tigers also lost possession on their own ball as the ball squirted out on Worcester’s side just as they tried to get a push on.
Tigers also survived when Pennell threatened out wide, only to miss his pass to Melani Nanai on the wing just 10 metres out.
But a seatbelt tackle on the full-back on the other side of the pitch brought another penalty chance for Weir and he kicked his side in front at 18-16 with just over a quarter of an hour remaining on the clock.
Home side captain Mama then fell foul of the whistle as he contested possession on the floor just inside his own half and EW Viljoen took on the kick but pushed it wide.
The whistle went again in similar circumstances moments later, but this time well inside the Leiester half. Will Spencer was the last person to get back to his feet and he had been replaced by Harry Wells by the time George Worth punted forward on the left.
Set-piece ball allowed Worth to attack on the right but when replacement Jordan Olowofela failed to take his inside pass, play came back for a penalty at the original lineout. But Hardwick miscued his kick, much to the delight of the home crowd.
Warriors gained a scrum penalty just short of halfway with six minutes left to play and Weir landed the three points to stretch their advantage, repeating the dose in the final minute to seal the win.
THANK YOU FOR YOUR SUPPORT
Big thank you to all the supporters who made the trip down the M42 for this afternoon's game, as well as those of you following along at home.
We'll be back in Round 2 against Saracens at Welford Road next Sunday, October 27 (3.00pm). See you then.
FULL TIME | 24-16
...and that's the game. Worcester come away with all four points, and that late penalty means Tigers miss out on a losing bonus point.
Weir adds another three points with just seconds remaining at Sixways.
TWO MINUTES TO GO
Both of those changes are into the action straight away as we restart with a scrum on the left, and while Worcester come away with the ball they'll get another shot at goal after a high tackle from Liebenberg.
Conor Carey is off at tighthead, replaced by Richard Palframan.
Facundo Gigena takes the place of Greg Bateman in the Tigers front row.
WARRIORS TRUCK IT UP
Worcester look to break through - route one - but Tigers once again hold strong.
THROUGH THE UPRIGHTS
Weir adds another three from the tee for Warriors, to take their lead to 21 points to 16.
'RED, RED, RED'
Greg Bateman is pinged at the scrum for a loss of bind, and now it's the home side's turn for a shot at goal.
Not a good connection from Hardwick from the tee, and the ball goes dead as it misses low and left.
INTO THE HOME HALF
Tigers look to use a tasty-looking backs move, as the ball quickly gets out to the right-hand side and into the hands of Worth, who sprints around the defenders into the 22.
Olowofela can't quite claim the pass back inside, so we'll come back for a penalty from the last lineout.
SWAP IN THE ENGINE ROOM
Harry Wells joins the fray, in place of Will Spencer.
Marco Mama gives away a penalty for not releasing the ball carrier, and Tigers opt for the shot at goal from halfway.
EW Viljoen steps up to take it with his siege boot, and while the length is good it just shifts right of the uprights.
NOT THIS TIME...
The first real noise from the stands at Sixways in this second half, as Nanai is put away into space ... but is brought back for a forward pass.
Cornell du Preez leaves the field, to have his place taken at No8 by GJ van Velze.
WEIR ADDS THREE
The Warriors fly-half nudges his side ahead by a nose, 18 points to 16.
TRIO OF CHANGES
Nephi Leatigaga, Sam Harrison and Jordan Olowofela are all onto the field, in place of Joe Heyes, Ben White and Adam Thompstone, respectively.
Worcester still trying to break through the fluoro-red wall, but Tigers are having none of it.
Viljoen's final tackle is a little high, though, and Weir will take a shot at goal.
ON THE BACKFOOT
Worcester push forward and sniff another overlap on the left-hand side, but Pennell can't quite make it work before the ball, once again, spills off the field.
Viljoen bursts downfield with his first second-half touch of the ball, but Worcester manage to get up and underneath the ball and put him into touch on halfway.
Ethan Waller comes onto the field in place of Callum Black at loosehead for Worcester.
This passage play is certainly one for the purists...
We've had a hell of a lot of reset scrums, and not a lot of ball in hand. Worcester somehow get the ball away, but spill it as they make it into Tigers' final quarter.
"We'll go for the pen, then..."
Tigers get a good nudge on at a scrum on halfway, and opt for the reset.
Former Tigers lock Graham Kitchener is replaced by Michael Fatialofa in the Warriors second row.
TO THE BACK
Green takes a huuuge throw at the tail of the lineout, and get their maul motoring up towards halfway.
It's messy, though, and a Worcester forward just about keeps his bind as he disrupts the shove.
BUNDLED INTO TOUCH
Holmes bundles a Worcester runner into touch on this near side to remove the latest running threat, and Jake Kerr will have a first throw of the game.
CHANGE AT HOOKER
Tom Youngs is replaced by Jake Kerr in the visitors' front row. Calum Green will take on the captaincy.
TIGERS NUDGE AHEAD
...and it's through! Hardwick makes sure of the three points with a big penalty kick to put Tigers ahead once more.
IN THE RED ZONE
Tigers playing their rugby in the right areas of the field, here, winning a scrum inside the 22 and then turning it into a shot at goal.
Hardwick sets up his tee...
GREAT WORK FROM JONAH
Worcester win their throw, and shift through the gears as the ball makes it out to Nanai and Humphreys.
They chip forward, but Holmes gathers in the final quarter and then runs it out of the 22 before putting in a brilliant touch-finder on right-hand side.
Leicester into possession, and attempt to but the ball through the hands over to Thompstone on his right wing, but the ball bobbles into touch.
All 30 players will be grateful for the breather before we restart with a Worcester throw.
TOUGH DEFENSIVE WORK
Tigers being forced into a big defensive shift at the start of this second half, with Worcester trucking the ball up from everywhere.
The red wall is staying strong, though, and is keeping the home side on halfway.
SECOND HALF UNDERWAY
Duncan Weir boots the ball downfield and we're away in the second half at Sixways.
HALF TIME | 15-13
Worcester have the narrowest of leads over Tigers after a to-and-fro first half here at Sixways.
The first throw goes to hand, but Tigers lose the ball out the back with a handling error so have another chance ... but the second lineout doesn't quite go to plan either, and Hougaard puts the ball out for half-time.
But Tigers come out of the blocks fastest from the restart, and win a free-kick of their own which Hardwick boots into touch for a lineout deep in the far corner.
The home side double down on a couple of Tigers mistakes, and Weir adds another three to their tally.
Both sides engage in a bit of kick tennis, as Pennell escapes a possible Viljoen charge down with a high kick to Tigers full-back Worth.
But Worth miskicks his return, and slices into touch well inside the Leicester half.
Hardwick's penalty is straight and true, and put Tigers a point ahead once more.
BACK AND FORTH
Worcester's throw isn't straight, so Tigers choose to restart with a scrum. They lose the ball quickly afterwards, though, and Warriors kick downfield to George Worth and Jonah Holmes.
But as we come back from left to right the home side give away another penalty and Hardwick will have another kick at goal.
HANRO HITS HARD
Liebenberg forces a Worcester knock-on with a big tackle, to relieve the pressure that was building in Tigers' 22.
Ben White box kicks to safety, and Tom Youngs hacks forward to put the home side back in their own quarter of the field for the first time in a while. We'll pause for some treatment for a Worcester player.
Weir's conversion nudges the Warriors back ahead.
HUMPHREYS DASHES OVER
Worcester create an overlap on the left, and it's Perry Humphreys who dashes over to even up the scores, 10 points apiece.
BACK ROW GRIND
All three Tigers back-rowers are working extremely hard. If it's not Guy Thompson clearing out a ruck, it's Hanro Liebenberg putting in a crunching tackle or Tommy Reffell protecting his scrum-half.
WORCESTER PUSH ON
The Warriors once again look dangerous with ball in hand, and this time win a penalty of their own after Calum Green struggles to roll away from a ruck.
Weir sticks the ball deep into Tigers territory, and there will be a throw on Leicester's 22.
Tigers are forced into a robust maul defence as Worcester take their line-out on the right, before breaking away with one-out runners.
Just as they look to be nudging closer to the line, one of the fluoro-red defenders gets a hand to it and the home side are pinged at the breakdown. Nice work.
Tigers have had all the ball in the last five minutes or so, so when Worcester get a sniff they try and break through their backs.
But Weir's pass out to left wing Melani Nanai was a fair distance forwards, and Maxwell-Keys brings us back.
SHOT AT GOAL
...and the decision is penalty only. Hardwick makes a good connection with the ball from the tee, but it's a near-miss on the far side.
There's an almighty noise on halfway as Greg Bateman is taken high by Worcester captain Marco Mama.
Referee Craig Maxwell-Keys wants a closer look, so we'll go to the TMO...
...and it's a good push. Warriors whip the ball out quickly to save giving away the penalty, but Tigers manage to win it back.
Two knock-ons - one from each team - in quick succession mean we'll scrum down on halfway.
Returning Tigers coach Boris Stankovich is licking his lips...
CALL FOR THE MARK
Tigers string some decent passes of their own together on halfway, but Noel Reid decides to go for territory with a kick over the top. Full-back Chris Pennell grabs it, and call for the mark. We'll restart with a throw-in just inside the visitors' half.
WARRIORS INTO TOUCH
Worcester scrum-half Francois Hougaard tries to get his backline firing once again, but the ball makes it into touch. Tigers throw.
AND THE EXTRAS
Hardwick's conversion takes Tigers' lead to 10 points to five.
TIGERS RUMBLE OVER
Will Spencer climbs highest at the lineout to set up a strong maul. Tom Youngs dots down from the back to put Tigers back ahead.
HALF BREAK FROM VILJOEN
EW Viljoen has already had a couple of good involvements on his Tigers debut, and now make a half break through the Warriors line.
Tigers win another penalty on the ground, and Hradwick boots the ball into the corner.
CONVERSION SLIDES WIDE
Duncan Weir's conversion attempt slides wide.
WORCESTER PRESSURE TELLS
The Warriors take the ball into the Tigers 22 through some heavy carries, and Ted Hill ultimately makes it through to scroe on the right.
FIRST POINTS FOR HARDWICK
Tom Hardwick slots an early penalty and takes the first points of Tigers' new league campaign.
Tigers string together some neat phases in the early stages of this game, with George Worth's offload just beyond the reach of Adam Thompstone on the right wing.
The visitors were working with penalty advantage, though, and we'll come back for an attempt from the tee.
PREMIERSHIP RUGBY IS BACK!
Noel Reid gets us underway at Sixways.
ONTO THE PITCH
Tigers take to their field in their fluoro-red alternate kit, to a roar from the travelling support.
FIVE MINUTES TO GO
Both sides have finished their final warm-ups under glorious blue skies here in Worcester, with just moments to go until Tigers get their new Gallagher Premiership campaign underway...
CONFIRMED TEAM NEWS
Tigers head coach Geordan Murphy has been forced into a late change ahead of today’s game.
Kyle Eastmond is ruled out through illness, and Tom Hardwick steps up to fill the inside centre slot. Tigers Academy graduate Andy Forsyth comes onto the bench.
Elsewhere, six Tigers are in line to make their Gallagher Premiership debuts, while outside centre EW Viljoen appears in Leicester colours for the first time in any competition.
Viljoen, Hardwick and Calum Green are the only changes to the side that started against Northampton Saints in the final Premiership Rugby Cup fixture.
See the full match line-ups by clicking here, or scrolling down on this page.
WE’RE ON THE RIGHT TRACK, SAYS WHITE
Tigers scrum-half Ben White has paid tribute to the club’s passionate support ahead of this afternoon’s league opener.
“Their support means everything,” he told LeicesterTigers.com. “Our supporters are the club – they are Leicester Tigers – and they support us through thick and thin.
“We didn’t do them justice last year, and we probably didn’t show our appreciation enough, but they dug in deep for us and we want to make sure we’re putting in a performance that’s worthy of them.
“We want to make sure we are doing them proud.”
Catch more of the starting scrum-half’s Round 1 preview here.
YOUNGS ITCHING TO GO
Club captain Tom Youngs insists his Tigers side are ready to go in ‘one of the best tournaments in the world’ as the Premiership returns this weekend.
“We’re trying to put pride back into the shirt, and we are,” Youngs said. “I think you can see that in some of our performances [so far], and some of that old-school Tigers grit.
“What I’m bothered about is, come Saturday, if we are showing the things we talk about.
“That’s what excites me heading into Round 1 of the Premiership.”
Read the hooker’s full preview of this afternoon’s game here.
ROUND 1 PREVIEW
After a grueling 16-week pre-season schedule, including four Cup clashes, Tigers are set to go in the Gallagher Premiership.
These two teams have met on 33 previous occasions, with Leicester taking 26 wins to the Warriors’ seven. However, Alan Solomons’ men have had the edge in recent meetings; winning five of the last six.
It goes without saying – but we’ll say it anyway – that Tigers will be looking to put that right this afternoon.
Read our full match preview here, or scroll down on this page.
WELCOME TO MATCHDAY LIVE!
We’re LIVE from Sixways for Tigers’ Gallagher Premiership opener against Worcester Warriors, with kick-off at 3.00pm.
Follow all the action as it happens with our Matchday Live coverage, right here on the Tigers App and LeicesterTigers.com.