Two tries from Ellis Genge helped Leicester Tigers to secure an 18-17 victory at Worcester Warriors in Round 20 of the Gallagher Premiership season on Saturday.
Chasing a first win at Sixways since March 2018 and a first away victory since the trip to Gloucester in Round 13, Tigers conceded tries at each end of the first half to trail 14-6 at the break before hitting back.
After an early penalty from Warriors in the second half, Genge twice forced his way over the tryline from close range, with Zack Henry’s conversion of the second giving Tigers the lead for the first time just short of the hour on the way to a home-and-away double over Worcester.
The teams ran out to a warm reception from a 3,100 crowd, permitted with the relaxation of Covid measures, 15 months to the day since they met in the last game to host a crowd at the Tigers’ home before lockdown.
On a sunny Bank Holiday weekend afternoon, McPhillips got the game started and Nemani Nadolo was quickly into the action, carrying twice in midfield while Henry pinned Warriors back with a clever kick into the corner.
But Warriors were rewarded for strong work on the floor on halfway with turnover ball which fly-half Fin Smith kicked teasingly into the corner. When Tigers were held up in possession from the lineout, Worcester used the scrum to launch a first attack and they used it to good effect with a converted try for a 7-0 lead inside six minutes.
It was full-back Freddie Shillcock who scored on the right after Perry Humphreys had worked hard to keep ball alive and the No15 added the conversion.
A break by McPhillips and then Genge threatened an immediate response but play was hauled back for a penalty for obstruction.
Another penalty, this time for offside chasing a clearing kick, put pressure back on Tigers but big tackles from Charlie Clare and Joe Heyes kept Worcester out until the whistle went in the defenders’ favour.
It was a fast and frantic opening for Warriors, encouraging home supporters with their tempo in attack, but Tigers got on the scoreboard with a Henry penalty after McPhillips had pinned down Shillcock with a perfectly-timed tackle in chasing a kick from Youngs.
Tigers were playing with advantage inside the Warriors 22 when referee Karl Dickson penalised Nadolo as he chased a cross-kick and tackled Shillcock with the full-back still in the air.
Shillcock was then caught near his own line by Matt Scott, but when Henry’s bouncing kick looped over the last defender it also kept going over the deadball line and play came back for a scrum 40 metres upfield.
Henry missed a 40-metre penalty following Nadolo’s work at the breakdown, but the full-back was successful with his next chance on 30 minutes to make it 7-6.
But Warriors responded with their second try, gaining phases of possession before skipper Ted Hill broke two tackles and kept his momentum going on hands and knees towards the tryline and Shillcock made it 14-6 with the conversion two minutes short of half-time.
Shillcock started the second half by extending that lead with a penalty from the halfway line.
But when hooker Niall Annett was sin-binned at a maul close to his own line, Genge took a tap penalty and forced his way over the line over the support from his colleagues. Henry’s conversion came back off the post with the score at 17-11.
Strong lineout defence and then Reffell’s work over the ball kept Warriors out again and when a lineout drive was stopped illegally, Tigers issued punishment with a second try for Genge, taking the final push from a maul on the left. Henry’s conversion put his team in front for the first time at 18-17 on 57 minutes, to the delight of the travelling fans gathered at that end of the stadium.
Tomas Lavanini and George Martin joined the forward pack just after the hour and they were central to another determined push for the line after breaks by Genge and scrum-half replacement jack van Poortvliet. But Warriors held out and were finally given a penalty award almost on the chalk.
Humphreys’ pace threatened on the Worcester right before being tackled by Scott, and when Reffell got over the breakdown, the whistle brought welcome relief as Tigers had been on the defensive just inside their own half for more than a dozen phases.
Tigers were then penalised at their own lineout on halfway but Shillcock shot well wide from halfway with his team one point down.
Warriors got straight back on the offensive, with the crowd right behind them, as Hill almost found his way to the corner before being closed out by a try-saving tackle just a couple of metres out from Potter and Liebenberg.
Tigers still had to defend the lineout and, when the throw was ruled not straight, they also stood firm at the scrum, gaining their own penalty with one point still separating the teams and four minutes left on the clock.
When wing Doel was then caught under pressure back in his own half, referee Dickson blew in Tigers’ favour but Henry kicked his penalty wide.
Tigers still had to negotiate a few extra minutes, with Kini Murimurivalu’s big carry in midfield and some good work at close quarters from Lavanini and Cole to tidy up possession until a final scrum with the clock on zero.
The team acknowledged their supporters before heading for the tunnel with four points banked in sixth place in the table before the final two games against Bristol Bears at Mattioli Woods Welford Road next Saturday and then at Wasps in Round 22. Both games are open to supporters and tickets are available now.