Leicester Tigers were narrowly beaten by top seeds Wasps in a nail-biting Premiership Rugby 7s quarter-final at Franklin’s Gardens on Saturday afternoon.
Tigers had faced Wasps in their opening Pool B match on Friday evening, but a bonus-point victory over Bath meant the young Leicester squad qualified for the knockout rounds of the main Cup competition on Saturday.
Kicking off in the Northampton sunshine, Tigers took first blood after Joe Browning caught the tournament favourites cold on the right hand side.
The wing used his big fend on a Wasps defender, before getting the ball back to Tigers captain Johnny McPhillips, who made a 20-metre pass to get the ball over to the opposite wing.
Wasps managed to steal the ball just a couple of phases later, but Jonny Law pounced on an intercept to score the game’s first try.
The men from Coventry hit back almost immediately, creating an overlap to put usual scrum-half Ben Vellacott through on the left which Jacob Umaga crucially converted.
Tigers edged in front moments later, though, when McPhillips ripped the ball from Wasps hands on halfway to feed Freddie Steward, who galloped in for a second Leicester score.
A third wasn’t far behind, when Browning created the space down the middle to feed guest player Toby Smith for a third on the stroke of half time, to put Tigers 15 points to seven in the lead.
Wasps then showed flashes of their play from Friday evening’s pool match, with three quick-fire tries through Callum Sirker, Paolo Odogwu and Jacob Umaga seemingly putting the game to bed with two minutes remaining.
But Tigers refused to let their Midlands rivals run away with the match as they had on day one of the competition, and Browning single-handedly beat three Wasps defenders – with another massive fend – to get by on the left.
Despite the late drama, there just wasn’t enough time left to get back on terms, and referee George Selwood blew his whistle for a full-time score of 26 points to 20 that saw Wasps through to the semi-finals.