Leicester Tigers scored four tries in the Premiership Rugby Cup derby with Northampton Saints on Saturday but took only a consolation point from a 22-31 defeat at Welford Road.
The Round 4 fixture swung one way and then the other after Saints had taken the lead with a Dave Ribbans try, only to be pegged back when Jonah Holmes twice found his way to the left-hand corner for Tigers.
Then, after a second for Ribbans gave the visitors a 14-10 lead at the break, two tries in two minutes from Will Spencer and Noel Reid pushed Tigers in front again early in the second half with an eight-point advantage and a semi-final spot still within reach.
But back came Saints with a breakaway try for Tom Collins and then a clinical finish from Fraser Dingwall to go in front at 28-22 approaching the final 10 minutes and they added a penalty soon afterwards to put some daylight between the teams.
Tigers kicked off just one point behind Exeter Chiefs (who were at home to Bristol Bears) and Bath, who finished their programme with a win at Gloucester on Friday, but still in the hunt for a semi-final place while Saints were bottom of Pool 1 after three rounds.
After a minute’s silence for former players Mike Mortimer and Steve Booth, it was Reid who got the game underway, kicking towards the Robin Hood End, in the 244th meeting of the East Midlands rivals.
But Saints made good use of early ball, spreading play wide and then channelling it through the forwards up towards the Tigers line. After several attempts from close range, though, they finally lost possession forwards and were then penalised as Tigers kept the ball in the scrum five metres out.
Saints were also called for sealing off as they defended a chipped kick from Reid just inside their own half but escaped as the home side over-shot the lineout.
The visitors made the most of it, claiming the opening score as scrum-half Henry Taylor squirmed through a gap at a ruck and passed on to second-rower Ribbans to run in under the posts. James Grayson added the conversion for a seven-point lead with just under 10 minutes played.
When Saints gained a breakdown penalty 30 metres out from the Tigers line, they punted into the corner but were pushed back five metres as the home pack timed their defence perfectly at the lineout and then forced handling error.
But Saints dominated possession in the opening quarter, with Taqele Naiyaravoro looking to offload ball in the danger area and Andy Symons carrying strongly in midfield.
Ifereimi Boladau replaced Tommy Reffell in the Tigers back row with his side on their own lineout ball five metres from their line and, when the home side were given a penalty it led to a score at the opposite end.
First, Tigers claimed ball near halfway and, playing with an advantage, Reid chipped over the defence and then threw a long pass out to the left wing where Holmes beat Ryan Olowofela and raced in to score. Reid’s conversion kick drifted across the posts with the score 7-5 in the visitors’ favour.
From the restart, Tigers counter-attacked again with George Worth picking his way out of his own 22 and then Reid breaking upfield. When he was stopped by Naiyaravoro, the assistant referee called for a penalty and Reid was able to take sights at the posts.
The fly-half, however, failed to connect with the kick from the tee and pulled it wide with Saints still two points in front.
Ben White’s cheeky blindside break from a scrum got Tigers going forward but when he kicked ahead, it was superb work over the ball from Boladau which halted Saints’ progress as they threatened to break out from inside their own half with men spare out wide.
This time, after Will Spencer caught the throw and Boladau carried again, Reid picked out Holmes near the touchline and, after making contact with Saints defender Olowofela, regained his feet and dived in for his second to give Tigers the lead for the first time.
Saints, though, were next on the scoreboard with a second for Ribbans, finishing a clinical attack from a lineout on the left with a timely arrival on to ball from scrum-half Taylor. Grayson’s conversion made it 14-10 in their favour with seven minutes remaining in the half.
Holmes was penalised for a deliberate knock-on midway inside the Tigers half of the field, and Grayson quickly took play into the corner in front of the Terrace, and the home side had to hold out for the final moments of the half.
There were no line-up changes for the start of the second period and, after weathering more Northampton possession early on, Tigers put together phases of possession in the attacking half.
When Ribbans was whistled for a high tackle on Spencer, Tigers went for the lineout option on the left and it was the second-rower who steered the drive over the line for his first try for the club in his 22nd appearance.
And more followed as a quick exchange of passes involving Eastmond and Forsyth put Reid in to score under the posts and the fly-half added the extras to make it 22-14.
Tigers were still looking to add to their tally with Eastmond eyeing the break in midfield and Liebenberg carrying strongly when Saints broke out to cut the gap to a single point.
When Hutchinson picked off a Tigers offload on the edge of his own 22, he broke upfield and then kicked ahead for replacement Tom Collins to pick up and score. Grayson’s extras trimmed the deficit to 22-21 on 62 minutes.
Then they added a bonus-point score from Dingwall to go in front, executing a lineout move 35 metres out and two passes later the young centre raced through on a diagonal to dot down. Grayson’s conversion made it 22-28.
When Tigers were penalised at a scrum near halfway and then at the resulting lineout, Grayson called for the tee and kicked the three-pointer to put his side more than one score in front with exactly five minutes left on the clock.
Entering the final minute, Tigers went to the left-hand corner from a scrum penalty and had two more whistles in their favour as they looked to finish but were finally wrapped up on the floor as the game came to a close.
THANK YOU FOR YOUR SUPPORT
Thank you to everyone who cheered on the boys in another tough Derby Day match this afternoon, whether you were part of the 16,160 here at Welford Road, or following along on Matchday Live.
Tigers are back in action in Round 1 of the Gallagher Premiership next Saturday, October 19, and return home for Round 2 with Saracens on Sunday, October 27.
LEOVEGAS FANS' FAVOURITE
Jonah Holmes picks up the LeoVegas Fans' Favourite award for his performance this afternoon, with just over half of the vote.
FULL TIME | 22-31
Tigers come up short in their final Premiership Rugby Cup game, as Saints take the spoils on Derby Day this time around.
...but Saints win a penalty on the ground, and that's the game.
Tigers are stopped in their tracks at the maul this time around, and Holmes is taken high by Grayson as the ball makes its way out to the middle of the pitch.
The home side will have another lineout with the clock into the red.
We'll go for another throw, same place.
HOLMES KICKS TO TOUCH
The home side win the scrum penalty, and Holmes steps up to boot the ball into touch. Tigers claim the lineout on the five-metre line, and win advantage at the maul.
Collins didn't seem to read the script, though, and he knocks on as he looks to take the ball at pace in the visitors' backfield. Tigers scrum.
The game restarts with a Saints throw on halfway, and they'll look to slow the ball down with a couple of minutes remaining...
PICK UP FROM SAM
Tigers push on from the restart, and replacement scrum-half Harrison takes the ball of his bootlaces at pace. Lovely stuff.
THREE MORE FOR SAINTS
James Grayson nudges three more points ahead with a simple kick from the Tigers 22.
EMPTY THE BENCH
Tigers make their final change as Andy Forsyth is replaced by Jordan Olowofela in the backs.
SAINTS SCRUM PENALTY
Saints appear to walk the scrum around a corner, but Ridley's arm is up in their favour and Grayson will put boot to ball.
Gaston Cortes takes the place of Joe Heyes in the Tigers front row, and is into the action immediately as we scrum down.
ON THE 22
The game will restart with a scrum on the away 22, Saints feed. Just over 10 minutes to go.
Ben White is replaced by Sam Harrison as Tigers pivot.
James Mitchell replaces Saints scrum-half Henry Taylor.
PLUS THE EXTRAS
Grayson adds two more, and Northampton now lead 28 points to 22.
DINGWALL SCORES FOR SAINTS
Saints are in for their bonus-point score, as outside centre Dingwall spots a gap to burst through the Tigers line.
Noel Reid is replaced by Tom Hardwick.
BUMP FROM HANRO
Tigers truck the ball up into the guts of the Saints defence, and Liebenberg bumps off Rory Hutchinson to make another couple of metres.
AND THE EXTRAS
Grayson's conversion takes Saints to within one point of Tigers' lead, with a quarter of the game remaining.
COLLINS WINS THE RACE
Against the run of play, Fraser Dingwall intercepts a loose Tigers pass and chips ahead for Tom Collins, who races home for his side's third try of the afternoon.
GREEN REPLACES WELLS
Calum Green is on for Tigers, replacing the hard-working Harry Wells in Leicester's engine room.
Another trio of changes for Northampton, as Alex Moon, Mitch Eadie and Rory Hutchinson all run onto the field in place of JJ Tonks, Heinrich Brüssow and Andy Symons.
A frustrated slap of the Tigers coaches' glass screen as the ball is spilled once again. Saints will restart the game with a scrum.
LEOVEGAS FANS' FAVOURITE
Jonah Holmes is, err, somewhat ahead in the LeoVegas Fans' Favourite so far...
Don't forget you can vote using your Tigers App.
Tigers skipper Tom Youngs takes a round of applause as he is replaced by Jake Kerr. Ben White reverts to Leicester captain.
GUY CLIMBS HIGH
Guy Thompson climbs highest - above monster wing Naiyaravoro - under a high ball, to another big cheer from the Welford Road crowd.
Shouts of 'let's go' from the Tigers pack as their scrum is reset for a second, then third time. White comes away with the ball and breaks from the home 22 up towards halfway.
Tom Collins and front-rowers Ben Franks and Paul Hill are all on for the visitors, in place of Ryan Olowofela, Francois van Wyk and Ehren Painter.
The Irishman converts his own try, and Tigers lead 20 points to 14.
REID SCORES FOR TIGERS
Tigers make the most of a broken field, and it's fly-half Noel Reid who gallops home under the posts at the Mattioli Woods end.
The conversion attempt is just wide, so Tigers have a one-point lead.
TIGERS RUMBLE OVER
Tigers take their lineout throw right on the Saints line, and the forwards push their way over with a powerful maul. Will Spencer comes up with the ball.
LEATIGAGA MAKES HOME DEBUT
Nephi Leatigaga joins the action in place of Facundo Gigena and makes his Welford Road debut.
UP AND OVER
Now it's Tigers' turn to push up to the tryline, and the Welford Road crowd grow ever louder as the Leicester pack puncture the Saints defence time after time.
Now up to the five-metre line as we pause for a popular substitution...
Northampton shift right with each carry, ending up under the Tigers posts, where Liebenberg is there to wrap up man and ball on the floor and win his side a precious penalty.
DEFENDING THE LINES
Saints win an early scrum penalty, and Grayson kicks to touch for a lineout on the home 22. Henry Taylor taps and goes from another penalty at the throw, and Heinrich Brüssow gets up to five metres out before he is brought to ground.
SECOND HALF UNDERWAY
James Grayson gets this second half underway at Welford Road.
HALF TIME | 10-14
Ben White boots the ball into the Breedon Terrace to end this first half, with visitors Northampton leading by a nose.
The ball is in for five, six ... SEVEN seconds, before Ridley raises an arm on the Tigers side for a strong squeeze at scrum-time. Reid kicks to touch with seconds remaining in this first half.
Tigers doing all that they can to protect their lines here, as Joe Heyes drives into a Saints attacker. The ball is unplayable on the ground, so the visitors are awarded the put-in at the scrum.
Northampton grab possession at the throw-in, but it's a messy maul which doesn't get any better once the ball comes out, and we'll go back for another lineout.
HOLMES KNOCKS ON
Saints have the momentum once more, and Holmes tries to stop it by going for the intercept, but knocks on in the process.
Referee Christophe Ridley sees it as a genuine attempt at an intercept, though, and so Saints will come back for a penalty only. Grayson kicks to the corner.
Grayson adds two more from the tee, and Saints lead 14 points to 10.
RIBBANS ADDS ANOTHER
The visitors cross for a second through lock Ribbans, who goes over from close range.
The home scrum holds strong, and Hanro Liebenberg picks and goes from the base to pull the trigger on a slick backs move.
Holmes is the last man on the right, but his support can't quite get there in time and the ball is lost to a Saints penalty.
SAINTS KNOCK ON
Naiyaravoro goes to claim a speculative Tigers kick, but the ball bobbles up and he's forced to rush into two Leicester defenders, who force him to spill the ball. Tigers scrum.
Reid's conversion attempt is hooked left, but Tigers now lead 10 points to seven.
SECONDS FOR JONAH
Will Spencer climbs highest to claim Tom Youngs's throw, and the ball goes out to the right before coming back through the forwards for Holmes to score in his favourite corner. Nicely done!
WHITE ON THE BLINDSIDE
After a couple of resets, scrum-half Ben White comes away with the ball and nips through on the blindside to make 20 metres down the right.
The defenders are quickest to the ball, though, and so they push back over halfway with a burst of their own. Boladau wins a penalty on the floor and Tigers will kick to the corner for an attacking lineout.
BACK AND FORTH
After that big burst from Tigers, the visitors are trying to wrangle back control of this Derby Day clash. We'll restart with a Tigers scrum on the far side of the pitch.
LOW AND WIDE
Reid didn't seem to get a great connection with that one, as his penalty attempt goes low and to the left. Still Tigers 5, Saints 7.
CUT TO RIBBONS
Tigers really shifting through the gears now, as George Worth makes metres down the right and puts Reid through a hole.
The fly-half is 'tackled' by Naiyaravoro, who is penalised for not wrapping his arms. Reid will take a shot at goal.
SCORE FOR HOLMES
Brilliant play from Tigers as the ball comes off the lineout to Reid, who chips, chases and feeds Holmes, who beats THREE defenders on his way over the line.
A whince from the crowd as one of the Saints defenders goes in hard on - we think from here - Ben White. Penalty only, so Reid puts boot to ball to make some territory.
HIA FOR REFFELL
Tommy Reffell is off for a HIA, and is replaced by Ifereimi Boladau for his Welford Road debut.
Northampton have the ball once again, and are hitting it up from side-to-side - first through winger Ryan Olowofela, and then back to the left where big man Taqele Naiyaravoro lies in wait.
They can't break through, though, so go for distance and stick the ball into the corner once again.
Saints claim their lineout and start to slowly rumble towards the Tigers line, but Guy Thompson is there to rip the ball and remove the threat.
KICK TO TOUCH
Tigers put the ball through hands again, this time on the far side of the field with Andy Forsyth and Adam Thompstone, but the ball is turned over on the floor - via a penalty - and Grayson kicks to the corner.
The Tigers pack get another good push going from a lineout, and then ship the ball out to the backs to push forward into the Saints half.
HEAD INJURY ASSESSMENT
Saints hooker James Fish goes off for a HIA after that ruck, so he's replaced by Michael van Vuuren.
Tigers get a decent nudge on at that scrum, with loosehead Facundo Gigena driving through. The ball comes out for a ruck, and Saints No8 and captain Teimana Harrison is penalised for going off his feet.
PAUSE FOR TREATMENT
Saints spill the ball after another press up to the edge of the Tigers 22, but we'll pause for some treatment to a Northampton back-rower. We'll restart with a Leicester scrum.
James Grayson adds the extras, and Saints lead seven points to nil at Welford Road.
SAINTS CUT THROUGH
Northampton score the opening try of the match after a break from scrum-half Henry Taylor to feed David Ribbans.
10 TO 10
Tigers get the ball for their first piece of real possession in this game, and they make it count.
After a neat little chip-and-chase from Jonah Holmes, fly-halves James Grayson and Noel Reid engage in a little bit of kick tennis, before Northampton spill the ball again.
Saints loosehead Francois van Wyk is pinged at the scrum and Tigers kick downfield from the ensuing penalty.
Saints still have the ball near the Tigers line, but Will Spencer puts in a BIG tackle on second-rower Alex Coles, before the visitors knock-on.
We'll scrum down for the first time this afternoon on the Tigers five-metre line.
EARLY SAINTS POSSESSION
The visitors have had the lion's share of the ball so far, and after a couple of robust runs they're up into the Tigers 22 with a lineout throw.
DERBY DAY IS A GO!
Noel Reid boots the ball into the sky to get us underway in this Derby Day clash at Welford Road.
Both teams are out onto the Welford Road turf, but before we get going we'll have a minute's silence in a tribute to Mike Mortimer and Steve Booth; two members of the Tigers Family we lost during the summer.
BACK IN THE SHEDS
Tom Youngs leads his side back into the dressing rooms, to a roar from the Breedon Terrace. Just a couple of minutes to go until they're back out and we're underway.
FIVE MINUTES TO GO
With just five minutes to go until kick-off in this Derby Day fixture, hear the thoughts of head coach Geordan Murphy below.
CONFIRMED TEAM NEWS
Tigers head coach Geordan Murphy makes a number of changes to the side that beat Bath last time out for this final pool fixture.
Club captain Tom Youngs and prop Facundo Gigena return to the front row, while Will Spencer starts in the engine room after recovering from a knock against Exeter.
Hanro Liebenberg is included in the back row, while fly-half Noel Reid and centre pairing Kyle Eastmond and Andy Forsyth return to the backline that functioned so well here in Round 2.
Former England 7s man Ryan Olowofela, brother of Tigers speedster Jordan, lines up on the right wing for a Northampton side captained by No8 Teimana Harrison. Saints can also call on former Tigers hooker Michael van Vuuren from the bench.
See the full match line-ups by clicking here, or scrolling down on this page.
REFFELL READY TO GO AGAIN
Tommy Reffell, shortlisted for the Premiership Rugby Cup Breakthrough Player Award following his starring role at Bath last weekend, has also previewed this afternoon’s big match.
“I’m ready to go again, against Saints at Welford Road,” he said. “They don’t get much more exciting than that.”
Catch more of the back-rower’s Derby Day preview here.
REID PREVIEWS SAINTS CLASH
Ahead of his first East Midlands Derby, new recruit Noel Reid looks back on Tigers’ recent form, shares his thoughts on the Premiership Cup clash with Northampton Saints at Welford Road and tells LTTV why the Leicester squad isn’t getting ahead of themselves after back-to-back victories.
Watch Reid’s full preview of this afternoon’s game on LTTV here.
DERBY DAY PREVIEW
A Derby Day clash with Tigers’ oldest and fiercest rivals is a fitting climax to the pool stages of this season’s Premiership Rugby Cup, with a week to go until the domestic season proper gets underway.
This afternoon’s match is the 244th meeting between these two sides, with Tigers knowing that victory over the current Cup-holders could be enough to qualify for February’s semi-finals.
Read our full match preview here, or scroll down on this page.
WELCOME TO MATCHDAY LIVE!
We’re LIVE from Welford Road for this afternoon’s Premiership Rugby Cup clash with Northampton Saints, 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.