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Late try ends Tigers fightback at Saracens

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Leicester Tigers returned home from Allianz Park empty-handed after a last-minute Saracens try denied them a losing bonus point in their final Anglo-Welsh Cup pool fixture.

Tigers trailed 22-20 going into the closing stages after fighting back from 16 points down thanks to tries by Luke Hamilton and George McGuigan.
 
But Saracens ended Tigers’ hopes of victory, and with it a home semi-final, with a late score for Tom Whiteley that gave the hosts a 29-20 victory.
 
Saracens scored first-half tries through Richard Barrington, Nathan Earle and Nick Tompkins to wrestle control of the game before Tigers hit back late in the first half through Hamilton. McGuigan’s first try in Tigers colours threatened a fightback before Whiteley’s score ended the contest.
 
New signing Maxime Mermoz was named on the bench after completing his move to Welford Road during the week. Pat Cilliers and McGuigan were called into the front row alongside Michele Rizzo. Harry Thacker moved to the back row for his 50th Tigers appearance alongside Tom Croft and Luke Hamilton.

Peter Betham and Freddie Burns come into the backline, Sam Harrison returned at scrum-half and George Worth started at full-back.
 
The game was slow to get going with both sides guilty of early mistakes. Sarries twice knocked on as they looked to attack the wide channels while Tigers lost a good position when they infringed at a 5m lineout.
 
Saracens threatened in the 10th minute when Nathan Earle tested Harrison’s defence but the Tigers scrum-half, with the help of captain Dom Barrow, held up the winger over the line.
 
Saracens secured possession at the scrum and when prop Richard Barrington joined the attack his momentum took him up to the line for the first try of the game. Whiteley converted to give the hosts a 7-0 lead.
 
They grabbed a second try moments later with Whiteley at the heart of the move. Matt Gallagher joined the attack from full-back and slid a kick through for Earle to score at the left corner.
 
A clash of heads with Charlie Thacker forced Petrus Du Plessis from the field for blood. The game restarted with a scrum at which Tigers won a penalty and Burns kicked their first points.
 
Burns looked to attack from deep when he tapped and ran a penalty on his own 22. However, he was stripped of possession in the tackle and Nick Tompkins had an easy run to the line. Whiteley converted to put Saracens 19-3 ahead.
 
Tigers continued to come under plenty of pressure and conceded a penalty for offside. Whiteley struck a post with his kick and Hamilton gathered possession for Burns to clear.
 
George Catchpole was hurt in a tackle on the left touchline as he launched a counterattack and was replaced by Tom Brady.
 
Tigers' first period of sustained pressure in the Saracens 22 was rewarded a try five minutes before the break. Croft, Rizzo and Barrow made good yards before Hamilton spun out of a tackle and over for his second try for Tigers. Burns added the extras.
 
Whiteley mishit a penalty across the posts just before the break to leave the score at 19-10 at half-time.
 
Tigers began the second period on the front foot but Burns was wide with a testing early penalty from the right touchline.
 
Tigers hammered away at the Saracens defence in the first 10 minutes of the second period. Barrow and McGuigan gave the team some momentum before Charlie Thacker threw a forward pass as Peter Betham sensed a chance on the right.
 
The pressure eventually told when McGuigan burst onto Harrison’s flat pass on the Saracens 22, through a hole in the defence to score his first Tigers try. Burns landed the conversion to leave Tigers 19-17 behind after 52 minutes.
 
Mike Williams and Brendon O’Connor were introduced for Harry Thacker and Hamilton.
 
Saracens took the sting out of the Tigers attack with their own spell of possession that ended with a penalty for a high tackle in front of the posts. Whiteley knocked over his kick to move the hosts five points ahead.
 
Mermoz was introduced for his Tigers debut with 22 minutes remaining for Bryant. Joe Maksymiw replaced Barrow.

Tigers continued to enjoy the lion’s share of possession and territory as the game headed into the final quarter. Indeed, it needed an excellent tackle by Samu Vunisa to prevent Charlie Thacker bouncing over the line.
 
Play came back for an earlier penalty and Burns cut the Saracens lead to 22-20 with 15 minutes remaining.
 
Sarries remained a threat in attack. And when Williams and Worth failed to deal with Neil de Kock’s up-and-under Whiteley angled a kick into the Tigers in-goal area that Worth touched down in front of Mike Ellery.

Tigers ended the game with 14 men. Dominic Morris’s dancing run was stopped just short of the Leicester line and as Saracens flooded forward Croft was pinged on his line and shown a yellow card.
 
Saracens maintained the pressure on the Leicester line and finished off the contest with a try in the final minute. Whiteley stepped off his right foot, past the on-rushing Tigers defence to score under the posts. He converted the try with the final kick to send Leicester home empty-handed.

Match Details

HT ScoreHalf Time Score

SAR 19-10 LEI

FT ScoreFull Time Score

SAR 29-20 LEI

Attendance

8,734

Referee

Greg Macdonald

Saracens
Saracens
29

Full Time

Leicester Tigers
Leicester Tigers
20

Match Stats

Saracens
Leicester Tigers
Possession
48%
52%
Territory
49%
51%
Penalties Conceded
8
10
Yellow Cards
0
1
Red Cards
0
0
Tackles Won
141/159 89%
115/142 81%
Lineouts Won
13/13 100%
9/9 100%

Player Stats

Saracens
Leicester Tigers
Leicester Tigers
TCDP
15
14Peter Betham
13Charlie Thacker
12Oliver Bryant
11George Catchpole
102C2P
9Sam Harrison
1Michele Rizzo
2George McGuigan1T
3
4Harry Wells
5Dom Barrow
6Tom Croft
7Harry Thacker
81T
16Brendon O'Connor
17Riccardo Brugnara
18Ben Betts
19Joe Maksymiw
20Mike Williams
21Ben White
22Maxime Mermoz
23Tom Brady

Opposition Lineup

Starting XV

15
Matt Gallagher
14
Mike Ellery
13
Tim Streather
12
Nick Tompkins
11
Nathan Earle
10
Tom Whiteley
9
Henry Taylor
1
Richard Barrington
2
Jared Saunders
3
Petrus Du Plessis
4
Mark Flanagan
5
Brian Tuilagi
6
Kelly Brown
7
Will Fraser
8
Samuela Vunisa

Subs

16
Scott Spurling
17
Titi Lamositele
18
Billy Walker
19
Hayden Thompson-Stringer
20
Jackson Wray
21
Neil de Kock
22
Dominic Morris
23
Rotimi Segun
Form Guide
Form
WWLLD
Last Match
Draw with Bath Rugby 17-17
Past Meeting
Won 24-13
Form
Last Match
Past Meeting
Form
WLWLW
Last Match
Beat Wasps 38-31
Past Meeting
Lost 13-24