Leicester Tigers scored seven tries in a 45-8 win over Saracens In the pool stages of the Premiership Rugby Cup on Saturday.
The visitors opened the scoring with a try from wing Marcus Ramage and added two more from skipper Sean Jansen and then Cameron Henderson to lead 19-8 at half-time.
Jansen added his second after the break to secure a bonus point as Tigers hunted only a third win on their travels to Saracen’s StoneX Stadium home and more followed from front-row replacements Francois van wyk and Tom Horton (2).
The withdrawal of both Wasps and Worcester Warriors since the opening rounds has posed some questions around the Cup format, though Sale Sharks qualified for the semi-finals as Pool B winners following a win over Harlequins on Friday evening. There was, however, still potential for Tigers to claim the best runner-up spot across the three pools with a win.
In the day’s 1.00pm kick-off, back-rower Jansen led out Tigers as captain for the first time, with Charlie Atkinson given a first start following his mid-season arrival.
The competition provides valuable opportunities for young players, with Tigers including Emeka Ilione, Sam Edwards, Joshua Manz, Joseph Woodward and Jed Walsh from the senior academy set-up in a visiting team wearing change colours of red and white.
Saracens named a young team too and had to make a late change as lock Cameroon Boon was withdrawn from the forward pack. His captain, hooker Ethan Lewis, left the field after just two minutes due to injury, though the hosts had the majority of early possession.
The first scrum, on 10 minutes, brought a penalty for Tigers but, playing with advantage, they quickly made advances with an Atkinson chip which Woodward took on before Walsh picked up and on-loan Ramage dived on loose ball to score the opening points.
A penalty on halfway took Sarries forward again but they were held out until Ramage picked off a long pass out wide, though he was unable to take it cleanly. The hosts used their set-piece to build pressure but then knocked-on just 10 metres out.
Tigers dealt with another phased attack but then, after clearing up to halfway, conceded a score as Saracens fly-half Tobias Elliott got on the end of a move down the touchline to level the scores on 20 minutes.
Strong counter-rucking after James Whitcombe closed down Sarries near the touchline brought a Tigers penalty and some phases in possession until referee Joe James rewarded the opposition for their work on the floor.
More strong rucking won turnover ball on halfway but the Sarries defence forced Phil Cokanasiga into touch just as he looked for support 20 metres out.
Hosea Saumaki broke a couple of tackles to get Tigers forward again and Tom Cowan-Dickie latched on to untidy ball on halfway to allow the visitors to build in possession, finally bringing a penalty just short of the tryline on the right.
Skipper-for-the-day Jansen opted for the scrum and controlled ball before making the final few steps on his own and the conversion from Atkinson made it 12-5.
An Elliott penalty took three points off that deficit but Tigers quickly got back on the scoreboard, with Henderson beating three defenders on the way to the tryline next to the posts. The conversion made it 19-8 in Tigers’ favour just short of half-time.
Tigers kept that lead intact as Snyman stole lineout ball in defence and Cowan-Dickie dropped on loose ball near the tryline, allowing Atkinson to bring the half to a close.
Atkinson pinned Sarries back at the restart with a left-footed jab to the corner and Snyman stole lineout ball again, but when Tigers stole more set-piece advantage was being played when Jansen lost control of the ball over the tryline.
He did not have to wait long for a second chance as play stayed five metres from the tryline and, after strong recycling, the back-rower forced his way through for the bonus-point try and his second of the day and stretch the lead to 16 points.
Walsh intercepted a dangerous attack on the Sarries right and carried 50 metres before being closed down and Atkinson showed his aerial skills to deal with a teasing kick near halfway before the whistle went in Tigers’ favour.
Carries from Whitcombe and Jansen threatened the line again before spilled ball gave Sarries put-in at a scrum in front of their own posts.
Lewis Chessum replaced Snyman as Tigers made changes on 55 minutes and the second row immediately stole lineout ball inside the defensive half of the field.
Ilione won a penalty at a breakdown on the 10-metre line and patience at the set-piece upfield was rewarded with a fifth try, prop Francois van Wyk making the final push over the whitewash. Atkinson added the conversion.
Another quickly followed as Tom Horton steered a lineout drive 20 metres towards the line and Atkinson’s extras stretched the lead to 30 points entering the last 10 minutes.
Tigers were efficient at the other end too, closing out a Sarries charge from the restart, though the hosts showed their defensive strength in quickly winning a penalty at a breakdown when they were threatened again.
A teasing kick into the corner just evaded Joe Browning’s reach and then Woodward was beaten by the bounce in similar style in the closing moments before Horton added the final try at a lineout drive on the right.