Leicester Tigers Development XV were beaten 26-32 by Worcester Cavaliers in the second round of the Premiership Shield on Monday evening.
After picking up a consolation point in a 19-18 defeat by Northampton in Round 1, Tigers got off to a flying start in Round 2 at Loughborough University with Robbie Povey and Sam Lewis dotting down in the opening five minutes.
But Worcester clawed their way back into the game as Tigers led 20-17 at half-time and then went ahead for the first time as the game entered its final quarter.
They scored their fifth and final try in the last minute but failed to add the conversion which would have denied Tigers any reward.
Eight of the club’s academy graduates – including six of the forward pack – started the clash on a bright but breezy evening in Loughborough, with Tigers also including Coventry duo Robbie Povey and James Neal in the backline. There were five guests players among the replacements, too, including former academy centre Sam Wager, now with Doncaster Knights.
Cavaliers included Carl Kirwan on his return from long-term injury in an experienced back row as part of a team roughly evenly split between first-team squad and younger prospects.
They were also searching for a first win of the campaign after taking two bonus points from defeat by Newcastle Falcons last week.
It was wing Povey who gave Tigers a dream start, getting on the end of an exchange of passes on the left to claim the opening points. And better was to follow when England Under-20s lock Lewis powered through the centre of the field to dive in under the posts just a couple of minutes later. Joe Ford kicked both conversion as Tigers led by 14 points.
Cavaliers got on board with a Luke Scully penalty and then the fly-half converted after wing Tom Howe had intercepted on halfway and run clear for their first try of the evening.
Ford struck two penalties to take the lead back up to 20-10, but smart work on the Worcester right from Howe put centre Ollie Lawrence in for a try and Scully’s conversion brought them to within three points of their hosts at the break.
Tigers extended the lead early in the second half when good work from Taylor Gough on the floor brought a penalty which Ford despatched from fully 40 metres.
But the visitors quickly responded when a big scrum on the right gave them front-foot ball and, with the referee signalling a penalty advantage, they quickly went wide and wing Mason Tonks went over in the corner. Although Scully was unable to land the conversion from out wide, it was now a one-point ball game at 23-22.
A lineout drive took Tigers up to the tryline soon afterwards but they lost ball at the crucial moment and the chance was gone. The forward pack, though, refused to let Worcester out easily and kept up the pressure as the visitors had put-in at a scrum and eventually won back possession, allowing Ford to make the call, drop deep and land a well-struck drop goal.
Two last-ditch tackles from the Tigers defence kept the lead intact with Worcester almost on the tryline before they finally took the lead for the first time in the game on 62 minutes when a break from full-back Nick David set flanker Ted Hill in to score. Scully’s conversion attempt drifted wide but the Cavaliers had the advantage at 26-27.
Fords, having landed six out of six previous attempts, called for the tee again on 66 minutes but this time the troublesome wind won the contest as his kick from the left touchline drifted wide, and opposite number Scully also pushed an attempt well wide from 40 metres with the clock entering the final 10 minutes.
Tigers were pushed on to the defensive and, although they retained their discipline while continuing to make their tackles, Worcester almost claimed a fifth try when David broke through, only for his final pass to evade the support on the right.
They did not have long to wait, though, for a decisive score as replacement prop Farai Mudariki stretched out from close range.
With time up, Scully lined up his conversion, only for Povey to run out and block his attempt to rescue the bonus point for Tigers.
Thank you for your support
Thank you to all the fans for their support in Loughborough this evening and to the supporters following at home. Tigers and Worcester meet again at Welford Road on Sunday, September 23, this time in the Gallagher Premiership. Match tickets are on sale now at www.leicestertigers.com/matchtickets
Tigers claim a point
Povey charges down Scully's last-kick conversion to give Tigers a losing bonus point. It finishes Tigers Development XV 26 Worcester Cavaliers 32 at Loughborough University.
Worcester secure the win
Worcester move the ball from the scrum and probe away at the Leicester defence. Eventually the pressure tells and replacement prop Mudariki crosses.
Is that the game?
Tigers are forced to attack from deep but cannot make headway and are pinged on the floor. Worcester opt to scrum with the clock ticking towards full-time.
Missed chance for Worcester
Tigers are pinged at a scrum on halfway and are then marched 10m by referee Harry Walbaum after some handbags. Scully points to the posts but, in a swirling wind, he pushes his kick right across the posts.
Last 10 minutes
We're into the final 10 minutes at Loughborough University. The Tigers Development XV trail Worcester Cavaliers by a single point. We're set for an exciting finish.
Ford, who has a 100 per cent kicking record to this point, is unable to regain the lead for Tigers as the wind whips his touchline penalty wide of the left-hand post.
Worcester take the lead for the first time as the clock ticks past an hour with their bonus-point try. Nick David breaks the tackle in midfield and with Tigers' defence stretched he has Ted Hill outside for a run to the line. Scully misses the conversion.
Front row replacements
Jake Kerr and guest player James Gallagher are on in the front row.
The Cavaliers make a change at scrum-half. Zac O'Sullivan is on for Luke Baldwin.
Let off for Tigers
Farai Mudariki, Tom Dodd and Jamie Macartney on for Worcester. Meanwhile, the visitors miss a golden try-scoring opportunity.as Howe knocks-on under pressure as he reaches out to score.
Tigers keep up the pressure as Aspland-Robinson returns the clearing kick with interest. Lines's run then sets up the field position and Ford lands the drop goal to extend the lead to 26-22.
Tigers go close
Ford finds 40m with a penalty into the Worcester 22. Cameron Jordan wins the lineout and Tigers get their drive going, but they lose control and knock-on just as they seemed set to score.
Worcester make the most of a penalty advantage to score their third try of the evening. Sam Aspland-Robinson flies up in defence but Scully is aware and finds Mason Tonks on his outside to score. It goes unconverted. Tigers lead 23-22.
First points of the half
Ford lands a penalty from distance to move Tigers into a 23-17 lead early in the second period.
The second half is underway
Worcester fly-half Scully gets the second period going. Keston Lines and Sam Wager are on for Heyes and Worth.
All to play for
The teams are heading back out for the second period at Loughborough University. Tigers lead 20-17 and will be attacking from right to left in this half.
Vote for Manu!
Take a moment during half-time to vote for Manu Tuilagi for the Citizen Try of the Week. Place your vote at www.premiershiprugby.com/news/citizen-try-of-the-week/
Tigers lead 20-17 at the break thanks to tries for guest Robbie Povey and lock Sam Lewis. Joe Ford has two conversions and two penalties. The Worcester tries came through Tom Howe and Ollie Lawrence. Luke Scully with the conversions.
Frantic stuff at Loughborough
Replacement scrum-half Flinn taps and goes with a penalty. He tries to chip last-man Nick David, who recovers for Lawrence to clear deep. Neal is then scragged on the Tigers 10m line but wins the penalty as the tackler fails to release.
Scully lands the conversion to cut Leicester's lead to 20-17. It's been an entertaining first-half at Loughborough.
Worcester score a second
Howe, the scorer of Worcester's first try, creates their second. He spots the gap and has Ollie Lawrence on his outside for a run to the line.
Three more for Tigers
Fred Tuilagi bulldozes into the heart of the Cavaliers defence. The visitors fail to roll and Ford has another penalty bang in front. He extends Tigers' lead to 20-10.
White's evening is done and he is replaced by Will Flinn, a guest from Coventry.
Tigers lead by seven
Ford has the chance to settle himself and the team with an easy penalty from in front of the posts. He makes no mistake and Tigers lead Worcester 17-10.
Scully kicks a simple conversion to leave Tigers 14-10 ahead.
Worcester strike back
Worcester have their first try. Tom Howe intercepted Ford's pass on the Tigers 10m line and had a clear run to the line.
So close for Tigers
Good work by Tayler Gough wins the holding-on penalty. White taps and goes but is stopped 5m short. Gough picks and goes to within a metre before Joe Heyes is pinged for going off his feet.
Worcester on the board
The Tigers scrum comes under pressure and concedes the penalty. Luke Scully lands the kick for the Cavaliers first points. Tigers lead 14-3.
Ford converts. Again
Ford extends the Leicester lead to 14-0 with a second conversion from bang in front.
Tigers are flying
Ben White makes a lovely break in midfield and shows wonderful skill and awareness to fire an offload out of the back of the hand for the galloping Sam Lewis to charge under the posts from 30m.
Joe Ford lands the conversion from right in front to give Tigers a 7-0 lead,
Quick start for Tigers
It's been all Tigers in the opening exchanges and they score a neat try to take the lead. James Neal makes the break down the left and finds his Coventry teammate Robbie Povey inside to score under the posts.
Joe Ford gets the game going, with Tigers attacking from left to right as we type
Kick-off coming up
We've had the warm-ups, kick-off between the Tigers Development XV and Worcester Cavaliers at Loughborough University is moments away.
Countdown to kick-off
The Tigers squad are going through their pre-match preparations before kick-off
Worcester team news
Worcester: 15 Nick David, 14 Tom Howe, 13 Ollie Lawrence, 12 Joe Margetts (Hartpury), 11 Mason Tonks (Hartpury), 10 Luke Scully, 9 Luke Baldwin; 1 Kai Owen, 2 Beck Cutting, 3 Gareth Milasinovich, 4 James Scott, 5 Rob Fuller (Hartpury), 6 Ted Hill, 7 Carl Kirwan, 8 Matt Cox
Replacements: 16 Jordan Liney (Hartpury), 17 Nick Rigby, 18 Farai Mudariki, 19 Tom Dodd, 20 Zac Xiourouppa, 21 Sean O’Sullivan (Birmingham & Solihull), 22 Ollie Walker (Birmingham & Solihull), 23 Ervin Muric (Hartpury)
Tigers team news
15 Robbie Povey (Coventry), 14 James Neal (Coventry), 13 Sam Aspland-Robinson, 12 George Worth (c), 11 Jonah Holmes, 10 Joe Ford, 9 Ben White; 1 Facundo Gigena, 2 Ross McMillan, 3 Joe Heyes, 4 Cameron Jordan, 5 Sam Lewis, 6 Thom Smith, 7 Taylor Gough, 8 Freddie Tuilagi
Replacements: 16 Jake Kerr, 17 Keston Lines, 18 James Gallagher (Loughborough Students), 19 Cameron Gray (Coventry), 20 Harry Mahoney, 21 Will Flinn (Coventry), 22 Isaac McNulty (Coventry), 23 Sam Wager (Doncaster Academy)
PREMIERSHIP SHIELD ACTION
The Premiership Shield returns this evening for Round 2 of the new look competition with the Tigers Development Squad facing Worcester Cavaliers at Loughborough University, kicking off at 7.30pm on the First XV pitch.