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'A' League comeback falls just short

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A second-half fightback fell just short as Leicester Tigers Development XV lost 23-21 in Monday's Aviva Premiership 'A' League match against Worcester Cavaliers at Sixways.

Tries from Alex Grove and Perry Humphreys gave Worcester a 12-point lead in the opening 10 minutes and they added a third from flanker Sam Ripper-Smith before half-time to lead 20-0.
But two tries in as many minutes from international wing Gonzalo Camacho inspired a second-half rally for the visitors, with Harry Wells adding the third try as Tigers fell agonisingly short of a remarkable recovery in the last ‘A’ League outing of the campaign.
Internationals Seremaia Bai and Camacho started in the Tigers backline, with Matt Smith also gaining gametime after missing the last few weeks of first-team action. On-loan prop Ellis Genge, used as a late replacement in Sunday’s Aviva Premiership fixture at Sale Sharks, made his first starting appearance in a Tigers shirt.
The Worcester line-up included former Tigers players Perry Humphreys and Ryan Bower, while Graham Kitchener’s younger brother Andrew was among their replacements.
A downpour greeted the teams as they arrived at Sixways an hour ahead of kick-off and, although the rain abated by the start of the game in front of a decent Bank Holiday evening crowd, it returned after the first quarter to make for difficult handling conditions.
The game was only three minutes old when centre Grove finished in the left-hand corner to give Worcester the lead.
A break by Smith, supported by Ben White and Will Evans, almost produced an instant reply for Tigers, but Worcester’s defence dashed back to mop up the loose ball ahead of Sam Yawayawa.
The miss was costly as Worcester used a lineout to gain possession on the left and spread play for Humphreys to dive in for their second try inside the opening 10 minutes. Fly-half Tiff Eden added the extras as the lead reached 12 points.
A chip and chase from Smith, with support from Bai, almost created an opening for Tigers moments later, but Cavaliers scrambled back in defence. There was still a chance as Christian Loamanu, playing at No8 and seeing plenty of ball, surprised the defence with a pick-and-go at the next ruck, only to be brought down just eight metres out.
When Tigers missed the chance to capitalise on a penalty close to the Cavaliers line, the hosts quickly countered and Eden made it 15-0 with a penalty for offside 25 metres out.
Bai made good ground to cover another crisp attack, bringing down left-wing Dean Hammond and play was brought abruptly to a halt as the player fell. But, after treatment from the physios, Hammond was back on his feet and play restarted with a home side scrum just as the rain fell again. Cavaliers won another penalty and this time kicked into the left-hand corner and claimed a third try from the catch and drive, with Ripper-Smith credited with the score.
Tigers did build some possession in the Cavaliers half, though they were kept out of the 22 as the half ended with the home side 20 points to the good.
Genge, De Chaves and Smith made way at half-time, replaced by Riccardo Brugnara, Harry Wells and Jack Roberts.
And it was Roberts who provided the inspiration for the opening Tigers points, showing good feet and pace to break from inside his own half to get in behind the Cavaliers defence and send Camacho away to score. Full-back Tom Hardwick added the conversion.
Just minutes later, Camacho did it again. Joe Maksymiw caught the restart and, when play reached the opposition half, the wing won the race to the loose ball to dive on it for his second score. Hardwick was also in the groove, adding the kick from wide on the left as Tigers cut the deficit to 20-14.
Bai got 50 minutes under his belt before he was replaced by England Under-20 cap Charlie Thacker, while Camacho showed his pace in defence, chasing hard to bring down Humphreys near the touchline as Worcester looked for a breakthrough.
The Tigers pack felt they were harshly penalised at the next scrum, giving Eden a chance to stretch the lead to more than a converted score at 23-14 with 15 minutes of the second period gone.
After a catch-and-drive fell just short of providing an immediate response, as Tigers were held up over the Worcester line, they were rewarded with a third try 60 seconds later as Wells forced his way over close to the posts. When Hardwick added his third conversion, the margin was just two points at 23-21 with quarter of an hour to play.
Harry Simmons replaced Camacho, with the young scrum-half lining up on the left wing.
Wells featured prominently in a dogged second-half performance, carrying ball as Tigers continued to take the fight to their hosts, and Charlie Beckett joined the forward effort in place of Ed Milne as the game reached its final 10 minutes.
Quick hands along the backline almost created space for Roberts wide on the left and two big scrums from the Tigers made it difficult for the home pack on halfway. But Cavaliers, with Eden using big crosskicks to the left to keep Tigers pegged back, did enough to close out a two-point victory.