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Last-minute try denies Tigers in 'A' League

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Leicester Tigers were beaten by a last-minute try against Worcester Cavaliers in the Aviva 'A' League at Lichfield RFC on Sunday but took two points from a 41-40 defeat.

Chasing a win that would guarantee a place in the top two of the Northern Conference table and a place in the semi-finals, Tigers came from 14-24 down at half-time and 21-36 in arrears during the second period to lead going into the last play of the game, only for Ben Howard to score for Cavaliers to take the win.
Peter Betham and Greg Bateman scored in the first half, with Betham adding a second soon after the interval as Tigers stayed in the contest. Three quickfire tries from Will Owen, Charlie Thacker and Ryan Olowofela finally gave Tigers the lead for the first time entering the final five minutes before Howard claimed that last-gasp winner.
Will Evans made his return from an ankle injury in the Tigers back row in a team led by international flanker Tom Croft. Betham, Bateman and Tom Brady added experience to the line-up while development squad players Olowofela, Thacker, Oli Bryant, Ben White, Owen Hills, Joe Maksymiw and Fred Tuilagi were given an opportunity in senior competition.
Tigers also included England Students hooker Isaac Miller, from Loughborough University, in the front row and Willie Priestley, a hooker from Coventry, among the replacements alongside England Under-18 tighthead prop Joe Heyes.
After surviving an early scare when wing Alex Hearle put a foot in touch as he reached out for the left-hand corner, Tigers went behind in the fourth minute when fly-half Connor Braid picked off a pass in midfield and ran in the score unopposed. He added the conversion for a seven-point lead.
Tigers gained parity five minutes later with a smart attack finished by Betham. A scrum provided the platform, Bryant chipped ahead and Thacker showed good hands to release Betham for a run to the line, with fly-half Bryant adding the conversion.
Braid grabbed his second try before the 15-minute mark, crashing over next to the left-hand post after Worcester had recycled ball.
But the lead lasted only a moment as Bateman timed his run on to a White pass to perfection to run in from the 22 and Bryant again added the extras.
After four tries in the opening quarter, a sunshine crowd had to wait until almost the half-hour for more points on the board, this time Braid knocking over a penalty to give Cavaliers a 17-14 lead.
They increased the advantage with a third try, this time from a close-range lineout, Braid judging a tricky wind to perfection to add the conversion and land the last points of the half.
The bonus-point score for the Cavaliers came five minutes into the second half, when Hearly released opposite wing Afaefe Haisila Lokotui to score in the corner and increase the lead to 29-14.
Tigers, though, found a quick response as Betham added his second try, cutting through the Cavaliers defence from close-in after a strong Tigers scrum. Worth took over the kicking duties in the absence of Bryant who went off at half-time, and added the conversion.
Hopes of a fightback, though, had to be put on hold as Worcester added their fifth try with a length-of-the-field attack culminating in a run to the line for prop Mike Daniels, converted again by Braid to take the lead to 15 points.
A piece of individual skill from scrum-half Harry Simmons put Will Owen through for Tigers’ bonus-point score, flicking a reverse pass for the flanker to run on to from a driving maul and Worth’s conversion cut the gap to eight points at 28-36.
Just five minutes later that gap was down to a single point as Thacker scored the Tigers’ fifth try, fed by Simmons after a scrum win against the head just five metres out from the Cavaliers line. Worth made it three from three with his conversion attempt.
And Tigers completed the comeback with a try from Olowofela a few minutes later. Stolen lineout ball created the opportunity on the right and quick hands across the backline gave Olowofela the chance to break the line and score in the left-hand corner for a 40-36 lead.
But the game was still not dead and smart handling from Lokotui, with no margin of error on the right touchline, gave one last chance for Worcester and his offload put Howard in to score with the last move of the match, snatching the verdict by a point.