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Record fightback in opening night thriller

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Leicester Tigers staged the biggest comeback in their 136-year history as they overturned a 24-point deficit to beat Gloucester Rugby 38-31 on the opening day of the new Aviva Premiership season.

Tigers trailed their hosts 31-7 early in the second half after Henry Purdy had scored the Cherry and White’s try-bonus fourth try.
But Tigers staged a remarkable fightback in the second half with JP Pietersen scoring on his debut, Brendon O’Connor dotting down and Sam Harrison scoring twice, including the match-winner right on full-time, to add to Manu Tuilagi’s first-half try.
And with Freddie Burns and Harrison landing every kick from the tee, it took Tigers to their biggest-ever comeback.
The previous record was 17 points, which Tigers managed on three occasions.
The first was against London Irish at the Stoop in 1999 when Tigers came back from 20-3 down to win 31-30.
The second occasion came against Worcester Warriors at Sixways last season, when Tigers were 17-0 down after 35 minutes before tries for Graham Kitchener, Telusa Veainu, Lachlan McCaffrey and a penalty try gave the visitors a 29-20 victory.
The third also came last season and also against Gloucester, at Welford Road in April. Tigers trailed the Cherry and Whites 27-10 at half-time but roared back in the second-half thanks to tries for Tuilagi, Peter Betham and Vereniki Goneva for a 35-30 win.
It was also the second biggest comeback in Premiership history. Only Harlequins have overturned a bigger deficit to win, that was 27 points against Wasps at Twickenham in the London Double Header on the opening weekend of the 2012/13 season.
Friday evening’s season-opener at Kingsholm was also remarkable for being the first time that scrum-half Harrison had kicked at goal in a competitive first-team fixture. The 26-year-old moved to fly-half late in the game, from where he converted O’Connor’s and his own match-winning second try.
It was also Harrison’s first try in 28 games and the first time in his 102 first-time appearances that he has scored twice in a game.
Freddie Burns and younger brother Billy became the first siblings to start a Premiership game as opposing No10s.
And finally JP Pietersen was the second most capped player on his Tigers debut. Pietersen has 69 South Africa cap with only his former Springboks teammate Jean de Villiers (109) having more caps on their Tigers debut.

Statistics courtesy of Tigers historian and statistician Stuart Farmer/SFMS.