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Winning start makes it a Happy New Year

Leicester Tigers made it a Happy New Year for supporters with victory at Welford Road on Saturday to kick off the calendar year on a winning note for the sixth time in the last decade.

2019: Beat Gloucester 34-16

Tigers followed up a five-try win over Harlequins in the final home game of 2018 with four against Gloucester as Welford Road opened its doors for the first time in 2019. Jonny May scored twice to move into double figures for the season, with Jonah Holmes and George Ford, who also kicked 14 points, also on the mark. Tigers led 13-6 at half-time with May scoring in the right-hand corner and full-back Holmes capitalised on some smart work across the field to grab the opening points after the interval before Kyle Eastmond and Ben Youngs combined to set up May’s second. Gareth Evans scored for the visitors but an interception from May turned defence into attack as Ford wriggled free to add the bonus-point score.

2018: Beat London Irish 19-15

Tigers claimed a first win in seven games with tries either side of half-time from Matt Toomua and Manu Tuilagi. Irish opened the scoring through wing Joe Cokanasiga before a break and smart offload from Brendon O’Connor put Toomua in for his first try for the club. Tigers made a flying start to the second half as the forwards set up Jonny May to score in the right-hand corner and then Tuilagi – in his 100th appearance – dived over a pile of bodies to score a third before Alex Lewington provided a consolation in reply.

2017: Lost to Saracens 12-16

A try from Owen Farrell midway through the second half proved the difference between the sides as Tigers lost at home for the first time since September. Fly-half Owen Williams kicked all the points for the home side with two penalties in each half, but Saracens capitalised on Leicester mistakes to score a try as Brad Barritt grabbed possession and Farrell found a gap to score on the left. He added the conversion and then a penalty to provide some breathing space before Williams landed his final shot at goal.

2016: Lost to Saracens 6-26

Tigers went down to only their second league defeat of the season as Saracens claimed three penalty tries at a rain-lashed Allianz Park. As Gonzalo Camacho made his first league start for Tigers, Marcos Ayerza made his 150th appearance in Premiership rugby and Dan Cole reached 100. Tigers began positively, with Freddie Burns kicking an early penalty, but Saracens were awarded a penalty try from a lineout drive. Burns landed a second kick but Tigers lost Tom Croft and Ed Slater to injury before Sarries increased the pressure in the second half with Jamie George steering a driving maul over the tryline and then referee Greg Garner awarding two penalty tries at close-range scrums.

2015: Beat Bath 17-8

A try from Tom Youngs set Tigers on the way to New Year victory at Welford Road. After George Ford, on his first return to the stadium as a Bath player, had given the visitors the lead with a penalty, Owen Williams levelled the scores and then Youngs steered a lineout drive over the line on 18 minutes. Sam Burgess was denied a try for Bath by a forward-pass ruling and the hosts led 11-3 after another Williams penalty and two more kicks pushed Tigers out of reach despite a late try from the visitors.

2014: Drew with Bath 27-27

Jamie Gibson’s try in the final minute of the game helped Tigers to fight back from a 10-point deficit to share the points with old rivals Bath. Miles Benjamin provided the opening try and an Owen Williams penalty followed before scores from Anthony Watson and Francois Louw put the visitors in front and they were still 20-14 ahead at the break. After Williams kicked the opening points of the second half, Watson scored his second try of the game to take bath 10 points in front before Tigers hit back with a Waldrom score from a lineout drive. A penalty to the corner provided one last chance as Gibson found space on the right and held off Matt Banahan to touch down. Williams was unable to add the touchline conversion with the final kick of the game.

2013: Beat Worcester 19-14

A penalty try right on full-time saw Tigers complete a brilliant fightback to beat Worcester Warriors in a Friday night thriller at Sixways. A score from David Lemi and three Andy Goode penalties gave Warriors a 14-point lead before Steve Mafi claimed lineout ball to set up a Scott Hamilton score for Tigers. Chris Pennell missed two kicks at goal with Goode sin-binned before Tigers fought their way back into the game with a penalty try from a scrum shortly after the arrival of Dan Cole and Marcos Ayerza and then added a second in the closing phase of play.

2012: Beat Sale Sharks 28-23

After falling to 11th place in the table during October, Tigers made it back into the top four with New Year’s Day victory in front of a crowd of more than 23,000. An early penalty try from a collapsed scrum provided an opening and then Geordan Murphy added a second after fine work from Toby Flood and Billy Twelvetrees. Sharks were 17 points down with less than 25 minutes played before fighting their way back into the contest. Tigers responded with a score from Alesana Tuilagi midway through the second half and a late try from Rob Miller gained some reward for the visitors.

2011: Beat Exeter Chiefs 22-15

Tigers returned to the top of the table after two tries from Jordan Crane set them on their way to victory in front of a record Sandy Park crowd of 10,495. Alesana Tuilagi exchanged passes with brother Manu to score the opener before No8 Crane burst off the side of a maul for the second. Crane grabbed his second before Chiefs claimed a point from a late Gareth Steenson penalty and they were left to rue more missed opportunities when a penalty bounced back off the crossbar and then missed a kick into the corner in the dying seconds.

2010: Beat Saracens 22-15

A try from Dan Hipkiss and 17 points from Toby Flood earned Tigers victory against top-of-the-table Saracens at Vicarage Road. Tigers dominated possession in the opening 40 minutes without finding a way through the Sarries defence as the scoreboard read 6-3 at the break. Derick Hougaard made it 9-3 from halfway before Hipkiss scored the only try of the game and Leicester kept the pressure with a series of penalties from Flood and a destructive performance from the forward pack.