Leicester Tigers director of rugby Richard Cockerill admitted his side had to show character after conceding three penalty tries en route to a 26-6 defeat to Saracens at Allianz Park.
Cockerill’s men were looking to create a little bit of history with a first victory at the home of the table toppers, but ended up with an unwanted record after becoming the first side in Aviva Premiership Rugby history to have a penalty try treble awarded against them.
Jamie George also crossed for Saracens on a disappointing day for the Tigers, who failed to threaten the Saracens try line and struggled to cope with the home side’s power up front.
“Sarries upped the ante and we couldn’t cope physically, it’s as simple as that,” said Cockerill, whose side were dealt a double blow in the first half as Tom Croft and skipper Ed Slater both left the field with injuries.
“I don’t want to make any excuses. They are good players but we had good replacements coming on the field.
“Saracens played very well and deserved to win, and 26-6 probably doesn’t reflect their dominance.
“If you can’t cope with the physicality of this league then you get beaten. If you can’t compete at source with and without the ball you’re not going to get anywhere. We lost today and we’ve lost badly but we have to show some character.”
Leicester had taken an early lead through a Freddie Burns penalty, the fly-half probing behind the Saracens defence with a series of astute kicks.
But Saracens clearly held the edge at the set piece and on 11 minutes referee Greg Garner awarded them the first penalty try as Leicester were marched back 25 metres in the maul, Charlie Hodgson converting.
Burns added a second penalty and the score was only 7-6 at the break, but the home side turned the screw after the interval, a catch-and-drive from an attacking lineout setting up George to touch down.
Leicester brought on Dan Cole for his 100th Aviva Premiership appearance but he saw yellow shortly after before Saracens opted for a penalty scrum and drove Tigers back for the second penalty try.
With Owen Farrell on for Hodgson Saracens pushed for the try bonus point which was completed late on as Garner again ran under the posts, with Farrell’s conversion the final score.
Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall singled out George Kruis for particular praise following the victory, saying: "Going away with England and becoming an international has helped his confidence grow so much.
"He's a real student of the line-out, but he's also magnificent around the park. I think he's a dead cert for a starting position for England.
"If you talk to George, he will tell you that Steve Borthwick and Paul Gustard have had a lot of influence on him.
"He's been very lucky with the people he's been associated with over the last five or six seasons."
Saracens 26 Leicester Tigers 6
Saracens: Goode, Ashton, Bosch, Barritt, Wyles (Taylor, 69), Hodgson (Farrell, 55), Wigglesworth (de Kock, 55), Vunipola (Gill, 61), Brits (George, 40), du Plessis (Lamositele, 69), Itoje (Hamilton, 69), Kruis, Rhodes (Wray, 55), Fraser, Vunipola
Leicester Tigers: Veainu, Camacho, Tait, Baikeinuku (Williams, 47), Goneva, Burns, Harrison (Youngs B, 62), Ayerza (Mulipola, 53), Thacker H (Cole, 55), Balmain, Barrow, Kitchener, Slater (Fitzgerald, 29), Croft (McCaffrey, 21), Pearce
Subs not used: Thacker C, Thompstone
Tries: Penalty 11, 54, 66, George 42
Conversions: Hodgson 11, 55, Farrell 67
Penalties: 5, 22
Referee: Greg Garner