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Saints edge Tigers for crucial win

24 Feb 2007
Saints edge Tigers for crucial win

Northampton stunned table toppers Leicester with a historic win at Welford Road to boost their GUINNESS PREMIERSHIP survival hopes.

Leicester have not lost to an English team at home since a Powergen Cup defeat against Gloucester in December 2004 and their last Premiership defeat at home was back in January 2004.

Northampton had lost six if their previous seven games, but turned the form book on its head with Stephen Myler picking up five points on his Premiership debut and Mark Robinson running in a stunning try.

Replacement Ian Humphreys kicked three penalties to give Leicester hope but the visitors hung on.

Leicester were left rueing two missed penalties and were denied a 67th-minute pushover try when television replays proved inconclusive.

Leicester were favourites going into the clash despite being without six internationals, having won their previous four games in all competitions.

Saints had lost six of their previous seven and went into the game only three points ahead of bottom club Worcester with two internationals missing.

Leicester’s international call-ups meant hooker Gavin Hickie made his first start since breaking an eye socket when the sides clashed in the EDF Energy Cup in Northampton in December and Paul Burke got the nod at fly half ahead of Andy Goode and Humphreys.

Saints handed Stephen Myler his first Premiership start at No10 in the absence of All Black legend Carlos Spencer, who was ruled out with a calf strain.

The first half was a muddy midfield battle of few highlights with both sides’ forwards hammering away without making much progress.

Myler missed a chance to open the scoring in the 11th minute. He sent his penalty attempt wide after Northampton had survived the early onslaught from Leicester’s forwards.

Saints suffered a blow three minutes later when groggy flanker Darren Fox had to be replaced but the visitors regrouped and Mark Robinson’s break gave them a sight of Leicester’s line. Ben Cohen hacked on but the ball went over the tryline and the chance was lost.

Leicester winger Seru Rabeni kicked into touch at the other end moments later and another chance went begging. The deadlock was finally broken through Myler’s penalty after more Northampton pressure.

Leicester’s backs finally fired in the 34th minute but the move was ended by Sam Vesty’s forward pass.

Leicester went straight on the attack after the break and should have drawn level in the 43rd minute but Burke sent his penalty attempt wide.

The miss proved to be costly because Northampton went further clear moments later. Robinson picked up Vesty’s kick and set off on a 50 metre run to the line.

He shrugged off Brett Deacon’s last-ditch tackle to cross with Myler having a difficult conversion to make it 10-0 after 44 minutes. Leicester made changes and Humphreys kicked a 47th minute penalty after replacing Burke.

The Tigers piled on the pressure and Northampton battled hard to keep them out. Humphreys pelted over a 57-minute penalty to reduce the gap to four points and wasted a chance to close the gap further eight minutes later when he sent his penalty attempt wide.

He was more accurate two minutes later with a penalty into touch five metres from the Northampton line that set up a catch and drive. Tigers claimed a try but the television replay was inconclusive and Leicester were awarded a five-metre scrum that came to nothing.

Humphreys kicked a 75th minute penalty to set up a grandstand finish, but Leicester could not find a way through the Saints defence.

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