Saracens continued their recent impressive form with a stunning Guinness Premiership victory over Leicester at Welford Road.
It was a deserved win for the visitors who won at Leicester for the first time in 32 visits. However, the victory was not enough to secure a home draw for the Saracens in the play-offs as they now face a trip to Northampton.
Saracens took the lead after three minutes when Glen Jackson kicked a 40-metre penalty and the visitors’ start became even better when the outside half landed another 30-metre goal two minutes later. Leicester soon hit back when Jeremy Staunton got their first points from a penalty after eight minutes and soon after went ahead.
Jackson’s kick was charged down and the Tigers took full advantage with Geordan Murphy crossing the gain line and from the ruck swift hands saw Alesana Tuilagi outflank the defence to score. Staunton converted from the touchline and then landed a simple penalty to put Leicester 13-6 ahead.
Back came the visitors with Jackson gaining them a good position with an excellent touch finder. They built up a sustained period of pressure with both Brad Barritt and Jacques Burger going close but the home defence held firm and Saracens only reward was a further penalty from Jackson.
The outside half had a further chance to reduce the arrears as the Tigers were penalised when Lewis Moody high tackled Barritt but Jackson pushed the kick wide. After 25 minutes Saracens were back in front once again through a try from Chris Wyles. Murphy and Tuilagi carelessly allowed an up and under to bounce with Wyles running onto the loose ball to collect and score. Jackson converted to give his side a 16-13 lead.
For the remainder of the half the Leicester pack dominated proceedings in terms of possession and territory, with Tuilagi making a couple of powerful runs, but Saracens kept their line intact to lead at the interval. Within two minutes of the restart, Saracens received a tremendous boost to their chances when Schalk Brits intercepted a stray Leicester pass to run 35 metres. Jackson converted to give the visitors a healthy 10-point advantage but soon afterwards the outstanding hooker was forced to leave the field with an injury.
Staunton missed a penalty chance for Leicester but after 57 minutes they were back in it. Ben Youngs made a brilliant blindside break from halfway. He was hauled down narrowly short but from the resulting ruck the Tigers had too many numbers and Marcos Ayerza scored. Staunton converted and then exchanged penalties with Jackson to leave the visitors 26-23 ahead going into the final quarter.
With 12 minutes to go the Tigers were hit by a double blow. At the ruck close to the Leicester line, Tom Croft, the home flanker, was yellow carded and Jackson kicked the penalty. The Tigers were stunned into action with skipper Murphy doing everything in his power to lift his side, but once again Leicester fell foul of the referee, as Derick Hougaard made no mistake with a beautifully struck 45-metre penalty to seal Leicester’s fate.