Leicester extended their lead at the top of the Aviva Premiership Rugby table with a 27-16 win over Northampton in a pulsating encounter at Welford Road.
The game was in the balance until the final quarter but the Tigers pack were ultimately too strong as the Saints line-out fell apart. Northampton’s cause was not helped by the loss of England stars Courtney Lawes and Chris Ashton to injury early in the first half but nobody could deny that Leicester were deserved winners.
Northampton made a dream start taking the lead after only 55 seconds. From a ruck 40 metres out they moved the ball wide to Ben Foden, who sold a dummy, to race away for a simple try. Stephen Myler converted with an excellent kick from the touchline.
Stung by this sudden reverse, back came the Tigers with some strong running from Ben Youngs and Jordan Crane which saw them into the Northampton 22. The Saints were penalised and Toby Flood kicked the simple penalty.
Immediately from the restart Leicester produced another stunning attacking move with major involvement from Geordan Murphy and Marcos Ayerza which culminated in Craig Newby forcing his way over with Flood unable to land the conversion.
Saints then suffered a major bow with Lawes being helped from the field and replaced. The action was relentless with Northampton regaining the lead with a Myler penalty to make it 10-8 to the visitors with only 12 minutes played but the outside half missed the chance to extend that lead when he fired wide with a long range penalty attempt.
The action became a little less frenetic but the lead changed hands once again when Alesana Tuilagi made a storming burst into the Northampton 22. The Saints were penalised and Flood kicked the goal before the visitors suffered another cruel blow losing Ashton to an injury.
Myler had another chance for points but his penalty attempt from five metres inside his own half fell narrowly short. Flood also had an opportunity but he badly sliced his kick to leave the Tigers a point ahead at the interval.
Within two minutes of the restart Leicester were awarded another penalty and this time Flood made no mistake with his 35-metre kick. Northampton picked up the next score when Myler kicked a penalty after the Tigers were penalised as they tried to stop an impressive scrummage drive from the Saints.
That score was soon nullified as Flood responded with his fourth penalty but, after brilliant work from Foden and Paul Diggin to gain a position in the Tigers 22, Leicester were penalised for Myler to kick the goal to make it 17-16 to the home side going into the final quarter.
With 16 minutes to go Leicester scored a crucial try when Crane battered his way through the Northampton defence to set up a ruck in the visitors 22 before Ayerza was fed and he was able to force his way over for the try which Flood converted before the outside half kicked another penalty after Mark Sorenson was sin-binned. Tigers captain Murphy was stretchered off but, despite some late pressure from Northampton, his side held on.