Saracens’ Andy Farrell failed to shine in his first start at inside-centre but the boot of Glen Jackson guided his side to victory over a depleted Leicester.
The Tigers were missing 10 players due to international commitments and never really got going at Vicarage Road.
And although a late try from fly-half Andy Goode threatened the home team’s dominance, Glen Jackson’s four penalties and a conversion from Richard Haughton’s first-half try were enough to lift Saracens to sixth in the table.
The main talking point was Andy Farrell’s first competitive start at inside-centre. Despite showing flashes of brilliance the 31-year-old former League star never grabbed the game by the scruff of the neck and was outshone by Kiwi fly-half Jackson.
Saracens had the better of the opening exchanges but got no reward until the 11th minute. Some wonderful link play in the backs from Jackson and Farrell got the men in black to within 10 metres. Leicester strayed offside and Jackson slotted the penalty from straight in front of the posts.
From the kick-off Leicester won a penalty and Paul Burke converted with ease from 35 yards. Four minutes later Saracens got the try their early dominance deserved when an up-and-under from Kevin Sorrell was well chased by number eight Ben Skirving.
He was dragged down a metre short of the line by full-back Sam Vesty, but managed to offload to England’s sevens flyer Richard Haughton for the score, with Jackson adding the extras. The Kiwi then added another penalty in the 24th minute, after Shane Jennings failed to release Farrell on the floor, to give the home side a 10-point cushion.
Saracens took that advantage into half time after Burke and Jackson exchanged further penalties.
Jackson added another penalty early in the second half after Tom Varndell obstructed scrum-half Neil de Kock. Fifteen minutes into the half, Tigers centre Leon Lloyd was sin-binned but that coincided with Leicester’s best passage of play. Andy Goode, released from England duty earlier in the week, had been brought on for Burke early in the second half and managed to score a try after Harry Ellis had taken a quick tap penalty seven metres from the Saracens line.
Goode converted his own try and another penalty to bring the Tigers within three points. When Jackson landed another penalty for the home side Leicester needed a converted try to win it with six minutes to go. And they nearly found it when constant pressure on the Saracens line eventually saw loosehead prop James Buckland cross under the posts.
But he was ruled to have been held up by the swarming Saracens defence and the home side held out for a deserved victory.