Leicester Tigers boost play-off hopes as Saracens beaten again

January 7, 2024 7:16 am

[Source: BBC]

Leicester edged closer to the Premiership top four with a 19-10 win over Saracens, who slumped to a third defeat in four league matches.

Tries from Dan Kelly and Matt Rogerson, either side of Tom Parton’s try and an Owen Farrell penalty, edged the Tigers 12-10 ahead at half-time.

Harry Simmons’ try and Handre Pollard’s conversion stretched their lead after Maro Itoje was sent to the sin-bin.

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Sarries went scoreless in a pulsating second half as Tigers saw out the win.

A fifth straight home win in all competitions moves seventh-placed Leicester within three points of the top four and within two of Sarries, in sixth, whose fifth defeat of the season is as many as they suffered for the whole of their title-winning campaign last term.

Not for the first time of late, Farrell was the centre of attention, this time after reports over a move to Racing 92, denied by the French club, and he returned as one of eight changes for injury-hit Sarries.

It also set up a tantalising first head-to-head with fly-half Pollard since the South African broke England hearts at the Stade de France in the World Cup semi-final.

The England fly-half, like Saracens as a whole, did not enjoy the best of starts as centre Kelly picked his pass and scorched to the corner.

The visitors had been under pressure, but moved ahead in typically clinical fashion when Elliot Daly nipped through a gap in centre field and handed Parton the scoring pass.

After their dominant start, Leicester soon found themselves 10-5 down when Farrell added a penalty to his testing conversion.

Back came the Tigers as a dominant scrum near the Sarries line saw Rogerson eventually muscle his way over before Pollard booted the hosts back in front.

The hosts thought they had a third try on half-time when Kelly chased down Pollard’s kick ahead and raced to the line.

But boos rang round the stands as the Television Match Official and referee Luke Pearce ruled Daly, having a terrific first half, had done enough to turn Kelly before he could ground the ball.

Mike Brown earned a huge turnover on his own line as the visitors looked to turn the screw at the start of a tight and fiercely-contested second half.

Leicester weathered the storm and were soon back on the front foot, helped by Itoje’s 57th-minute sin-binning when the England lock failed to retreat after Jasper Wiese’s quick tap.

The Tigers took full advantage as Simmons finished well in the corner after Leicester once again bossed Saracens’ depleted scrum.

The score would prove crucial as the final quarter became a ferocious arm wrestle in midfield.

Ollie Chessum produced a potentially try-saving tackle on Juan Martin Gonzalez as the Sarries flanker looked set to race clear, but it was the 2021-22 champions who finished the stronger and with another important win.