Aviva Premiership: Leicester 17 Saracens 29
PUBLISHED: 18:09 24 December 2017 | UPDATED: 18:09 24 December 2017
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Saracens returned to winning ways with a deserved win over Leicester in an absorbing Aviva Premiership clash before a crowd of 24,873 at Welford Road.
The European champions’ win followed seven consecutive defeats, with Jonny May’s departure to a red card for two deliberate knock-ons condemning Tigers to a fifth consecutive defeat with an away game at leaders Exeter looming on the horizon.
Each side were awarded a penalty try, with Mathew Tait crossing for Leicester and George Ford converting and kicking a penalty.
Jamie George crossed for Saracens and Owen Farrell kicking five penalties and a conversion.
Saracens made the better start and took a seventh-minute lead with a simple penalty from Farrell, but minutes later it got a whole lot worse for Tigers when they conceded a penalty try.
The visitors pressurised Leicester’s line and when May deliberately knocked down Marcelo Bosch’s scoring pass to Sean Maitland, the Tigers’ wing was yellow carded and referee Matthew Carley awarded a penalty try.
In May’s absence, Saracens should have extended their lead but blew golden opportunities as wayward passes from Alex Goode and Chris Wyles prevented two tries being scored.
May returned from the sin-bin with no damage done but after 26 minutes the visitors extended their lead with a second try as Bosch ran strongly from a line-out to make a dent in the home defence before George saw a gap to run 20 metres and score.
Three minutes later and Leicester were on the scoreboard when Adam Thompstone’s superb off-load created a try for Tait.
Five metres from the visitors’ line and inches from the touchline, the Leicester wing was grasped by two defenders and seemingly had no options but somehow he squeezed out the scoring pass.
Ford converted before adding a penalty to leave his side trailing 17-10 at the interval.
After the restart, Bosch attempted a 60-metre penalty but it sailed wide before Saracens got the next two scores with Farrell succeeding with a penalty and a neat drop-goal in quick succession.
A clever kick from Ford forced Saracens into conceding a five-metre scrum at which the visitors were continuously penalised, culminating in the second penalty try award of the match.
However, Tigers bungled the restart and then infringed, which allowed Farrell to kick his third penalty to give his side a 26-17 lead going into the final quarter.
With 11 minutes remaining, Tigers lost all hope when May was dismissed after receiving a second yellow card for a deliberate knock-on of a pass from Michael Rhodes with Farrell knocking over the resulting penalty.
Mako Vunipola was sin-binned for repeated scrummaging offences but Saracens held on for an important win to go into Christmas on a high note.