Gallagher Premiership: Leicester 22 Saracens 27
- Credit: PA Wire/PA Images
Saracens held off a stirring Leicester fightback to maintain their winning start to the Gallagher Premiership campaign, keeping pace with Exeter at the top of the table with a 27-22 success at Welford Road on Sunday.
Tigers had made a promising start, dominating most of the first quarter, but could only put three points on the board and were undone by a three-try salvo late in the half.
Two tries from Brendon O’Connor and Matt Smith’s score saw the home side cut the deficit to two points but Saracens held on for an eighth straight league victory.
Leicester strung together 16 phases from the kick-off and although they could not breach the visitors’ defence they were rewarded with a penalty in front of the posts, which fly-half Joe Ford dispatched.
Twice Leicester thought they had crossed for tries with referee Karl Dickson consulting the big screen on both occasions before ruling them out.
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First Jonah Holmes’ rampaging run down the left wing ended with the combined efforts of Max Malins and Alex Lozowski saving a try because of an inconclusive grounding.
From the resulting five-yard scrum Leicester switched the ball from one side to the other and back again before centre Gareth Owen crashed over - only to see his effort ruled out because of hands in the ruck.
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Saracens’ Ben Spencer scored the opening try of the game after 25 minutes against the run of play, the scrum-half racing 80 metres to the right corner after charging down a kick.
Moments later the visitors had their second try as Malins sold a dummy in midfield before cutting inside and finding Alex Lewington with a looping pass that allowed him to go over unopposed.
And a third try in six minutes followed as Lozowski finished off a break down the right hand side with a blistering turn of pace.
Spencer converted both tries to make it 21-3 to the visitors at the break.
The second half started with the home side once again in the ascendancy as Saracens conceded a series of penalties - Leicester took full advantage with their pack driving flanker O’Connor over for a try at the second attempt.
Saracens restored their 14-point lead when Spencer kicked a penalty from in front of the posts, after Ben Earl’s powerful run put Leicester on the back foot and drew an infringement at the breakdown.
The visitors were reduced to 13 men after Earl halted a promising Tigers attack with a deliberate knock-on and from the resulting pressure Schalk Burger strayed offside once too many times.
The home side made their two-man advantage pay, with O’Connor touching down for the second time of the afternoon and Ford converting.
The Tigers struck again immediately as Smith collected a kick and touched down - but Ford pushed the conversion wide.
Saracens then made light of their numerical disadvantage to drive forward and win a penalty between the posts that Spencer converted as the visitors closed out the win.