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MATCH REPORT Saints run comes to shuddering halt against rampant Tigers

Travis PerkinsSponsored by Travis Perkins

And few in attendance at Franklin's Gardens or watching on TV at home would blame them for wanting to put memories of the Aviva Premiership Rugby visit of Leicester behind them.


The Tigers put on a near-flawless display, stopping just about whatever Saints threw at them while finishing their own chances in a clinical fashion. And although all of the visitors' tries came in the second half, there were signs in the first half that it was going to take something special from the Saints to get the win they wanted.


In the opening 40 minutes Saints barely got out of their half as Leicester piled on the pressure time and again, and it was to their credit that the whitewash held out for as long as it did.


After a cagy opening in which the teams took their time to work each other out, Tom Croft set the tone for his man of the match display with a break that brought the opening points from a Toby Flood penalty.


Saints struck back immediately through Stephen Myler, but the Courtney Lawes chargedown that brought the three points was just about the only break that the hosts got.


That's not to say that Saints weren't trying to find a way through. Tom May and James Wilson combined neatly down the right wing, Ben Foden and Jamie Elliott both tried to find spaces whenever they can, and a neat lineout move only ended when Lee Dickson's pass to Dylan Hartley was pulled back after drifting forward.


But it was Leicester who were getting themselves into scoring positions. And while George Pisi kept Manu Tuilagi in check and Dylan Hartley put a good hit in on Julian Salvi Tigers were on the receiving end of some favourable 50/50 decisions - one where Lee Dickson was penalised for holding onto Ben Youngs when the latter had not released the ball after being tackled, and another when Phil Dowson was somewhat unfortunate to have been judged to deliberately knocked down a Leicester pass.


The first allowed Flood to push Leicester into the danger zone, while the second gave the fly half a shot at goal from in front of the sticks, which he duly converted.


However while that penalty had been harsh there was little debate surrounding the next three-pointer, Lawes being sent to the sin bin five minutes before the break for ending a dangerous Leicester attack by slapping the ball down.


Conceding the three points was bad enough, but things got worse within 90 seconds of the start of the second half when Manu Tuilagi crossed for the first of his two tries. Saints had kicked off and looked to have done what they wanted to do by pinning Leicester back and forcing Ben Youngs to box kick. But a mix-up in the attempted catch handed possession back to Leicester, Tuilagi emerging with the ball, and when the visitors worked their way upfield the centre was on the end to score in the left corner.


The visitors were looking ominous at this point, Niall Morris coming off his wing on a dangerous run, but when the Irishman was yellow carded for batting the ball down it gave Saints a glimmer of hope.


There was little hesitation in sending the ball to the sidelines, and after the forwards had a go with a maul the ball was spun wide and Myler crashed over.


His joy was obvious, as was that of the majority of the capacity crowd, but the cheers were silenced within four minutes as Tuilagi brushed off an attempted tackle to score by the posts.


Flood's conversion increased the margin to 16 points, and with Saints now needing to force the play Myler dinked the kick off a perfect 10 metres. It had been a tactic that had worked regularly in the Saints' previous games, but this time instead of falling to Samu Manoa the ball was plucked out of the air by an unmarked Croft, who set off upfield.


That move did not result in a score, but it highlighted that whatever Saints were doing Leicester were doing things that bit better. This was also true in the lineout, where despite winning clean ball with three successive throws inside the Leicester 22 the hosts were unable to get the rolling maul going, eventually losing the ball close to the line.


This spell proved to be Saints' last opportunity of points, and with Morris making amends for his sinbinning by crossing in the right corner and Mat Tait capitalising on a huge overlap Leicester took themselves out of sight.


TIMELINE

9mins LEICS Pen Flood 0-3

11mins SAINTS Pen Myler 3-3

18mins LEICS Pen Flood 3-6

27mins LEICS Pen Flood 3-9

34mins SAINTS Yellow card Lawes

35mins LEICS Pen Flood 3-12

HALF-TIME SAINTS 3 LEICESTER 12

41mins LEICS Try Tuilagi 3-17

56mins LEICS Yellow card Morris

57mins SAINTS Try Myler 8-17

61mins LEICS Try Tuilagi Con Flood 8-24

71mins LEICS Try Morris Con Flood 8-31

74mins LEICS Try Tait 8-36

FULL-TIME SAINTS 8 LEICESTER 36