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Saints flying start falls flat against Tigers

Travis PerkinsSponsored by Travis Perkins

Saints could have no complaints at the scoreline as the Tigers romped to victory and Jim Mallinder's men must now pick themselves up ahead of the final two games of the season against Exeter and Worcester.


Nevertheless, Saints started strongly and made their intentions clear from the start as Ryan Lamb's superb kick to the corner pinned Leicester on their own five-metre line. An early penalty was the reward for the positivity Saints had showed and Lamb made no mistake in slotting the three points.


The highly-anticipated first scrum of the game went the way of the Saints and it was the following set piece that yielded further points for the men in green, black and gold. As the Leicester front row stood up, referee Dave Pearson had no option but to award the penalty, which Lamb duly converted.


But after such a superb opening to the match, Saints proceeded to undo all their hard work by handing Leicester the lead as the visitors grabbed two tries in as many minutes.


First a Lamb clearance kick was charged down, leaving Toby Flood unchallenged to score the opening try, before quick hands from the Tigers out wide put Alesana Tuilagi over as the shell-shocked Saints found their lead had evaporated in a matter of minutes and they were now having to play catch-up rugby.


However Leicester were looking the sharper side and were first at the breakdown and to every loose ball as the Saints struggled to get back into the game. It was no surprise that when the visitors were camped on the Saints line that referee Pearson awarded the Tigers a penalty in front of the posts and Flood took the easy three points.


Saints needed a response and passed up a golden chance for their opening try when Paul Diggin was caught just short of the line; a reflection of the hosts' game as a whole. A third penalty from Lamb did reduce the arrears for the Saints but it was Leicester who deservedly led by eight points at the interval and the home side could be thankful that the gap between the sides wasn't wider.


The second half began in a similar vein as Flood extended the advantage with his second score of the afternoon. Too many missed tackles from the Saints allowed the fly half to waltz through the defence and dot the ball down under the posts as Leicester put themselves into a commanding 15-point lead.


Errors were littering the Saints' play and it was those mistakes that were allowing Leicester to put points on the board at regular intervals and take the game away from the hosts. A second penalty from Flood extended the visitors' lead before the game was ended as contest as the Tigers scored their bonus-point try.


Yet again Leicester piled onto the Saints line but this time the visitors found the time and space to spin the ball out to the right-hand corner where Horacio Agulla powered past Diggin to cross the whitewash and give the Tigers a bonus point after just 54 minutes of the contest.


Saints needed to show some fight and spirit to prevent an embarrassing scoreline and Lee Dickson, who was captaining the side, led the way when he swerved and skipped through the Tigers defence at close range to land the Saints first try of the afternoon.


With plenty of time still on the clock the momentum looked to have swung back the hosts' way, especially when George Pisi - who had another strong game in midfield - carved through the Tigers defence. With Ashton in support there was a two-on-one overlap and a try seemed certain. However the winger slipped as he caught the pass, Leicester's cover scrambled back and the chance had gone.


Had Saints scored then the margin would have been down to eight with 15 minutes to play. But the mishap was another example that it was just not the hosts' day, and when Flood landed another three-pointer it took the sting out of what had become a boisterous atmosphere.


Martin Castrogiovanni's yellow card ensured that Leicester finished the game with 14 men, and while they held Saints out, the numerical advantage eventually counted with two minutes left on the clock with one of the best moves of the game. A deft kick through by replacement Stephen Myler was collected by the onrushing Chris Ashton and the England winger raced over to restore some pride for the defeated Saints.


MAN OF THE MATCH Horacio AGULLA


TIMELINE

6mins SAINTS Pen Lamb 3-0

14mins SAINTS Pen Lamb 6-0

15mins TIGERS Try Flood Con Flood 6-7

17mins TIGERS Try A.Tuilagi Con Flood 6-14

32mins TIGERS Pen Flood 6-17

36mins SAINTS Pen Lamb 9-17

HALF-TIME SAINTS 9 TIGERS 17

44mins TIGERS Try Flood Con Flood 9-24

51mins TIGERS Pen Flood 9-27

54mins TIGERS Try Agulla 9-32

58mins SAINTS Try Dickson Con Myler 16-32

69mins TIGERS Pen Flood 16-35

71mins TIGERS Yellow Card Castrogiovanni

78mins SAINTS Try Ashton Con Myler 21-35

FULL-TIME SAINTS 21 TIGERS 35