Northampton Wanderers opened up their Premiership Rugby Shield defence with a hard-earned 19-18 victory over Leicester Tigers at Loughborough University.
The visitors looked as though they were about to run away with the clash after tries from skipper Harry Mallinder, Will Davis and Mikey Haywood put them 19-6 ahead.
But Tigers rallied in the closing stages and in the end it was dogged defence from Wandies that earned them their win, with No.10 James Grayson’s two conversions ultimately proving vital to the scoreline.
Northampton – who won 11 of 12 outings in the competition on their way to lifting the trophy last season – found themselves trailing 6-0 after two early Tigers penalties were swept through the uprights by fly-half Joe Ford with Leicester putting pressure on at the breakdown.
Taqele Naiyaravoro, making his Northampton debut after arriving at Franklin’s Gardens over the weekend, impressed with a couple of big carries up the left wing, but it was runs from two other new signings in Davis and Andy Symons that put Tigers on the back foot and ultimately earned the visitors their chance to reduce the deficit.
Grayson's penalty attempt just drifted wide of the mark but the Wandies were now into their stride and with No.8 Mitch Eadie making the key break from a ruck, the ball was then sent wide for Mallinder to finish well in the right corner.
And they were over again shortly before the interval with Leicester lock Sam Lewis in the sin bin after persistent infringements from Tigers close to their own line, with Davis the one to burrow his way over and Grayson converting to take the score to 12-6 at the interval.
Northampton started the second half in similar fashion, as a string of penalties got the Wandies to the corner and the pack did the business with the maul with Haywood on the base to score.
And while replacement prop Osman Dimen and George Worth both crossed the whitewash for Tigers late on as Connor Tupai saw yellow for Northampton for a no-arms tackle, the Wanderers kept possession well in the closing stages to open up their campaign with a win.
Leicester Tigers: Aspland-Robinson; Asiedu, Smith (c), Worth, Holmes; J Ford, White; Gigena, Kerr, Heyes; Jordan, Lewis; Smith, Gough, Tuilagi.
Replacements: Mahoney, Lines, Dimen, Hutchinson, Gray, Brazier, Flinn, Neal.
Wanderers: Mallinder (c); Naiyaravoro, Dingwall, Symons, Worley; Grayson, Davies; Davis, Haywood, Ford-Robinson; Taylor, Onojaife; Wallace, Ryan, Eadie.
Replacements: Gray, King, Alexis, Betteridge, Newman, Tupai, Furbank, Emery