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Tigers 35 – 20 Saints: Leicester take Derby Day spoils at Welford Road

Northampton Saints were beaten 35-20 by Leicester Tigers in the East Midlands Derby on Friday evening on the 50th Gallagher Premiership meeting between the sides.

Two tries for Nemani Nadolo plus another for Julian Montoya handed the hosts a commanding lead, although Alex Mitchell and Courtnall Skosan both scored to keep Saints in touch at 22-10.

But Tigers kept their foot on the gas after the break to wrap up a bonus point through Bryce Hegarty, meaning Karl Wilkins’ late try – his first in Saints colours – was no more than a consolation for Northampton.

The start of the game featured plenty of kick-tennis between the two sides, with Leicester eventually winning a penalty just outside the 22 as Skosan was penalised for not releasing – but Saints forced a knock-on from the lineout.

Mitchell’s dart through the middle of the park relieved the pressure and took Northampton up to Tigers’ 22, and the livewire No.9 was razor sharp again two minutes later to gather a loose ball from Paul Hill’s attempted offload, before sidestepping Hegarty to score.

Furbank’s conversion drifted just left of the uprights, and Leicester responded on 14 minutes with a try of their own following a lineout drive; with penalty advantage, the hosts went through the phases and eventually sent Nadolo over the whitewash under the posts.

Freddie Burns made no mistake with the routine conversion and then got Tigers on the front foot again with a chip-and-chase before releasing Hanro Liebenberg. The flanker burst down the right and despite Saints’ defence forcing a turnover, they were then penalised again at the breakdown and Burns took full advantage to notch three more points.

Northampton’s ill-discipline at the breakdown cost them over the next ten minutes as Tigers were handed field position regularly by the whistle of Matthew Carley, and scored twice via effective lineout drives.

First Harry Wells did well to strip the ball out of the maul after Saints did well to repel the initial drive, and Leicester spread the ball wide for that man Nadolo to score again from short range, before Montoya found himself at the back of a more conventional drive to score again.

Hegarty missed the conversion but at 22-5 down, Saints needed to score next – and they did just that as Rory Hutchinson (on his 100th Club appearance) found himself in the wide channel, glided past Nadolo and drew the last defender before delivering the ball on a plate for Skosan to score.

Furbank’s conversion drifted wide but the fly-half so nearly scored a try of his own just before the interval, but after the England international had scythed through a gap, the TMO confirmed he’d just been dragged into touch by a last-gasp Chris Ashton tackle.

Wells saw yellow two minutes before half-time for a dangerous tackle on Ollie Sleightholme, but Saints could not make field position count and it stayed 22-10 as the sides went into the sheds.

Northampton rang the changes during the break as an injured Tom Wood was replaced by Karl Wilkins and Matt Proctor entered the action in place of Ahsee Tuala, with Hutchinson moving to fullback.

Burns and Furbank exchanged penalties, but after Northampton’s fly-half had made a try-saving tackle on his opposite number, it was the hosts who crossed the whitewash first in the second half.

It was man-of-the-match Burns at the centre of the action again as his miracle pick-up off the turf helped him make the initial break. Saints skipper Fraser Dingwall got back well to deny him, but with Northampton’s defence now stretched Hegarty was able to cut back inside and earn his team a bonus point on the hour mark.

Ten minutes later, Saints won series of penalties inside Leicester’s 22 and were finally rewarded for their territory as Wilkins burrowed over, with Ashton yellow-carded in the aftermath.

But there was to be no comeback or bonus-point try for Northampton, as Leicester kept the pinned back inside their own half for the majority of the closing stages of the match, and Saints will now pick themselves up for a home clash against Sale Sharks next weekend.

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