Kathryn Treder’s first-half hat-trick was not enough to secure Loughborough Lightning victory as Leicester Tigers came from behind to win at cinch Stadium at Franklin’s Gardens.
Before a record Lightning crowd at the venue of 1,703 supporters, the hooker finished three rolling mauls off clinically with Tigers staying in the fight with tries of their own through Claire Gallagher and Amelia Tutt.
A cagey and tense second half ensued before Gallagher grabbed her second, which Meg Jones converted and then added a late penalty to end Lightning’s two-match winning run.
Lightning struck first after only three minutes when Sadia Kabeya raced through the middle of the park and into the 22. Desperate Tigers defence resulted in a penalty concession under the posts. Home skipper Rachel Malcolm opted to go for the corner in a bold move that paid off, as Treder guided a rolling maul over the line and Helena Rowland converted well from wide out.
Tigers got themselves back in the game against the run of play when Gallagher intercepted a pass inside her own half to finish under pressure from covering defenders.
Lightning were firmly on top at lineout time in both defence and attack, and when Treder threw into a 17th minute setpiece, she kept her patience to navigate a way to the line and two minutes before the break, the hat-trick was complete on the left side of the pitch from another unstoppable moving mass of Lightning bodies.
Neither try was improved from the boot and with the final play of the half, Tigers worked their way into the 22 and Tutt managed reached over. Meg Jones converted from the touchline to cut the gap at the break to five.
The second period was a stop-start affair largely played out in the middle third of the pitch as both teams struggled for fluency.
Tigers tidied up their leaky lineout, shored up their scrum and enjoyed the majority share of possession and territory, without overly troubling Lightning who defended resolutely and with excellent discipline.
Just as Lightning appeared to be seeing the game out, the backfield was left invitingly open and Gallagher weighted a perfect in behind before skilfully hacking ahead and grounding under pressure. Meg Jones landed the tricky conversion to put Tigers ahead with ten minutes remaining.
There was time for Lightning to get back into the game and when Carys Williams-Morris cantered through the heart of the midfield, pulses were racing, but the covering defence did well to win a penalty and clear to half-way.
Tigers closed out the contest with a Jones penalty as Lightning fell just short of backing up recent wins against Harlequins and Trailfinders Women.
LIGHTNING: Tasker, Westcombe-Evans, Mataitoga, Nelson, Williams-Morris, Rowland, Davey, Trevarthen, Treder, Belisle, Ives Campion, O’Donnell, Malcolm, Kabeya, Hibbert-Jones.
Replacements: Meuller, Williams, Wells, Duguid, Wassell, Taufoou, Weaver, Hardy
TIGERS: Feury, Tutt, M Jones, Gallagher, McGhie, N Jones, Relf, Bartlett, Martin, Cockburn, Omokhuale, Jacobs, Sagapolu Sanele, McBrien, Brody
Replacements: Bainbridge, Knight, Ugiagbe, Fray, Noon, Richardson, Nye, Nicholas