Northampton Saints claimed a significant derby victory over Leicester Tigers at Welford Road on Saturday as they ran out 19-18 winners.
Ollie Sleightholme’s try on 49 minutes was converted by George Furbank, with the fly-half adding a further four penalties as Saints secured the triumph.
Two tries from Leicester‘s Harry Potter gave the Tigers a strong footing but just one of those was converted by Handre Pollard, who, as well as Freddie Burns, kicked one penalty, with the reigning Premiership champions suffering a seventh defeat of the season.
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The success will go down as Northampton‘s first away from home in the Premiership this season, their only previous win on the road having been scrubbed from the record books after Wasps went into administration.
They twice battled back from behind after Potter’s two tries for the Tigers to record just their second win in eight games in all competitions and go third in the table.
The visitors’ afternoon did not start well, though, as they had full-back James Ramm sent to the sin-bin for a high tackle on Potter close to his own try-line after only three minutes.
It was relentless pressure from the Tigers in the opening stages and it was no surprise when their opening try came in the eighth minute as Potter slipped through Rory Hutchinson’s attempted tackle to score down the left.
Pollard added the conversion, but Saints got off the mark just before Ramm returned to the field through Furbank’s penalty.
Pollard then extended the hosts’ lead to 10-3 with a penalty of his own after Alex Coles was pinged for holding on under pressure from Julian Montoya.
Northampton then produced their first sustained spell of pressure in the match and a pair of Leicester infringements in their own 22 allowed Furbank’s boot to narrow the gap to just one point.
And so it remained until half-time, although it took a vital tackle from Saints number eight Juarno Augustus to prevent Montoya crashing over after the Argentine hooker broke off a driving maul.
Three minutes after the restart, the visitors were in front for the first time as Furbank kicked his fourth penalty after Tigers were penalised at the breakdown.
Leicester soon retook the lead when Potter was able to step away from Tom James to score his second try, which Burns, in the absence of the now-injured Pollard, could not convert.
The match was now coming to the boil and Northampton quickly hit back themselves. Ramm did well to off-load to Sleightholme, who left Anthony Watson trailing in his wake to score, Furbank adding the extras.
😇 East Midlands bragging rights for Northampton Saints! #LEIvNORpic.twitter.com/fl95XoVkF9
— Planet Rugby (@PlanetRugby) January 28, 2023
Burns, playing his last match for Leicester before moving to Super Rugby franchise the Crusaders, then kicked a penalty to reduce Saints’ lead to 19-18 after 63 minutes.
Furbank then had another chance to kick for goal, although was bizarrely forced to take it while Burns was being given a standing ovation after being replaced, and he missed.
Fortunately for Saints it did not cost them as their defence held out in the face of late pressure from the hosts to record a vital result.
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