Saints show incredible character as they cling on to win at Welford Road

Saints showed incredible character as they managed to cling on to claim a 23-18 win against Leicester Tigers at Welford Road.

Saturday, 24th April 2021, 5:08 pm
Updated Saturday, 24th April 2021, 5:10 pm
Tom Wood on the charge at Welford Road

Chris Boyd's side looked to be in total control at 23-10 up but Tigers came roaring back, putting huge pressure on in the latter stages of the game.

Saints lost JJ Tonks to the sin bin and it looked like they would lose Dan Biggar to injury, which would have reduced them to 13 men during the final five minutes.

But Biggar and Saints battled on, refusing to buckle as they bagged the win and the bragging rights against their local rivals, crucially keeping the Gallagher Premiership play-off hopes alive.

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Saints did it all despite suffering blow after blow, even before the game kicked off.

Teimana Harrison (hamstring), Ehren Painter (back) and Ollie Sleightholme (back) were all scratched from the teamsheet due to injury.

That meant Shaun Adendorff, Paul Hill and Tommy Freeman came into the starting 15, with JJ Tonks, Oisin Heffernan and Tom Collins taking their place on the bench.

And Tigers tried to take early advantage of that disruption in the away camp, applying plenty of early pressure.

Matt Proctor made a superb saving tackle to stop Tigers scoring as Saints were penned in during the formative stages of the game.

But after Freeman threatened on the left wing, Saints gained some ground, eventually piecing together a patient move, which ended with David Ribbans landing the knockout punch.

Biggar hit the post with the conversion and Saints were soon back in their own half, being forced to defend from lineout and open play.

George Ford soon reduced the arrears with a penalty, but Tigers gifted Saints a second score on 24 minutes as Rory Hutchinson intercepted a pass and sauntered in under the posts.

Biggar easily added the extras to make it 12-3 and Leicester were soon back at the door.

Saints lost Alex Mitchell to injury on the half-hour mark, but Tigers then lost a player to the sin bin as centre Matt Scott was yellow carded for making contact with the head of Adendorff.

But as has so often been the case on derby day, the team with 14 men scored as Nemani Nadolo, who had been introduced from the bench after just 17 minutes, got the ball down after a lengthy spell camped on the Saints line.

Ford converted and with just five minutes of the sin-bin period remaining, Tigers were just two points down.

Saints won a penalty from the restart though, allowing Biggar to make it 15-10 on the brink of half-time.

Saints were forced into another change at the break as Ahsee Tuala came on for Piers Francis, but the away side landed the first points of the second half thanks to a Biggar penalty.

Ford had the chance to respond almost immediately but he struck the right post with a penalty he would have expected to land.

Tigers were soon down to 14 men again as Harry Wells was sin-binned for a late hit on Biggar.

And Saints capitalised quickly, putting together a move from a lineout with James and Freeman combining superbly to allow Sam Matavesi to score.

Biggar missed the conversion and the game started to get even more frantic with the ball staying in play for a prolonged period and Saints probing from left to right.

But Tigers were standing tall and after being restored to a full complement, they hit back through a Ford penalty, which was won at a Saints scrum.

The momentum was starting to shift the home side's way and after replacement scrum-half Jack van Poortvliet made a break, Tigers moved the ball wide for Nadolo to score.

Ford missed the conversion to leave the deficit at five points but there was plenty of time for Tigers to strike again, and Saints were starting to ship penalties at an alarming rate.

JJ Tonks eventually paid the price as Nadolo continued to wreak havoc, and Tigers had a huge chance to strike with five minutes to go.

Saints were under huge pressure but they were defending for their lives and Biggar epitomised the character, suffering an injury and carrying on.

The Wales star made a key tap tackle to help the cause and Tigers could not find through as Saints celebrated a superb derby-day win.

Leicester Tigers: Steward; van Wyk (Henry 66), Scott, Kelly (Nadolo 17), Murimurivalu; Ford, B Youngs (van Poortvliet 47); Genge (de Bruin 53), T Youngs (c) (Clare 47), Cole (Heyes 47); Wells (Lavanini 66), Green; Liebenberg, Wallace, Wiese.

Saints: Furbank; Proctor, Hutchinson, Francis (Tuala 40), Freeman (Collins 72); Biggar, Mitchell (James 31); Waller (cc) (Auterac 55), Matavesi (Haywood 55), Hill (Heffernan 68); Ribbans, Moon (Coles 59); Wood, Ludlam (cc), Adendorff (Tonks 66).

Referee: Karl Dickson