Yesterday the prize was retaining membership of the leading group in the Courage League First Division, and the sparks as the heavy metal packs clashed threatened to ignite a game which was dry with ambition. As the Leicester forwards rumbled upfield at times they resembled an avalanche of boulders. But they in turn were met with a sometimes immovable mountain of Saints forwards, who won a fair enough share of ball.
In the threequarters, the rapiers of Will Greenwood and Stuart Potter crossed with the sabres of Matt Allen, a major talent at centre, and Jonathan Bell, while both sets of half-backs - Paul Grayson was at full-back for Northampton with the outstanding Gregor Townsend replacing him at outside- half - strutted their stuff for the crowd.
Townsend repeatedly showed his speed and quickness of thought. Yet all Saints had to show for their first-half effort was a Townsend drop goal and a Grayson penalty. Leicester's overall edge early on saw them score the opening try when Neil Back was shunted over from a tap penalty, a try converted by Rob Liley. The outside-half also landed a penalty before taking a knock and handing over the duties to his brother, John.
John Liley kicked goals either side of half-time, and he also starred with his kicking from hand, thumping the ball deep into opposition territory. There was diverting moment when the Tigers scrum-half Austin Healey took on the Saints hooker Allen Clarke. They rolled around while the other 28 players concentrated on the ball. Eventually, having rejoined the main battle, the pair were called together by the referee and made to shake hands.
Ultimately, the smile was on the face of the Tigers, with Stuart Potter rounding off a last spell of pressure to score their second try.
Leicester: Tries Back, Potter; Conversions R Liley, J Liley; Penalties R Liley, J Liley 2. Northampton: Penalties Grayson 2; Drop goal Townsend.
Leicester: J Liley; S Hackney, W Greenwood, S Potter, L Lloyd; R Liley, A Healey; G Rowntree, R Cockerill, D Garforth, M Johnson, R Field, J Wells, N Back, D Richards (capt; E Miller, 72).
Northampton: P Grayson; N Beal, J Bell, M Allen (I Hunter, 75), H Thorneycroft; G Townsend, M Dawson; M Volland, A Clarke, M Hynes, J Phillips, J Chandler, J Cassell, B Pountney, T Rodber (capt).
Referee: A Spreadbury (Bristol).
The South African referee Tappe Henning, who takes charge of Saturday's Test between England and Argentina, came in for criticism yesterday following the 17-17 draw between Saracens and Sale. Sale's New Zealander John Mitchell said: "The referee did not administer the new tackle law. He contributed to a mess of a game.''