Lawes and Ashton feel full force of brutal derby

Leicester Tigers 27 Northampton Saints 16: England's Johnson sees two young stars injured as Saints are beaten by a ravenous pack of Tigers

You would not bet against these clubs meeting again in the Premiership final in May, but here in the midwinter chill Leicester were deserved victors of a high-quality joust dimmed only by a number of injuries, including three of concern beyond the bounds of local rivalry.

Might the teams placed one and two in the Aviva Premiership ease themselves in? A few judicious kicks downfield, perhaps, and keep away from contact and risk? No way. Northampton had a try in 52 seconds; the Tigers swept upfield in riposte for a quick eight points; and with barely a dozen minutes gone the visitors had a 10-8 lead.

That opening try was a beauty of a counter-attack. Ben Youngs box-kicked for Leicester, the chasing Anthony Allen waited for the bounce and Northampton seized the ball. Brian Mujati had a charge and then Steve Myler passed long, right to left, to Jon Clarke, who had Ben Foden racing at high pace outside him. The England full-back shimmied and dummied his way through to score. Myler converted.

Youngs was not best pleased with that as an opening in this showcase of the best of a Premiership table that is demarcated on regional lines: the east Midlands on top, followed by London's four clubs, the West Country three and finally our unfortunate friends in the north. The Leicester scrum-half tapped a penalty and shoed anything in his way at the ruck as he led the Tigers' response, with Jordan Crane – one third of a hefty home back row – providing the muscle.

Hard driving earned a penalty that was kicked by Youngs' England half-back pal, Toby Flood, from near the 22. Then, in the ninth minute, Craig Newby went over near the right-hand corner, low to the ground like a truffling pig. It was a try to warm the cockles of the watching England manager, but Martin Johnson would have been less enamoured with the sight of two of his stars this season – the Northampton lock Courtney Lawes and wing Chris Ashton – limping off before half-time. Sir Clive Woodward, a Leicester director who has been strongly linked with the performance director role being created at the Rugby Football Union, watched on television.

Alesana Tuilagi snuffed out a Saints attack with a fine tackle on Paul Diggin, but Leicester conceded – for them – a rare penalty at a scrum. Myler missed twice from long range; Flood too was way off from near halfway. So the Leicester No 10's 25th-minute kick, for offside in the 22, was the only other score before half-time and Leicester led 11-10.

Saints' coaches replaced Lawes with a flanker, Calum Clark, rather than a lock, Mark Sorenson. It worked initially but Tom Wood, the openside, had the first line-out throw of the second half nicked from him and that led to a lengthy spell of pressure, even if Youngs and Flood fluffing their lines off a maul meant Leicester had to settle for a penalty, by Flood.

A seventh member of Johnson's most recent England XV, Dan Cole, came on to replace Martin Castrogiovanni at tighthead for Leicester, less than four weeks before the Six Nations kick-off in Wales – hence the concern over Lawes and Ashton. But Cole's immediate duty was sorting out the Tigers scrum. They were rumbled back at least a dozen metres to concede a penalty that was kicked from 40 metres by Myler, but a tit-for-tat success for Leicester in the Northampton half led to Flood restoring the margin at 17-13 after 57 minutes.

It was 100 miles-an-hour stuff. Leicester's almost hysterical support groaned at Myler's third penalty then exulted when Thomas Waldrom battered into the 22 and Youngs – as he had done brilliantly in the win at Exeter which saw Leicester assume the Premiership leadership from Saints last week – made the link for Marcos Ayerza to score a try.

Flood converted and Sorenson, on for Christian Day by now, was sent to the sin-bin after being trapped in a ruck by another mighty Tigers attack. That teed up three more points for Flood and when Manu Tuilagi halted the excellent Foden at full pelt it confirmed a second straight defeat for Saints for the first time since April. But Leicester agonised too at the sight of their captain, the Ireland full-back Geordan Murphy, being carried off in the final 10 minutes.

Leicester Tigers G Murphy (capt; H Agulla, 71); M Smith, M Tuilagi, A Allen, A Tuilagi; T Flood, B Youngs; M Ayerza, G Chuter, M Castrogiovanni (D Cole, 53), L Deacon, G Skivington, T Waldrom, J Crane, C Newby.

Northampton Saints B Foden; C Ashton (J Ansbro, 27), J Clarke, J Downey (S Geraghty, 70), P Diggin; S Myler, R Powell (S Commins, 71); S Tonga'uiha (R Dreyer, 75), D Hartley (capt; B Sharman, 66), B Mujati (T Mercey, 75), C Lawes (C Clark, 11), C Day (M Sorenson, 62), P Dowson, R Wilson, T Wood.

Referee D Pearson (Northumberland).

Leicester Tigers

Tries: Newby, Ayerza

Con: Flood

Pens: Flood 5

Northampton Saints

Try: Foden

Con: Myler

Pens: Myler 3

News
people

Actress sees off speculation about her appearance in an amazing way

Arts and Entertainment
Serge Pizzorno of Kasabian and Noel Fielding backstage at the Teenage Cancer Trust concerts
musicKasabian and Noel Fielding attack 'boring' musicians
Arts and Entertainment
Julianne Moore and Ellen Page are starring together in civil rights drama Freeheld
film
Voices
'Irritatingly Disneyfied': fashion vlogger Zoella
voicesVicky Chandler: Zoella shows us that feminism can come in all forms
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
nflAtlanta Falcons can't count and don't know what the UK looks like
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
High notes, flat performance: Jake Bugg
music

Review: Despite an uphill climb to see Jake Bugg in action, his performance is notably flat

News
The Putin automaton will go on sale next month in Germany
videoMusical Putin toy showing him annexing Crimea could sell for millions
News
news

Powerful images of strays taken moments before being put down

Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
12 best children's shoes

Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London