Leicester Tigers 31 Saracens 27 match report: Tigers secure third to set-up semi-final with rivals Northampton Saints as Saracens flanker Justin Melck sent-off for apparent eye-gouging

Saracens had already confirmed their place at the top of the Premiership table but defeat and tarnishing red card will be cause for concern ahead of play-offs

Leicester Tigers will play great rivals Northampton Saints away in the Aviva Premiership semi-finals next weekend after clinching third place with a bonus point victory over leaders Saracens at Welford Road.

The reigning champions claimed a 31-27 victory after coming out on top in a dramatic 21-minute period either side of half time when six tries were scored, Saracens winger Michael Tagicakibau was sin-binned and flanker Justin Melck was sent off for what appeared to be eye-gouging.

Leicester hit back from 8-3 to take a 10-8 lead just before half time thanks to a penalty try, while further touch downs from Manu Tuilagi, Blaine Scully and Graham Kitchener ensured they took a bonus point.

Saracens' tries came from Ben Spencer (2), a penalty try and Jack Wilson, with Spencer's second four minutes from time earning his side a losing bonus point. They will play Harlequins, who beat Bath, in the other semi final at home.

Both sides were under-strength, especially Saracens who rested most of their top 30 players, with a Heineken Cup final and possibly the Premiership final on the horizon.

Lock Hayden Smith made his first start since rejoining Saracens, while England under-20 flanker Maro Itoje made his Premiership debut.

England and Lions flanker Tom Croft made his comeback for Leicester after suffering a knee injury which needed surgery in round one.

Leicester won the first half 10-8 but the small advantage came at a cost as the injuries started to mount with Owen Williams, David Mele, prop Boris Stankovich and lock Geoff Parling all picking up knocks.

Stankovich lasted less than a minute before he trooped off, to be replaced by Marcos Ayerza, after suffering an injury at a ruck.

Things got worse for Leicester a minute later when a lively Saracens team took the lead after some bright play resulted in scrum-half Ben Spencer making a break through the front of a ruck. Although he was held short of the line he reached and put the ball down over the line.

Former England fly-half Charlie Hodgson missed the conversion on an afternoon when the strong wind made it difficult for the kickers, and three minutes later Williams pulled three points back with a penalty from in front of the posts.

Saracens came close to scoring a second in the eighth minute after Hodgson beat Thomas Waldrom on halfway and made a fabulous break. Although the Tigers managed to prevent a try they conceded a penalty, which Hodgson slotted.

Williams missed a long range penalty before he, and then Parling, suffered injuries and were replaced by Dan Bowden and Kitchener.

The loss of Williams meant Toby Flood moved to fly-half, with Bowden taking over at centre, and with two minutes of the half left Bowden made a fine break which almost led to a try after great work by Niall Morris, Ayerza and Steve Mafi.

Saracens' defence, however, held firm and Mele went off, to be replaced by Sam Harrison, after a tackle by Smith near the line. Mele returned for the second half.

Leicester, however, marched Saracens back from the resulting scrum and the referee awarded a penalty try, with Flood adding the extras to give the Tigers a 10-8 half-time lead.

Within four minutes of the restart that lead had become 17-8 and Saracens were reduced to 13 men after winger Tagicakibau was sin-binned for a tip tackle on Ayerza and flanker Melck sent off for what appeared to be gouging.

A minute after the yellow card, Leicester's forwards rumbled towards the line and Flood put Tuilagi over under the posts.

Four minutes later Leicester got their third try in nine minutes, Morris making a break before passing inside for fellow wing Scully to score, Flood adding the conversion.

Saracens hit back in the 54th minute, the referee awarding them a penalty try after Leicester had collapsed a terrific rolling maul. Ben Spencer converted to make it 24-15.

Four minutes later, Kitchener scored at the other end, Flood converting, and Croft immediately replaced Mafi.

Croft had hardly got on the field when Saracens winger Wilson scored his side's third try. In 20 frantic minutes both sides had scored six tries and Saracens had been shown a yellow and a red card.

With four minutes left Spencer intercepted a pass from Thomas Waldrom and ran 70 yards to score in the right corner before converting, but the Tigers were able to close out the victory.

PA

News
Alan Bennett has criticised the “repellent” reality shows which dominate our screens
tvBut he does like Stewart Lee
Life and Style
The Google Doodle celebrating the start of the first day of autumn, 2014.
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
Sport
David Moyes and Louis van Gaal
football
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
i100
Life and Style
Vote with your wallet: the app can help shoppers feel more informed about items on sale
lifeNew app reveals political leanings of food companies
News
Former Governor of Alaska Sarah Palin, left, with her daughter, Bristol
newsShe's 'proud' of eldest daughter, who 'punched host in the face'
Sport
New Zealand fly-half Aaron Cruden pictured in The Zookeeper's Son on a late-night drinking session
rugby
Arts and Entertainment
Salmond told a Scottish television chat show in 2001that he would also sit in front of a mirror and say things like,
tvCelebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Life and Style
Carol O'Brien, whose son Rob suffered many years of depression
healthOne mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of Dark Side of the Moon
musicCan 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition? See for yourself
Life and Style
food + drink
News
Rob Merrick's Lobby Journalists were playing Ed Balls' Labour Party MPs. The match is an annual event which takes place ahead of the opening of the party conference
newsRob Merrick insistes 'Ed will be hurting much more than me'
News
A cabin crew member photographed the devastation after one flight
news
Voices
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
voicesMaybe the new app will make it more normal to reach out to strangers
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

Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits