Head coach Brendan Venter was a happy man in the wake of his Saracens side's victory over Leicester at Welford Road – the first home defeat for the end of season table toppers in this campaign.
Chris Wyles and Schalk Brits scored tries for the visitors, with Glen Jackson kicking 19 points and Derick Hougaard kicking a late penalty. The Tigers also scored two tries, through Alesana Tuilagi and Marcos Ayerza, and Jeremy Staunton kicked 13 points. But the visitors claimed a deserved win to triumph at Leicester for the first time in 32 visits. The victory was not enough to secure a home draw for Saracens in the play-offs, though, and they now face a trip to Northampton.
"Next week is irrelevant for the guys as this was a fantastic day," said Venter. "We measure ourselves against Leicester as they are the best side in the Premiership. Our second row, Hugh Vyvyan, has won at all Premiership grounds but never here."
Looking ahead to the clash with Saints, Venter added: "We are really looking forward to the challenge. Northampton made a few comments about the extent of our celebrations when we won there but we sing our song when we win as that was another fantastic day."
Brits, Sarries' outstanding hooker, was forced to leave the field soon after scoring a crucial interception try. Venter added: "Schalk had a bang on the head and we had to drag him off, but he seems okay and we are hoping Alex Goode will be fit though Chris Wyles was brilliant today."
Venter, who earlier this season was embroiled in controversy for comments about officials, was also highly complimentary about referee supremo Ed Morrison. The South African said: "The Premiership is now so good to watch because Ed had the courage to change certain things during the middle of the season which makes the game a much better spectacle."
The key decisions went in the vistors' favour. With 12 minutes to go at the ruck close to the Leicester line, Tom Croft, the home flanker, was yellow carded and Jackson kicked the penalty. That triggered a period of Leicester pressure but the next points crucially went the visitors' way, but once again they fell foul of the referee, and Hougaard made no mistake with a beautifully struck 45-metre penalty to seal Leicester's fate.
Leicester coach Richard Cockerill had no complaints. "We gave away two soft tries, gave them six points start with two soft penalties and then we dropped the ball and it bounced their way for the try," he said. "We were ill-disciplined, we were very inaccurate and we got exactly what we deserved." Bath will provide the opposition for the Tigers in the second play-off semi-final. Cockerill added: "Whenever we are defeated at this club we work hard to rectify it."
Leicester: Tries Tuilagi, Ayerza. Conversions: Staunton 2. Penalties: Staunton 3.
Saracens: Tries Wyles, Brits. Conversions: Jackson 2. Penalties: Jackson 5, Hougaard.
Leicester: G. Murphy (capt), Hamilton, M. Smith, Allen, Tuilagi, Staunton, B. Youngs (J Grindal, 72), Ayerza, Chuter (J Duffey, 50), Castrogiovanni (D Cole, 50), Parling, Kay (J Crane, 50), Croft, Moody (B Woods, 72), Newby.
Saracens: Wyles, Haughton (K Ratuvou, 59), Powell, Barritt, Tagicakibau, Jackson (D Hougaard, 72), de Kock (M Rauluni , 51), Aguero (R Skuse, 75), Brits (F Ongaro, 45), Du Plessis (R Gill, 62), Vyvyan, Botha (T Ryder, 50), Burger, Saull, Joubert (capt).
Referee: Andrew Small (RFU).Reuse content