Saracens tempt fate against proud Tigers

Saracens 26 Leicester 20
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The Independent Online

You have to wonder if some teams ever learn their lessons, because Saracens came dangerously close to reliving their Twickenham May misery, having put Leicester on the brink of a hammering. Minutes from their first Premiership title in the final against Leicester, Saracens were pipped at the death in a thriller. This was nowhere close to being as exciting, but the superior team did win, even if they have to learn some humility.

Leading 26-10 and awarded a penalty in front of the posts, Saracens decided to swagger and went for the set-piece, indicating that they had won the game and were now hunting a bonus point. You can try that against some teams but best not to against Leicester, who showed the character for which they are renowned. Sure enough, with six minutes remaining, Saracens were defending for their lives.

This time they survived, but rugby director Brendan Venter expressed his lack of excitement. "I'm actually a bit deflated because we seemed to have them. They were conceding penalties because we had the ball," he said. "But we butchered a couple of situations and 26-20 does not reflect the game.

"But we head into Europe on a high, four wins including Northampton and Leicester. I just remain concerned about the breakdown area, something I have spoken of consistently."

The happy hooker Schalk Brits and scrum-half Richard Wigglesworth scored first-half tries while referee Romain Pointe awarded a penalty try when his patience ran out after five scrums had Saracens in trouble on their line.

But the boot of Hougaard chipped away at Leicester's resolve and there was a period when the visitors were tottering, like a boxer longing for the bell.

Leicester though are champions and very proud. Lacking key internationals, they still roared back with a try by Lucas Amorosino, converted by Bill Twelvetrees, and it set up another nail-biting finale.

Leicester's rugby director Richard Cockerill expressed pride in his players and warned: "We have a lot of lads missing and we come away with a point. I'll take that. I thought we had a team to win that game, but fair play to Saracens, they capitalised when we had guys in the bin."

Radio Leicester's commentator was ordered by his station to apologise to listeners when Leicester coach Matt O'Connor was picked up on air unleashing foul-mouthed abuse at the referee which included the word "cheating".

Cockerill insisted: "I was watching the game so I am not aware that Matt said anything, but then we are passionate people and it's top-level sport."

Scorers: Saracens: Tries Wigglesworth, Brits; Conversions Hougaard 2; Penalties Hougaard 3 Drop goal Hougaard; Leicester: Tries Penalty, Amorosino; Conversions Twelvetrees 2 Penalties Twelvetrees 2.

Saracens: C Wyles; D Strettle, K Ratuvou, N Mordt, M Tagicakibau; D Hougaard, R Wigglesworth; D Carstens , S Brits, P du Plessis, S Borthwick (c), H Vyvyan, K Brown, E Joubert, J Burger. Replacements: Powell for Strettle (41), Barritt for Mordt (61), George for Brits (66), Nieto for Du Plessis (45), Botha for Vyvyan (45), Saull for Brown (57).

Leicester: L Amorosino; S Hamilton, D Hipkiss, M Smith, H Agulla; B Twelvetrees, J Grindal; B Stankovich, R Hawkins, D Cole, E Slater, G Skivington, T Croft (c), B Pienaar, T Waldrom. Replacements: Robinson for Smith (66), Castrogiovanni for Cole (57), Mafi for Newby (70), Woods for Pienaar (51).

Referee: R Poite (France).