Leicester's heineken Cup ambitions suffered a setback after 14-man Perpignan snatched a dramatic draw in the last minute. The Tigers had led 13-6 with a try from Alesana Tuilagi late in the first half but they failed to kill off Perpignan, with Billy Twelvetrees missing four penalties, and they paid the price.
Perpignan hit back with a try from scrum-half David Mele and sealed the draw with a late penalty from fly-half Nicolas Laharrague, despite having lock Rimas Alvarez Kairelis in the sin-bin. Leicester are not out of the quarter-final hunt but, given that they still have to travel to pool leaders Scarlets, the draw appears to favour Perpignan. It was certainly the visitors who were celebrating at the final whistle.
Leicester were bent on revenge after returning from Perpignan with a losing bonus point but bruised pride following a 24-19 defeat. Tight-head prop Martin Castrogiovanni's inclusion was the only planned change from that defeat, in a bid to correct Leicester's scrummaging, but the Tigers were forced into a late switch at fly-half, with Twelvetrees replacing Toby Flood, who had suffered an adductor injury.
Laharrague missed with his first drop-goal effort but landed the second to edge Perpignan into the lead, only for Twelvetrees to draw Leicester level with a penalty from inside his own half.
The two fly-halves each missed a shot at goal before exchanging penalties, with Leicester earning theirs after a scything run from Twelvetrees himself. Leicester started to get some tempo into their game; Ben Youngs cut through the Perpignan defence and popped his pass off the ground for Geordan Murphy. The Tigers full-back was eventually hauled down but Leicester's breakdown work earned them another close-range penalty. Tuilagi took the tap penalty and there was no stopping the giant Samoan.
Leicester could not defend their advantage and conceded a penalty on half-time with a late hit from Steve Mafi on David Marty. Perpignan then took the lead immediately after the interval with a try from Mele, who stole down the blindside after a strong scrum from the visitors. Mele finished the try brilliantly, grounding the ball one-handed in the corner before Scott Hamilton's cover tackle bundled him into touch.
The Tigers hit back with two quick penalties, but Laharrague drew the scores level once again. However, another destructive shove from the Leicester eight earned a penalty and Twelvetrees nudged the Tigers back in front.
But it was then the Tigers shot themselves in the foot. Twelvetrees missed two more penalty shots and Laharrague punished them with his late penalty strike. Even then Leicester had one last chance, but they butchered it when Murphy's pass drifted into touch.
Scorers: Leicester: Tries Tuilagi; Conversions Twelvetrees; Penalties Twelvetrees 5. Perpignan: Try Mele. Conversion Laharrague. Penalties Laharrague 4. Drop goal Laharrague.
Leicester: J Murphy (capt); S Hamilton, M Smith,A Allen, A Tuilagi; B Twelvetrees, B Youngs: M Ayerza, G Chuter, M Castrogiovanni, L Deacon, G Skivington, T Waldrom, C Newby, J Crane.
Perpignan: J Michel; F Sid (Edmonds, 71), D Marty, M Mermoz, A Plante; N Laharrague, D Mele (Cazaneve, 66); P Freshwater (Pulu, 68), M Tincu (Geli, 46), N Mas (capt), R Alvarez, O Olibeau (Tchale-Watchou, 48), G Le Corvec, J-P Perez (Tonita, 71), H Tuilagi (Chouly, 60).
Referee: P Fitzgibbon (Ireland).