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Leicester player ratings vs Saracens | Gallagher Premiership 2023/24

By Liam Heagney
Leicester's Solome Kata goes forward versus Saracens (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Leicester player ratings live from Mattoli Woods Welford Road: This was a must-win for Dan McKellar’s Tigers. Placed seventh pre-game on 25 points, six points behind the sixth-place Saracens, the hosts needed a victory to close the gap on the defending champions and enhance their prospects of making the end-of-season top-four playoffs.


This they eventually impressively managed to do on a score of 19-10, their determined defence refusing to bend in a compelling second half that was grittily fought to the finish.

Leicester had got off to a first-half flyer, Dan Kelly burgling an Owen Farrell pass to race away for an unconverted 11th-minute try, but that lead soon evaporated with Tom Parton profiting on 20 minutes from a Solomone Kata defensive error on halfway.

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Farrell was then to add to the resulting conversion with a penalty kick four minutes later after Joe Heyes late-tackled Maro Itoje, but Tigers hit back, Matt Rogerson’s converted 34th-minute try giving them a 12-10 lead that would have been more had another try been awarded on the stroke of half-time.

Kelly thought he had got the ball down despite an Elliot Daly tackle after he kicked ahead and regathered following a stolen lineout, but TMO review ruled differently. Then when the action resumed after the break, Saracens dominated for 13 minutes.

22m Entries

Avg. Points Scored
Avg. Points Scored

They failed to score, though, and this proved costly as Tigers bit back to win some scrum penalties and then crucially score on the hour through Harry Simmons with Saracens down to 14 after Itoje was yellow carded some minutes before that for not being back far enough when Jasper Wiese craftily quickly tapped a penalty metres from the try line.

Handre Pollard’s conversion made it a two-score margin, a sufficient cushion to fuel his team’s playoff ambitions with just seven rounds of matches now remaining. Here are the Leicester player ratings:


15. Freddie Steward – 6.5
Despite hurting a shoulder, did what was needed to ensure Saracens didn’t get to expose Leicester more than that single first-half moment when Kata was vulnerable.

14. Harry Simmons – 7
Came in from the cold last Sunday versus Bath for a rare start and was very quiet here for an hour. Showed guts and gas, though, to make it to the line for his result-deciding try.

13. Dan Kelly – 8
Set the tone with his cracking intercept of a Farrell pass to race in from the 10-metre line for the opening score. Continued to threaten and was unfortunate not to be awarded a second try on the blow of half-time after regaining his kick and rolling to the line with Daly clinging onto him.

12. Solomone Kata – 6.5
At fault for the Saracens try for biting in when they attacked off lineout ball in the midfield, opening up a chasm in Tigers’ defence. He made up for it with some hugely powerful second-half carries.


11. Mike Brown – 7.5
Fresh from Friday’s contract extension confirmation, the veteran was as sharp as a tack and aggressive in his collisions with Saracens players. His wise old head was regularly evident and his best moment was the second-half turnover penalty on Theo Dan, which was important in piercing pressure from the visitors.

10. Handre Pollard – 8
Relished his head-to-head with Farrell, he linked play well throughout for the Tigers and his kicking was good. Has much the better against the out-of-sorts Farrell, capping his performance with his slick pass for Simmons’ try.

9. Tom Whiteley – 6.5
Had some up-and-down moments, as witnessed in the second half before his 54th-minute exit. He was excellent when marking a kick with a dive in his 22, but sloppy with a pass that got Brown into a heap of trouble in the same area of the field.

1. James Cronin – 7.5
Exited just after the hour with a healthy tackle count but, more importantly, scrum dominance. It was his set-piece penalty win that got Leicester out of their half on 53 minutes, a crucial momentum swing.

2. Julian Montoya – 7.5
Wound up facing Dan for most of the game due to Kapeli Pifeleti’s early injury. There was one lost lineout in the lead-up to Saracens’ 10-point, first-half power surge, but his engine was great and he signed off with a 66th-minute penalty turnover win.

3. Joe Heyes – 7
Gave Saracens cheap penalty points with his late hit on Itoje but his scrum penalty win on halfway was the momentum shift that regained Leicester their lost first-half impetus at 5-10. Went on to enjoy more set-piece frolics in the second half before exiting with Cronin.

4. George Martin – 7.5
Back at it in recent weeks following his Rugby World Cup injury, he was excellently reliable in the tight when it most mattered. Will curse his handling, though, for the knock-on at 12-10 when Farrell crashed into him near the line.

5. Ollie Chessum – 8
Bounced into the new year last Sunday with his live post-game TV pint quaffing and he will be entitled to repeat that celebration after this effort which included stealing a lineout in the lead-up to Kelly’s disallowed try. Another lock who had an annoying knock-on in the Saracens 22 in the second half, but overall definitely made a case here for a Chessum/Martin partnership at Test level with England.

6. Matt Rogerson – 7.5
Having proved this winter to be an excellent signing from the collapsed London Irish, he produced a worm-like finish for the try that got Leicester back into the first-half contest. His tackle count was also impressive.

7. Tommy Reffell – 7.5
You can only but enjoy this chap’s exhausting work rate and he was on it again here, helping to ensure Saracens got stuck at the ruck.

8. Jasper Wiese – 8
Revved up the Breedon Terrace at an important time following a halfway set-to that ended with a Leicester penalty. Some huge carries followed in the engineering of the Simmons try, including the quick tap that got Itoje binned. Another forward, however, who had a disappointing second-half knock-on in the opposition 22.

Leicester opted for just two backs on their bench for the second game in a row, but the timing of Ben Youngs’ introduction on 54 minutes at scrum-half was perfect in helping them ratchet up the intensity at a crucial time.

Props Francois van Wyk and Will Hurd came on with Tigers 17-10 up and awaiting a successful try conversion and both were sound at the scrum.
Kyle Hatherell was given the closing 10 minutes for Rogerson and he made an immediate impact defensively.

Harry Wells and Finn Theobold-Thomas had eight minutes each for Martin and Montoya, with Jamie Shillcock also finishing the game for Steward at full-back. Olly Cracknell was given the final minutes for Reffell.


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Poorfour 5 hours ago
The AI advantage: How the next two Rugby World Cups will be won

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