No stopping champions Leicester as Saints implode with 12 men
Freddie Steward scored a hat-trick and Chris Ashton crossed for the decisive try against his former club as Leicester rallied to seal a 41-21 derby win at Northampton. The Saints finished with twelve men due to yellow cards for Juarno Augustus, Emmanual Iyogun and Alex Mitchell after leading for much of the match.
A fast start for Saints saw Alex Mitchell and Tommy Freeman score tries inside the opening 20 minutes, though their advantage was dented when Steward crossed for the visitors at the end of the first half. Alex Coles restored a healthy advantage for the Saints five minutes into the second period, although Guy Porter provided an immediate response for the Tigers as they attempted to close the gap.
Late tries from Ashton, George Martin and two from Steward then sealed an ultimately emphatic victory for the reigning champions after Saints had controlled the opening exchanges but were unable to turn their possession into an early lead, a Freddie Burns penalty for the visitors the opening score of the contest.
The hosts thought they had taken the lead when Dan Biggar ended a seemingly sublime passage of play with a try, only for it to be ruled out for an earlier forward pass. Yet Saints did not have to wait much longer for their first try of the afternoon, Mitchell opening their tally after a strong carry by Lewis Ludlam in the build-up.
Two minutes later they scored a second, Freeman bursting down the wing following a poor kick chase from the Tigers, with Biggar nailing both conversions to hand the hosts a 14-3 lead. Tigers improved after a poor opening 20 minutes but continued to make sloppy mistakes when it really mattered and Jimmy Gopperth’s chances of a try were scuppered by a superb tackle from Biggar.
However, after further pressure, they went in at half-time just four points behind after Steward’s 39th-minute try, with Burns adding the extras. A frantic start to the second period saw both sides score tries as the contest ebbed and flowed. Saints initially restored their eleven-point lead through Coles, who surged over the line, with Biggar adding the extras.
But their margin was cut just two minutes later when Porter provided an immediate response for Tigers with a try generated from a scrum just outside Saints’ 22, with Burns providing the conversion. Tigers continued to press and it appeared they had taken the lead through Jack van Poortvliet, but he was ultimately held up on the line thanks to some strong defending from the hosts.
It was Ashton, shortly after coming on, who gave Tigers the lead, finding space out wide and powering over as Saints became fragile defensively after Augustus and Iyogun received yellows. The victory was confirmed when Martin scored Leicester’s fourth try, Mitchell sin-binned for a knock-on in the build-up, with Steward scoring two tries late on to finish the contest in style.
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