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Saracens topple Leicester despite a worrying Mako Vunipola injury

By PA
(Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

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Saracens clung on in the face of a determined Leicester fightback to topple the Gallagher Premiership leaders 34-27 at StoneX Stadium. The Tigers were trailing 29-13 early in the second half but they reimposed themselves with tries from Nic Dolly and Ollie Chessum to set up a grandstand finish.

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Leicester’s play was one dimensional but effective and Saracens, who were playing into a strong wind after the interval, fought for their lives in the closing stages of a bonus-point victory that lifts them into second place in the Premiership.

It ended the Tigers’ winning sequence in the Premiership, but they were at least able to secure a losing bonus point. Saracens suffered an early setback when Mako Vunipola hobbled off with an ankle injury following a clear-out and it did not take long for their line to crack as Eli Snyman forced his way over from close range.

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It was the culmination of sustained pressure from the visiting pack, who then made more ground through the maul as part of an ominous start. Saracens fought their way downfield, however, and were willing to put a little more width on the ball in attack with Alex Lewington and Elliot Daly almost combining to good effect.

But when their try came in the 22nd minute it was through the route one approach of a lineout drive, with Tom Woolstencroft touching down as Leicester found it increasingly hard to escape their 22, the wind thwarting attempts to kick a path to safety.

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George Ford nudged the Tigers back in front from the kicking tee but Saracens delivered an emphatic response by striking off a 31st-minute scrum. It was ruthlessly clinical as the man of the match Nick Tompkins took the ball to the line and Daly arrived at full tilt to feed Lewington the scoring pass.

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To compound Leicester’s problems, wing Kini Murimurivalu was sent to the sin-bin for diving onto Lewington while he was touching down and Alex Lozowski nailed the resulting penalty as well as the conversion.

Once Ford had landed his second penalty, Saracens plundered their third try in the corner that would have been patrolled by Murimurivalu as they exploited the space available to send Sean Maitland over.

Early in the second half and the bonus point was sealed as Vincent Koch ran a sharp line off Aled Davies to maraud over, but Leicester showed resilience to hit back quickly through Dolly. Centre Matt Scott evaded a tackle from Daly to get the Tigers straight back onto the front foot.

Their comeback hopes improved when Davies was sent to the sin-bin for a head-to-head collision with Ford. Curiously, Ford did not undergo an HIA and there was another contentious moment when Calum Green clearly neck rolled Billy Vunipola yet escaped a yellow card from referee Craig Maxwell-Keys.

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Saracens were facing a desperate struggle close to their whitewash but a game-turning tackle by Lozowski on Jasper Wiese dug them out of trouble. Eventually, they had to crack and Leicester clinched an important try when Chessum was driven over but in a spirited finish, Saracens were able to grind out a fifth try through Woolstencroft.

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