Seventeen points from Owen Williams took Leicester Tigers to a pulsating 22-16 win over rivals Northampton Saints on Saturday.
Seventeen points from the boot of Owen Williams took Leicester Tigers to a pulsating 22-16 win over rivals Northampton Saints on Saturday.
Young fly-half Will Hooley, standing in for the injured Stephen Myler, slotted over an early penalty for the home side but it was the Tigers who had the better of the first half in front of a sell-out crowd at Franklin's Gardens.
The power of the Premiership champions, both in the forwards and the backs, proved difficult for the Saints to deal with at times and Anthony Allen scored the game's opening try after just quarter of an hour.
The 27-year-old centre found himself on the right wing and was the beneficiary of a brilliant pass from Ben Youngs that cut out two or three men and left him with the simple task of diving over in the corner. Williams added the conversion and a pair of penalties as he made a confident start to his first ever East Midlands derby; the Welshman and his halfback partner Ben Youngs controlled proceedings in the first half.
Kahn Fotuali'i made Jim Mallinder's team talk a lot easier just a minute before the interval though as he narrowed the deficit to 13-8 by sniping between two defenders from the back of a driving maul to score his first Premiership try.
The second half was a typical arm wrestle between two fierce rivals at times and, with the margins so fine between two of the best sides in the country, goal-kicking was always going to be critical.
Hooley followed up his missed penalty and conversion in the first half by squandering another three points before James Wilson replaced him and promptly slotted over a penalty, while Williams was flawless with the boot and added three further penalties to give the Tigers an 11-point lead going into the final 10 minutes.
Despite such a lead, Leicester made things difficult for themselves in the dying stages as both Ben Youngs and Niki Goneva were sent to the sin bin within a couple of minutes of each other for slowing the ball down and a poor tackle respectively.
Ken Pisi came close to scoring in the corner before fellow replacement Ethan Waller was fed by Luther Burrell and Tom Wood to dot down.
Saints had set up a grandstand finish with three minutes to play and a two-man advantage but the Tigers are made of stern stuff and they stood firm to take the East Midlands bragging rights and move to within seven points of their rivals in the table.
Tries: Fotuali'i, Ethan Waller
Pens: Hooley, Wilson
Pens: Williams 5
Yellow cards: Ben Youngs, Goneva
Northampton: 15 Ben Foden, 14 Jamie Elliott, 13 George Pisi, 12 Luther Burrell, 11 George North, 10 Will Hooley, 9 Kahn Fotuali'i, 8 Tom Wood, 7 Phil Dowson, 6 Calm Clark, 5 Christian Day, 4 Courtney Lawes, 3 Salesi Ma'afu, 2 Dylan Hartley (c), 1 Alex Waller
Replacements: 16 Mike Haywood, 17 Ethan Waller, 18 Tom Mercey, 19 James Craig, 20 GJ Van Velze, 21 Lee Dickson, 22 James Wilson, 23 Ken Pisi
Leicester: 15 Scott Hamilton, 14 Vereniki Goneva, 13 Manu Tuilagi, 12 Anthony Allen, 11 Adam Thompstone, 10 Owen Williams, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Jordan Crane, 7 Julian Salvi, 6 Jamie Gibson, 5 Ed Slater (c), 4 Louis Deacon, 3 Logovii Mulipola, 2 Tom Youngs, 1 Marco Ayerza
Replacements: 16 Rob Hawkins, 17 Boris Stankovich, 18 Fraser Balmain, 19 Graham Kitchener, 20 Pablo Matera, 21 , 22 Toby Flood, 23 Matt Smith
Referee: Wayne Barnes