Leicester needed a late try to sneak past Northampton 30-25 in a thrilling Premiership clash at Welford Road on Saturday.
Leicester needed a late Horacio Agulla try to sneak past Northampton 30-25 in a thrilling Aviva Premiership clash at Welford Road on Saturday.
Leicester came out on top in a feisty East Midlands derby to record their first Premiership home win of the season .
Northampton made an encouraging start but, after settling for a Ryan Lamb penalty, it wasn't long before Leicester worked their way back into the game and regained parity through Toby Flood.
Things really heated up after 13 minutes though when Chris Ashton dragged Alessana Tuilagi into touch by his hair, sparking a mass brawl. Tuilagi received a straight red card for his reaction, seemingly a much lesser offence than his younger brother's on the same man in the same fixture at the end of last season when a yellow card was the punishment.
Northampton flanker and reported England captaincy candidate Tom Wood was also sent off though for his part in the melee, making it 14-a-side for the remainder of the match, and the Saints found it difficult to adjust a man light in the back row.
Ashton escaped the incident unscathed but was made to suffer moments later when Matt Smith ran straight through him, carrying him over the try-line before touching the ball down as close to the corner as possible for one of the finishes of the season so far.
The Leicester pack gradually began to dominate more and more and, after an attacking line-out, Steve Mafi powered through some half-hearted Northampton tackling to score the second try of the game.
Lamb did reduce the deficit slightly for the Saints but they found themselves 15-6 down after an action-packed first half.
Flood edged the Tigers further ahead just two minutes into the second period but Northampton, inspired by Jim Mallinder's team talk, responded immediately. After sucking Leicester's defence into the middle of the field, the ball was spun wide to the left wing for Ashton to apply the finish.
Ben Youngs scored the home side's third try in the 60th minute after a handling error and lack of concentration from the Saints' pack but again Northampton's reply was swift.
Two tries in the space of three minutes gave them a 25-23 lead in what was turning into another classic East Midlands derby. Veteran centre Tom May's score was followed by one from Phil Dowson after Ashton had expertly kept the ball in play out wide.
Further drama was yet to come though as, with less than five minutes remaining, Leicester attacked from deep inside their own twenty-two and created an overlap for Horacio Agulla to surge down the left wing to score and secure a first home Premiership win of the season.
Tries: Smith, Mafi, Youngs, Agulla
Cons: Flood 2
Pens: Flood 2
Tries: Ashton, May, Dowson
Cons: Myler 2
Pens: Lamb 2
Red cards: A. Tuilagi (Leicester – 13th min) ; Wood (Northampton – 13th min)
Leicester: 15 Geordan Murphy (capt), 14 Horacio Agulla, 13 Matt Smith, 12 Billy Twelvetrees, 11 Alesana Tuilagi, 10 Toby Flood, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Thomas Waldrom, 7 Julian Salvi, 6 Steve Mafi, 5 George Skivington, 4 Louis Deacon, 3 Dan Cole, 2 George Chuter, 1 Marcos Ayerza.
Replacements: 16 Rob Hawkins, 17 Boris Stankovich, 18 Martin Castrogiovanni, 19 Ed Slater, 20 Ben Woods, 21 Sam Harrison, 22 Jeremy Staunton, 23 Scott Hamilton.
Northampton: 15 Ben Foden, 14 Chris Ashton, 13 George Pisi, 12 Tom May, 11 Jamie Elliott, 10 Ryan Lamb, 9 Lee Dickson, 8 Roger Wilson, 7 Tom Wood, 6 Phil Dowson, 5 Mark Sorenson, 4 Courtney Lawes, 3 Brian Mujati, 2 Dylan Hartley (capt), 1 Soane Tonga'uiha.
Replacements: 16 Mike Haywood, 17 Alex Waller, 18 Paul Doran-Jones, 19 Samu Manoa, 20 Ben Nutley, 21 Martin Roberts, 22 Stephen Myler, 23 Jon Clarke.
Venue: Welford Road
Referee: Wayne Barnes