A Niki Goneva brace was enough to steer Leicester Tigers past a spirited Worcester Warriors 23-22 in an enthralling clash on Friday.
A losing bonus point and a man-of-the-match performance from Chris Pennell was scant consolation for the hosts who will count themselves unlucky not to win the game after taking the lead with less than 15 minutes to play.
The Warriors had a strong first half but trailed 17-12 at the break, after Pennell scored three penalties either side of converted Goneva tries, before the full-back added a fourth penalty to leave the home side five behind.
Worcester started the second half well too, and Pennell was pivotal in the opening try of the half, scored by Josh Drauniniu, but the lead swung both ways and two Toby Flood penalties cancelled out Pennell's sixth penalty of the game and was enough to seal the victory.
Leicester got off to a flying start as Paul Warwick's overambitious pass was picked off by Goneva who had a free run to the line, handing the visitors an early lead, with Flood adding the simple conversion. Goneva was key once again as the Tigers came close to extending their lead, breaking through the Worcester line before Thomas Waldrom was stopped just short by Pennell.
The Warriors closed the gap to one point with a couple of penalties three minutes apart; Pennell nailing both from 38 metres out before following it up with a kick from the halfway line. The Tigers were penalised at the line-out and Pennell's boot was unfaltering for a third time as he kicked another penalty to give the home side a 9-7 lead.
Worcester had the impetus snatched away from them soon after, following a good run from Blaine Scully, who found Goneva to score his second try of the game. Flood added the extras.
The hosts were awarded an opportunity to close the gap again with another penalty, with Pennell making it four from four. The Tigers responded well though, and despite initially deciding to kick a penalty to touch, Flood was awarded a second chance in front of goal shortly after, with the captain converting successfully to give the visitors a 17-12 lead at half time.
The visitors were awarded an early penalty in the second half, but Flood dragged a fairly straightforward kick wide. Flood's inaccuracy was punished five minutes later as Worcester regained the lead when, after a lengthy period of possession, Drauniniu collected Pennell's offload to touch down in the corner, before the full-back drilled a flat conversion between the posts.
Flood atoned for his earlier miss with a penalty to retake the lead, which the Tigers held onto until the 68th minute when Pennell kicked his sixth penalty of the game from in front of the posts.
The lead quickly changed hands yet again in the dying moments, as Flood kicked his third penalty to give the visitors a 23-22 advantage with less than ten minutes left on the clock. Worcester looked to launch one, final attack but Pennell spilled the ball to bring an end to a thrilling encounter.
Pens: Pennell 5
For Leicester Tigers:
Tries: Goneva 2
Cons: Flood 2
Pens: Flood 3
Worcester: 15 Chris Pennell, 14 Josh Drauniniu, 13 Alex Grove, 12 Ravai Fatiaki, 11 David Lemi, 10 Paul Warwick, 9 Jonny Arr, 8 Jonathan Thomas, 7 Sam Betty, 6 Mike Williams, 5 Mariano Galarza, 4 James Percival, 3 John Andress, 2 Agustin Creevy, 1 Ofa Fainga'anuku
Replacements: 16 Ed Shervington, 17 George Porter, 18 Rob O'Donnell, 19 Dean Schofield, 20 Leonardo Senatore, 21 Paul Hodgson, 22 Ignacio Mieres, 23 Josh Matavesi
Leicester: 15 Mathew Tait, 14 Blaine Scully, 13 Matt Smith, 12 Anthony Allen, 11 Vereniki Goneva, 10 Toby Flood (c), 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Thomas Waldrom, 7 Julian Salvi, 6 Jamie Gibson, 5 Ed Slater, 4 Louis Deacon, 3 Logovi'i Mulipola, 2 Rob Hawkins, 1 Marcos Ayerza
Replacments: 16 Harry Thacker, 17 Boris Stankovich, 18 Fraser Balmain, 19 Steve Mafi, 20 Pablo Matera, 21 David Mélé, 22 Owen Williams, 23 Scott Hamilton
Referee: Andrew Small