Springboks’ World Cup winners take Leicester Tigers to much-needed win in East Midlands derby

Planet Rugby
South Africa fly-half Handre Pollard in action for Leicester Tigers in 2023.

South Africa fly-half Handre Pollard in action for Leicester Tigers in 2023.

South Africa fly-half Handre Pollard kicked 16 points as struggling Leicester Tigers claimed a 26-17 triumph over their arch-rivals Northampton Saints on Saturday.

The playmaker was typically accurate off the tee, scoring four penalties in the opening 50 minutes to take the Tigers 12-3 in front.

Pollard then converted efforts from two more South Africans, Francois van Wyk and Hanro Liebenberg, as Leicester secured a deserved victory over the Saints.

Northampton responded via George Furbank and Sam Matavesi tries, but they were outplayed by their rivals, who were outstanding defensively.

Led by another Springbok World Cup winner, Jasper Wiese, and Wales’ turnover king Tommy Reffell, the Tigers dominated the collisions and sealed their second Premiership win of the campaign.

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The Tigers set a ferocious tone early on and after Furbank spilled a high ball, Northampton were caught offside, allowing Pollard to put the home side ahead with the resulting penalty.

Leicester were cranking up the heat as the minutes went by, but they saw a Charlie Clare score rightly chalked off for obstruction from Solomone Kata on Fraser Dingwall following a maul.

Fin Smith levelled the scores for the Saints with a superb long-range penalty, but Tigers were quickly back in front after Pollard notched a penalty earned at the scrum.

Pollard soon added another three points, this time from just inside his own half, after Leicester again won the breakdown battle.

The home side’s intensity was hugely evident and they were getting a stranglehold at the scrum, winning three successive penalties.

Pollard hit the post with another penalty before Northampton saw a chance narrowly slip through their grasp after James Ramm had chased Smith’s kick ahead.

It was a tough chance at the end of a tough half for the away side, and the difficulties only continued after the interval as Reffell’s breakdown ability wreaked havoc.

There was no relief for Northampton, and Pollard picked up another three points when Tigers extracted another penalty.

Saints sent on Henry Pollock for his Premiership debut in place of Tom Pearson, but the 18-year-old and his team-mates had a huge task on their hands.

And after Northampton’s replacement hooker Matavesi was sin-binned for side entry, the Tigers turned the screw, scoring through Van Wyk.

Waller was also sin-binned for Northampton’s continual scrum struggles, but the Saints roared back with 13 men, scoring through Furbank.

Furbank converted and Northampton thought a big comeback was on when Freeman went over soon after.

But referee Dickson had blown his whistle for what he felt was a knock-on before Tommy Freeman dotted down, and there was no try, leaving the away side bemused.

Liebenberg’s try from a quick tap penalty made sure of the win for Leicester before Matavesi finished off a flowing move from the final play of the game for the Saints.

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