Premiership: Northampton Saints 31-36 Leicester Tigers
|Northampton Saints (22) 31|
|Tries: Tuitavake, Tuala, Picamoles Cons: Myler 2 Pens: Myler 4|
|Leicester Tigers (16) 36|
|Tries: Thompstone, B. Youngs, McCaffrey Cons: Burns, O. Williams 2 Pens: Burns 2, O. Williams 2 Drop-goal: Burns|
Leicester took a big stride towards the Premiership play-offs with a breathless East Midlands derby victory over top-four rivals Northampton in Aaron Mauger's last match in charge.
Nafi Tuitavake's early score for Saints set the tone for a thrilling game.
Adam Thompstone replied, but France's Louis Picamoles scored one try and made another to earn Saints a 22-16 lead.
A breakaway Ben Youngs try and Lachlan McCaffrey's score edged Tigers ahead and Owen Williams' boot sealed victory.
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Replacement Williams slotted a tricky conversion and two tough penalties to earn a win which takes Tigers up to fourth, three points ahead of Bath and six clear of their fierce rivals Saints, who drop to seventh.
Both sides welcomed back their Six Nations stars and their quality shone through on a glorious day at Franklin's Gardens which served as a fitting farewell to Mauger, who was this week overlooked for the head coach role.
The glaring sun - and a swirling wind - played a huge part in the game's opening score, with Tuitavake touching down under the posts after Tigers full-back Telusa Veainu make a terrible mess of Stephen Myler's towering kick.
Thompstone's swift response from a cute Ben Youngs pass as Tigers played through the phases levelled matters, but then Picamoles took centre stage.
The huge Frenchman showed great awareness and good speed on the right to combine with Ahsee Tuala, who went over, and Picamoles then added a third home try following a Freddie Burns penalty.
The boot of Burns helped keep Tigers in touch at the interval and the visitors led for the first time when impressive England scrum-half Ben Youngs scampered away on the left to score from distance.
Despite their dominance in the scrum, Leicester struggled to deal with the strength and quick running of the Saints backline - notably from Wales wing George North.
But Ben Youngs' burst and McCaffrey's twist and score after another incisive break put the visitors in front and Welshman Williams showed typical nerve to kick Tigers to victory late on despite the sin-binning of Mike Williams.
Leicester Tigers assistant coach Geordan Murphy: "It's obviously an emotional day for Mauge and I thought he handled it really well.
"We came together as a side on Monday and talked about it. He said the board had made the decision and it was going to go a different way.
"He didn't want the decision to affect the performance in the week and he did a great job in setting the team up to come to Franklin's Gardens.
"It's tough to come here and get a win because I don't remember when the East Midlands derby hasn't been a one-score game. They are generally pretty tight games and the boys wanted to give Mauge a good send-off today. I think they did that."
Northampton Saints boss Jim Mallinder: "It could have gone either way. We made a very promising start, there were a few key moments in that game where, as we watch it back, we'll think 'what if?'.
"Particularly at the end of the first half, we had a very good overlap and should have scored that.
"There were a few other interesting incidents, but it was a close game, either side could have won it and unfortunately we didn't win it today."
Leicester: Veainu; Thompstone, Tait, Mermoz, Pietersen; Burns, B Youngs; Genge, T Youngs (capt), Cole, Barrow, Kitchener, Fitzgerald, O'Connor, Hamilton.
Replacements: McGuigan, Rizzo, Cilliers, M Williams, McCaffrey, White, O Williams, Roberts.
Northampton: Tuala; Foden, Tuitavake, Mallinder, North; Myler, Groom; Waller, Hartley, Brookes, Lawes, Day, Wood (capt), Clark, Picamoles.
Replacements: Haywood, Waller, Hill, Gibson, Harrison, Dickson Burrell, Pisi.
Referee: Greg Garner (RFU)
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