Tigers rub salt in Saints’ wounds at Welford Road

George North appeared to be knocked unconscious during the first half
George North appeared to be knocked unconscious during the first half

Saints’ gut-wrenching winless run at Welford Road continued as Leicester Tigers secured a 19-11 Aviva Premiership victory.

In a typically frantic east midlands derby, there were plenty of talking points, with the main one an incident involving George North during the first period.

Stephen Myler kicked six points for Saints

Stephen Myler kicked six points for Saints

North went to gather a high ball and Tigers wing Adam Thompstone got underneath him, sending the Wales wing crashing to the ground.

After discussing the clash with his TMO, referee JP Doyle, who had sin-binned Luther Burrell three minutes into the match for a high tackle, opted to only award a yellow card.

North managed to return to the field eventually after going off for a head injury assessment following the collision that seemed to have left him out cold.

But he couldn’t help Saints, who have not won at Leicester since February, 2007, prevail, as Thompstone’s try and 11 points from the boot of Freddie Burns put Tigers in control.

Jamie Gibson (right) was facing his former club

Jamie Gibson (right) was facing his former club

And, to add insult to injury, Jim Mallinder’s men didn’t even manage to claim a bonus-point as Owen Williams landed a penalty with the final kick of the match.

Welford Road roared and it was a big result for Tigers, who had been hit with a big blow before kick-off as hooker and captain Tom Youngs was ruled out with a back spasm.

That brought Harry Thacker into the starting line-up, with George McGuigan taking his place on the bench.

Tigers were to get a boost three minutes into the match as centre Burrell was sin-binned for a high tackle on full-back George Worth.

Stephen Myler in action

Stephen Myler in action

It was an early flashpoint in a contest in which there are traditionally plenty of them, and Tigers soon got three points on the board thanks to a Burns penalty.

Saints were competing well, despite their numerical disadvantage, but just as Burrell got set to return to the field, wing Thompstone found space out wide to score.

Burns added a sweetly-struck conversion and Tigers had a 10-0 lead with just 15 minutes gone.

Just a minute later, the first full-scale fight broke out, with Saints furious at Thompstone’s tackle on North.

Tom Kessell started at scrum-half for Saints

Tom Kessell started at scrum-half for Saints

The Saints wing landed awkwardly after Thompstone got underneath him and North was forced off for a head injury assessment after appearing to have been unconscious.

It left referee Doyle with a big decision to make and, after talking to his TMO, he decided to only give a yellow card, with home fans breathing a sigh of relief.

But Saints had a score almost immediately as hooker Mike Haywood popped up after a big drive from the visiting pack.

Myler missed the conversion, but he soon made amends with a long-range penalty that cut the gap to just two points.

Thompstone returned and Tigers added another three points to their tally via the boot of Burns after JJ Hanrahan was penalised for a high tackle on Williams.

But Myler replied with a penalty of his own on the stroke of half-time to leave the deficit at two points heading into the second period.

Saints started the half on the front foot, but their ball retention wasn’t the best and they were struggling to break the teak-tough Tigers defence down.

The home side knew they needed to turn the tide, introducing four replacements, including England centre Manu Tuilagi.

Tigers then started to turn up the heat and after Saints just managed to hold the ball up, the hosts had a series of scrums on the visitors’ line.

Saints won a penalty to relieve the pressure, but it was only a temporary reprieve as Tigers continued to press in relentless fashion.

The Saints defending was heroic, but Tigers did eventually get some points, opting to kick at goal, with Burns shaving the inside of the left post as he slotted the penalty.

That left Mallinder’s men five points down with 11 minutes to go and they were soon back down the other end, attempting to put the squeeze on Tigers.

But every time Saints got close to or inside the opposition 22, Saints coughed up the ball, giving Tigers a chance to clear their lines.

The men in white came agonisingly close to claiming a late try, but Fijian lock Api Ratunitarawa was stopped short.

And there was one more gut-wrenching moment for Saints as Tigers won a penalty and Williams stepped up to calmly land the kick to prevent the away side getting a point.

Leicester Tigers: Worth; Thompstone, Betham (Tuilagi 51), O Williams, Brady; Burns (Pietersen 71), Kitto(Harrison 51); Mulipola (Genge 51), Thacker (McGuigan 51), Bateman; Slater (c), Kitchener; Fitzgerald, O’Connor, Hamilton.

Saints: Foden (c); Elliott (K Pisi 74), Burrell, Hanrahan (G Pisi 67), North; Myler, Kessell (Groom 60); A Waller (E Waller 70), Haywood (Clare 67), Hill; Paterson, Craig (Ratuniyarawa 64); Gibson, Nutley, Picamoles (Ludlam 73).

Referee: JP Doyle