Saracens battle past Leicester to return to Premiership summit

Saracens eventually ground down a combative Leicester Tigers side 33-10 to move back to the top of the Premiership following Exeter’s defeat at Gloucester on Friday night.

Tries from Richard Wigglesworth, replacement hooker Tom Woolstencroft, Ben Spencer and David Strettle were the key ingredients in Saracens’ 16th straight home win on the bounce in all competitions.

Leicester – the last side to beat the current champions at Allianz Park almost a year ago – led at half-time but were suffocated by a hugely professional second-half from the men in black.

Wigglesworth’s early try was what Saracens deserved for all their early pressure. Man-of-the-match Matt Gallagher, having recently extended his contract at Allianz Park, was rock solid under the high ball all afternoon, and Matt Toomua’s tactic of testing the young full-back’s mettle was answered stylishly by the ex-England U20s cap.

Fielding yet another aerial hanger close to the touchline, Gallagher epitomised the confidence prevalent at the Allianz this season, taking the traffic-laden route ahead of him rather than kicking for safety.

Gliding past three would-be tacklers, he found support in Nick Isiekwe, who in turn fed Wigglesworth for an excellent score.

Having weathered the early storm, Geordan Murphy’s side got a grip of the challenge in front of them, happy to soak up a large amount of work defensively and rely on the counter-attacking ability of their wide men.

That plan came to fruition just before the break, when Jonah Holmes, released from the Wales camp this week, scorched home from 20 metres – the rangy wide man profited from George Worth’s dummy and quick feet to open up a Saracens defence that would not put a foot wrong for the remainder of the game.

A 10-5 scoreline at half-time wasn’t in line with the proceedings being played out in from of close to 10,000 in north London, but a juggernaut is difficult to stop, and 28 unanswered points after the break overwhelmed an increasingly beleaguered Tigers.

Toomua missed a second straightforward kick at goal early on, before a couple of Alex Lozowski penalties took Mark McCall’s men into a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.

Woolstencroft muscled over from a bruising catch and drive, before two tries in the final three minutes secured the bonus point that capped a performance which was a timely reminder, if one was needed, of the depth of talent available to the defending champions.

Ben Spencer picked off Toomua’s opportunistic pass – capping a woeful day for the Australia international – to scamper home for number three, and despite the clock being against them, they found time for the fourth; Strettle easing his way past some tired tackles to dot down.

Saracens, shorn of some of their most senior internationals due to Six Nations commitments, showed their quality and their hopes of a trio of trophies continue apace.

- Press Association

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