Saracens 9 Leicester 9: Flood outshines Farrell as title contenders share spoils at Wembley
17:09 GMT, 15 September 2012
Former England fly-half Charlie Hodgson went from hero to villain as the battle of the Red Rose No 10s past and present ended in stalemate at Wembley.
After replacing the woefully off-colour Owen Farrell early in the second half Hodgson's kicking – both from the tee and in open play – dragged Saracens back into the game.
However, after kicking two penalties in quick succession to level proceedings, the 31-year-old was off target with a last-gasp drop goal in front of the posts.
Close call: Flood (above) and Hodgson (below) both missed late drop goal attempts
Saracens: Pens: Farrell, Hodgson 2.
Saracens: Goode, Ashton, Tomkins, Barritt, Short, Farrell, de Kock, Vunipola, Brits, Nieto, Borthwick, Botha, Brown, Wray, Joubert.
Replacements: Wyles for Short (60), Hodgson for Farrell (52), Wigglesworth for de Kock (52), Gill for Vunipola (66), Smit for Brits (66), Du Plessis for Nieto (48), Hargreaves for Botha (65), Fraser for Wray (71).
Leicester: Pens: Flood 3.
Leicester: Murphy, Hamilton, Tuilagi, Allen, Goneva, Flood, Harrison, Mulipola, T Youngs, Cole, Kitchener, Parling, Mafi, Salvi, Waldrom.
Replacements: Smith for Murphy (15), Stankovich for Mulipola (64), Chuter for T. Youngs (71), Castrogiovanni for Cole (50), Crane for Waldrom (62).
Not Used: Andrew, Phibbs, Ford.
Another England fly-half, Toby Flood,
kicked the three penalties that had seemingly put Leicester on course
for victory but the Tigers pivot was also off-target with a drop-goal
attempt with the last kick of the game as the points were shared.
The place-kicking battle started early, with Flood successful with two penalties inside the first six minutes.
Sarries barely got out of their own half early on but slowly came into
the match and could have reduced the deficit on 10 minutes.
But in a sign of what was to follow in a dismal first half for Farrell,
making his first start of the season, the 20-year-old dragged his effort
wide – the first of four misses from five attempts.
Leicester skipper Geordan Murphy was forced off through injury after 14
minutes, replaced by Matt Smith, before Farrell failed to take advantage
with his next penalty attempt – dragging his effort off target from 40
The Tigers slowly took a grip on the game and enjoyed an impressive
spell of possession, Vereniki Goneva and Scott Hamilton nearly linking
up to produce the first try but for the timely intervention of Alex
Goode on the left wing.
Bad day at the office: Farrell (right) is consoled by captain Steve Bortwick after missing another penalty
Despite sustained pressure they had to settle for a penalty, Flood
extending the lead to nine with his third success on the half-hour mark.
Farrell finally got himself off the mark with his fourth penalty attempt
on 34 minutes but he was wayward again with the last kick of the first
half to leave the margin at 9-3.
Sarries kept the faith with their misfiring fly-half in the early stages
of the second half but Hodgson joined the fray in the 51st minute and
seconds later succeeded where Farrell had failed.
Powerhouse: Manu Tuilagi bursts through for Leicester
The former Sale No 10 – who retired from international duty in the
summer – kicked Sarries to victory against his old club last week and he
found his range immediately after Tigers were penalised for coming in
at the side.
The scores were level before the hour mark when Hodgson made it two from
two. Julian Salvi did not roll away quickly enough and the 31-year-old
duly slotted the penalty to set up a grandstand finish.
Leicester had the next chance to restore their lead on 68 minutes but
Flood pulled his kickable penalty attempt wide for his first miss of the
day at a most inopportune moment.
Title contenders: The two sides met in last season's play-off semi-final
Sarries wasted a chance on the counter-attack after some quick thinking
by Goode, Richard Wigglesworth knocking on with a gap looking to have
A Saracens turnover and a kick ahead from Hodgson forced Leicester to
concede a line-out within metres of their line heading into the last
Safe line-out ball allowed Sarries to set-up the replacement fly-half
with a drop-goal attempt in front of the posts but Hodgson sliced it
Leicester got themselves down the other end of the field to give Flood
his chance to be the hero but his effort was just wide as the points
Centre of attention: Brad Barritt takes on Scott Hamilton