Inside the Tigers’ Den - All even in the derby

Toby Flood breaking the line for Leicester Tigers against Northampton Saints. Tiger Images
Toby Flood breaking the line for Leicester Tigers against Northampton Saints. Tiger Images
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It may have been honours even between Leicester and a powerful-looking Northampton side, but it was probably the Tigers who will have come away the happier team.

They hauled themselves back into a game in which they were second best in almost every area except set pieces and could have even snatched the victory at the end.

Ed Slater came to the rescue with a try for Leicester Tiger against Northampton Saints. Tiger Images

Ed Slater came to the rescue with a try for Leicester Tiger against Northampton Saints. Tiger Images

Instead it finished 19-19, with the under-strength Tigers breathing a sigh of relief thanks to Ed Slater who touched down with four minutes to go.

The flanker’s try turned Welford Road into a crashing crescendo of noise, with drinks flying through the air as fans deliriously celebrated the unlikely events unfolding in front of them.

And those drinks could easily have been sailing through the air again as both Toby Flood and David Mele had attempts at drop goals but neither threatened the posts.

The game was not without controversy and Northampton’s two powerhouse players Luther Burrell and Courtney Lawes were both shown yellow cards and Tigers vice-captain Louis Deacon was given a ten minute rest for talking back to referee JP Doyle.

The last time these powerhouses met in the Aviva Premiership Final, the game was possibly by Saints captain Dylan Hartley’s red card and the lack of discipline at times may be a sign of the intensity these two teams generate when they meet. Leicester obviously went on to win that last encounter.

Flood perhaps deserves many of the plaudits on Saturday as he guided the Tigers back from the brink of defeat. Despite being floored by a heavy blow to the head, the fly-half picked himself up and the team to marshall them down-field and into position.

With a more accurate drop-goal set up at the end he would certainly have been the day’s hero. It was not to be, but he still kicked four penalties and in many ways it was a statement of intent by Flood, who is being over-shadowed for the England fly-half role by his understudies.

Of course if he had been more accurate in the first result could have been Leicester’s.

On the Saints side, the impressive form of winger George North was something of a let down as Northampton never really brought him into the game. His formidable size was kept largely on the wing and, much to the relief of the Tigers.

While Tigers are never happy to drop points, especially at Welford Road, their two points could be seen as a good achievement considering their missing cast members.

Facing a virtually full strength Northampton side Leicester desperately missed Manu Tuilagi and Mat Tait.

The power of Tuilagi through the centre and the guile of full back Tait gives Tigers a razor sharp edge in attack.

There were glimpses of Leicester’s ability and creativity on Saturday but for much of the match they attempted to bludgeon their way towards the line with brute force. More often than not repelled by a lime green wall of tacklers.

The draw leaves Leicester in third behind runaway leaders Saracens and Northampton.

In other news

Leicester have seen off the rumoured approaches of French Top 14 clubs and maintained the services of director of rugby Richard Cockerill for another five years.

After two spells as interim head coach, Cockerill was appointed to the role on a permanent basis during the 2008/09 season, becoming director of rugby in 2010, and has led Tigers to three Premiership titles, five successive Premiership finals, a Heineken Cup Final and an LV= Cup win.

Tigers chairman Peter Tom said: “Richard Cockerill is a key part of the Leicester Tigers and we’re delighted he has agreed terms on a new long-term contract.

“Cockers played for the club and is very much part of the Tigers family. He knows all about the Tigers culture and how to be successful here both as a player and a coach.”

Mr Tom said: “We see him as the man to continue to drive the team forward.”

Cockerill moved to Welford Road as a player in 1992 and went on to make 262 appearances for Tigers, as well as gaining 27 caps for England.