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Aviva Premiership: Matt Smith try proves the difference as Leicester beat Northampton 16-12
A Matt Smith try proved the difference as Leicester ground out a hard-fought 16-12 victory over Northampton to briefly move to the top of the Aviva Premiership table.
Smith struck at the start of the second half to push his side into a lead that they would ultimately never relinquish.
In a contest dominated by defences and rather lacking in invention or flair, the boots of respective fly-halves George Ford and Ryan Lamb played a leading role with the former kicking three penalties and a conversion and the latter four penalties.
It was Lamb who gave the visitors an early 6-0 lead as he accepted two penalty opportunities in the opening 11 minutes.
Ford was not so clinical as he fluffed his first two chances, but at the third time of asking he got Leicester back within three on 18 minutes.
It was the Tigers number 10 who had the last word of the half as he ensured his side went in on terms at the interval with a second penalty after Dom Waldouck was penalised for holding on.
The hosts then broke the defensive stalemate just over a minute into the second period as Smith touched down for the game's solitary try, the centre on the shoulder of replacement Vereniki Goneva to receive an offload after a powerful run from the Fijian.
Lamb reduced the deficit after Ford was pulled up for tackling GJ Van Velze without the ball, but three minutes later he was unable to find the target from out wide after the hosts infringed again.
Ford stretched the lead back to seven points with his third penalty after Saints hooker Mike Haywood was pinged for clattering Geordan Murphy in the air following a kick from the full-back.
But he then failed with two virtually identical penalty opportunities from wide on the left within the space of a couple of minutes and those misses looked costly when Lamb slotted his fourth to get Northampton back within striking distance with six minutes remaining.
The Saints fly-half would turn sinner though, as he was sin-binned for a rather cynical block on Anthony Allen and with him went any hopes the visitors had of avoiding defeat.Aviva Premiership. Click here to bet.
|Sunday 11th January|
|London Irish 28 - 26 Exeter|
|Newcastle Falcons 38 - 7 London Welsh|
|Saturday 10th January|
|Harlequins 32 - 12 Leicester Tigers|
|Bath 39 - 26 Wasps|
|Sale Sharks 20 - 7 Northampton|
|Friday 9th January|
|Gloucester 24 - 23 Saracens|
|Sunday 4th January|
|London Welsh 13 - 24 Harlequins|
|Wasps 41 - 16 Sale Sharks|
|Leicester Tigers 17 - 8 Bath|
|Saturday 3rd January|
|Exeter 25 - 26 Gloucester|
|Saracens 22 - 6 London Irish|
|Friday 2nd January|
|Northampton 39 - 31 Newcastle Falcons|
|Sunday 28th December|
|Gloucester 23 - 30 Wasps|
|Saturday 27th December|
|Harlequins 25 - 30 Northampton|
|Newcastle Falcons 23 - 25 Saracens|
|Bath 31 - 14 Exeter|
|Sale Sharks 30 - 32 Leicester Tigers|
|Friday 26th December|
|London Irish 24 - 9 London Welsh|
|Sunday 21st December|
|Wasps 48 - 16 London Irish|
|Saturday 20th December|
|Gloucester 16 - 39 Bath|
|Northampton 23 - 19 Leicester Tigers|
|Saracens 78 - 7 London Welsh|
|Harlequins 15 - 7 Newcastle Falcons|
|Friday 19th December|
|Sale Sharks 18 - 11 Exeter|
Read the thoughts and opinions of Phil Edwards with skysports.com