Leicester take sting out of Wasps
Fourteen-man Leicester boosted their hopes of an Aviva Premiership play-off place with a 26-21 win over rivals Wasps at the Ricoh Arena.
The Tigers, who had centre Seremaia Bai sent off at the end of the first half, outscored Wasps three tries to nil and moved up one place to third in the standings on 64 points.
Leicester led 18-12 at the break and staged a fabulous rearguard action after the break to hold on and even managed to score a third try through Adam Thompstone.
Niall Morris and Vereniki Goneva scored in the first half while Freddie Burns kicked 11 points in the match. Wasps fly-half Andy Goode kicked 18 of his side's points.
A 32,019 crowd - a record for the Aviva Premiership outside Twickenham and Wembley - crammed into the Ricoh Arena for a crucial match for both sides.
With only two play-off places left there was plenty at stake for fourth-placed Leicester and Wasps, who started the day just two places and three points behind.
The match had a cup final feel to it and it did not disappoint, a rip roaring first half swinging one way and then the other, Leicester turning round 18-12 up having scored two tries through Morris and Goneva.
Crucially, however, they had centre Bai sent off close to the end of the first half for hurtling into a ruck and catching Wasps number eight Nathan Hughes on the head.
Referee Wayne Barnes initially gave the Fijian a yellow card but changed it to a red after seeing the replay on the big screen. Hughes shook a fist in appreciation of the decision.
It was a huge blow for Leicester who shot out of the blocks and led 10-0 after just seven minutes, after fly-half Burns kicked a penalty and then converted a try in the left corner by full-back Morris.
Leicester, who had England's Dan Cole back at prop and lock Geoff Parking at blind side flanker, picked a pack to strangle Wasps but mixed their game up well.
However, Wasps' former Leicester fly-half Goode kept his side in the game with penalties either side of one from Burns.
But in the 33rd minute winger Goneva scored Leicester's second try after Wasps' defence cracked under intense pressure.
Burns missed the conversion and Goode slotted two more penalties, the second from half way following Bai's dismissal, to put Wasps firmly back in the game.
Both sides lost key players to injury, Parling going off at the end of the first half while Wasps scrum-half Joe Simpson was helped off after suffering a leg injury 11 minutes after the break.,
Goode started to dictate the game for Wasps, with his clever kicks and ability to open the game up.
However, he missed a 47th minute penalty and Leicester struck the first blow of the half, Burns kicking a simple penalty five minutes later to stretch the Tigers' lead to 21-12.
Wasps introduced England lock Joe Launchbury, who has been out for six months with a neck injury, in the 57th minute and six minutes later Goode reduced the arrears to six points with his fifth penalty.
Leicester's England lock Ed Slater, who has missed the entire season with a knee injury, made his comeback in the 60th minute with his side under pressure at a scrum in their own 22.
They got a penalty from it and escaped their own half but only briefly as Wasps stormed back upfield. But for some great last ditch Leicester tackling they would have scored but Goode did kick his sixth penalty to make it 18-21.
Leicester, however, hit back with eight minutes left, winger Thompstone scoring in the right corner after a concerted attack. It was awarded by the video referee but Burns missed the conversion.
Replacement Alex Lozowski's 75th minute penalty put Wasps within five points but Leicester survived a last ditch attack and held on for victory.