Jonny May gave England an injury scare ahead of their autumn series after leaving Leicester’s 23-15 Gallagher Premiership victory over Northampton with his right arm in a makeshift sling.
May was hurt during an eighth-minute carry and cut a disconsolate figure as he sat in the Twickenham stands watching the Tigers claim a win built on tries by Ben Youngs and Jordan Olowofela and the kicking of George Ford.
Eddie Jones names his squad for the Tests against the Springboks, New Zealand, Japan and Australia on Thursday week and he will not want to lose England’s most effective player during the June tour to South Africa.
An additional blow was dealt by the withdrawal of Courtney Lawes from Northampton’s team during the warm-up because of a back spasm.
Saints’ fourth defeat of the season was not the result the club were hoping for in an East Midlands derby played at Twickenham in aid of Rob Horne, their former Australia centre who was forced to retire in April due to paralysis of his right arm sustained during a collision at Welford Road.
Horne was present as a spectator and delivered the match ball on to the pitch, but his presence failed to inspire his former team-mates, who at least stayed in the hunt until the final whistle.
Driving rain limited both sides’ ambition and it was no surprise that the first try came from a series of forward drives launched from a short-range line-out and finished by Northampton flanker Jamie Gibson.
To confirm the score, referee JP Doyle got down on his knees and stuck his head into the ruck to ensure sight of the ball being grounded over the line.
A second Ford penalty nudged Leicester into the lead, but Northampton were on top, winning the territorial battle, with Harry Mallinder coping admirably in the conditions while launching several booming clearances.
But the match pivoted dramatically when the Tigers ran in two tries in two minutes, with Jonah Holmes playing key roles in both.
The first came when Adam Thompstone caught Dan Biggar’s unconvincing kick and flicked the ball out of the tackle to Holmes, who raced ahead before drawing the last defender and feeding Youngs to score.
Former Wasps full-back Holmes then glided out of a congested section of the pitch into space and found Olowofela in support, the replacement wing winning the race over the whitewash.
Northampton spent the rest of the first half pounding away in the Leicester 22 and their reward duly arrived six minutes into injury time when David Ribbans forced his way over.
A hard-fought third quarter passed with only a Ford penalty being added to the score, but it was Saints who were applying most of the pressure.
In the 70th minute they were over again, their pack attacking from a line-out, with replacement hooker Mike Haywood touching down.
Biggar’s nightmare afternoon with the boot continued as he missed the conversion – his third failed shot at goal in three attempts – to leave Northampton trailing by a converted try.
Despite redoubling their efforts, Saints were unable to make any further impression on the Leicester defence.