Leicester Lions 30 Preston Grasshoppers 27
Hoppers lapsed into former bad habits at Lutterworth Road as they failed to hold out for the win after controlling much of the game.
They entered the last quarter with a comfortable 14-point margin and a four-try bonus point already in the bag, only to lose focus and discipline and the game.
Shell-shocked head coach Garth Dew said: “We played really well in the first half, dominated the play and scored some good tries.
“But in the last period we tried to force the play, were too loose, surrendered possession and lost our discipline. Once more a lack of maturity cost us the game.”
Hoppers started brightly and early pressure brought a penalty for Lewis Allen on three minutes.
Continued forward drives brought a second penalty chance but this time Allen’s attempt was wide.
Lions eventually lifted the siege with telling results, as a speculative kick ahead caused a mix-up in Hoppers’ defence allowing fast hands to put in centre Koster for an unconverted try.
The away pack was still calling the shots but were contained by solid defence and, after 19 minutes, in a rare attack, a line break in the centre was finished off by home full-back Williams but again the kick failed.
Hoppers retaliated immediately as Allen jinked his way over for a fine individual try, receiving a knock in the process, and substitute kicker Scott Jordan was wide with the kick.
But Hoppers now had momentum and a well-worked line-out drive saw Chris Taylor claim the touchdown and this time Allen converted to take the lead.
Things were getting feisty upfront and a fracas during the score brought a yellow card for both sides.
As half-time loomed, Hoppers defended a Lions attack and a forward drive followed by excellent hands and support play brought a try for Ally Murray and Allen’s conversion gave his side a 22-10 lead at the break.
After home kicker Boden reduced the arrears with a penalty, Jordan was tackled just short after a break by Billy Woof but further desperate defence resulted in the sin-binning of home centre Douglas and Hoppers took advantage with their fourth try this time from Pete Altham.
The kick failed but Hoppers were 27-13 to the good.
It was here that things went downhill for Hoppers as they struggled to contain a spirited Lions comeback and increasingly incurred the wrath of referee Howard.
First, home scrum-half Prince sniped round a five-metre scrum to touch down and the kick was good.
Lions were back in touch and turned the screw and first replacement Matt Frings and then No.8 Taylor saw yellow.
The home pack made the most of the extra men, producing two pushover tries to snatch the lead and, although restored to full strength, Hoppers launched a ferocious string of assaults, sterling defence kept them out.