A drop goal from Freddie Burns with just seconds remaining secured a Leicester Tigers victory over Saracens in the Gallagher Premiership Final at Twickenham Stadium on Saturday.
There was nothing to divide the teams after Owen Farrell chipped over a late penalty, but Tigers recovered to play back in the opposition 22 until Burns got within range to land the telling kick in a 15-12 win.
Tigers, playing in the club’s 10th Premiership Final but a first in nine years, led 12-6 at half-time following tries by Hanro Liebenberg and Jasper Wiese in a period when Saracens scrum-half Aled Davies was in the sin bin following a high tackle.
It was a cagey opening period in which Tigers lost fly-half George Ford just 24 minutes into his farewell appearance for the club, an ankle injury necessitating the change as Burns took over in his first Premiership Final.
Tigers could not add to that score as Farrell got Sarries back level until the final late drama in a close contest between the top two teams in the league season.
Former Saracens duo Chris Ashton and Richard Wigglesworth were added to the Tigers backline following the semi-final win over Northampton while Steve Borthwick also gave a starting slots in the pack to Ollie Chessum.
In their traditional colours of green ,white and red, Tigers were greeted by huge travelling support as Saracens kicked off and it was the men in black who took an early lead with a third-minute kick from Owen Farrell.
Both teams kicked long and high to establish field position and an error from scrum-half Davies gave Tigers an interesting position from which to attack and, when Ashton nudged play towards the tryline, Matías Moroni and Richard Wigglesworth combined to force Alex Goode to dot down in-goal.
But the whistle went against Tigers at the five-metre scrum, prompting celebrations among the Sarries players.
When Billy Vunipola was penalised on 20 minutes, reaching out to grab Wigglesworth at a ruck, Ford took on the kick from wide on the left but saw it float wide of the right-hand post.
Ford and Harry Potter then combined on the left to get Tigers going forward, but the whistle from Wayne Barnes was in Sarries’ favour.
Before play could restart, Ford needed physio treatment for what appeared to be a knock to the right ankle and when the call was made that he could not continue, receiving huge warm applause as he left the field, Burns was sent on.
Referee Barnes issued a yellow card to Davies for a high hit on Julian Montoya and the response came in the form of an opening try.
Tigers played to the right, where Steward broke a tackle and then put Ashton in possession. When he was stopped just short, the forwards recycled and Liebenberg forced his way over the line.
Burns added the kick for a 7-3 lead on 28 minutes, but Elliot Daly quickly added three to that scoreline with a long-range penalty for Sarries.
Sarries were back behind their own line again when Wigglesworth’s chargedown had the defence in trouble and Farrell had to dot down as the scrum-half, Ashton and Moroni all closed in.
A second try followed, though, as the scrum brought a penalty and, when Genge took a tap with support from Dan Cole, Wiese picked up and he barged over for the score.
Steward was forced back by strength of numbers on the Sarries right but showed good strength and composure to gather and drive forward, with Barnes rewarding his effort with a penalty award 10 metres from his own line as the half approached its close with Tigers 12-6 in front.
Burns got the second half under way, with Sarries using Alex Lozowski off the bench in place of Sean Maitland.
Potter led a kickchase and tackled Vunipola back towards the Sarries 22 and was back on the ball to attack wide on the left before the referee’s whistle brought play back for a Tigers penalty.
Burns took on the kick, on the 10-metre line just five metres in front touch, but was off target with six points still separating the teams.
Two Tigers turnovers on the floor in quick succession, through Montoya and then Tommy Reffell, stopped Sarries progress, then a big defensive set finally knocked ball loose and, when Steward cleared, he found touch 70 metres upfield.
Safe lineout ball set up a drive which brought another penalty, this time just inside the 22 and Burns nudged play into the corner with voices rising in the stands.
The drive brought another penalty, with Tigers taking the lineout on the five-metre mark. Play stayed tight among the forwards, but Sarries kept out the drive again.
Burns spotted Ashton on the opposite touchline but Daly leapt highest to make the catch, though he was immediately taken into touch by the Tigers wing.
The drive again pushed towards the line but was fallen stopped less than five metres out.
Play had been totally inside the Saracens 22 for a good period of time but Tigers had not added to the 12-6 advantage and were penalised at a scrum, allowing Farrell to take play 20-plus metres forward.
Steward twice responded to teasing kicks with clean catches and was rewarded with a penalty on halfway on 58 minutes as play returned to Sarries territory where Genge and Porter got forward until Billy Vunipola won ball on the floor and a penalty award of his own.
Matt Scott replaced Moroni in the Tigers midfield before Borthwick sent on Youngs, Clare, Wells and Martin just as Farrell added a penalty following his team’s first phases of attacking ball in the half on 64 minutes.
There were just seven minutes remaining when Andy Christie broke clear for Saracens and they had Tigers scrambling back to get back into their defensive line just five metres out. When they did recycle again, the charge ran straight into referee Barnes and play had to restart with a five-metre scrum in front of the posts.
Vunipola was met with the full force of the Tigers defence, but the referee signalled a penalty in his side’s favour under the posts.
After checking replays, Scott was yellow-carded for the high tackle on the Sarries No8 and Farrell kicked the scores level with four minutes left on the clock.
Tigers recovered and went through pressure possession back upfield, until finally, finally Burns called for the ball and scooped a drop goal over the bar with 22 seconds left on the clock.
Tigers win 15-12 in the Gallagher Premiership FInal!
FREDDIE BURNS DROP GOAL, 22sec left, 15-12.
Farrell penalty, all square at 12-12 with 4min left.
Matt Scott yellow card for the high tackle on Vunipola.
Tigers are back on their own tryline. And Sarries have a penalty. It's 12-9 with 4min left on clock.
Lots of changes from the bench as Sarries cut the lead with a penalty. It's 12-9 to Tigers on 65mins.
Farrell pen for Saracens cuts the Tigers lead to 12-9 on 64min.
Heyes and Scott are on for Cole and Moroni. It's still 12-6 to Tigers.
Monster defence from Tigers, then Steward kicks 70 metres upfield to earn a lineout.
Burns with a long-range kick but just off target. Still 12-6.
Teams are back out for the second half. Tigers lead Saracens 12-6.
HALF TIMES arrives with Tigers 12-6 in front. Tries from Liebenberg and Wiese.
Burns off target with conversion but Tigers lead 12-6 on 37mins.
JASPER WIESE. Genge takes tap penalty from 5m, ball comes back and the No8 barges over. 12-6.
Wigglesworth charges down a Sarries kick and Farrell has to dot down behind his own line with three Tigers chasing him down.
Penalty near halfway from Elliot Daly, brings Sarries back to 7-6.
Burns adds the kick, 7-3 on 28min
HANRO LIEBENBERG with the try on 27min. Break by Steward and Ashton, Tigers recycle and Hanro has the strength to get over the line. 5-3.
Sarries No9 Davies is yellow-carded for high tackle on Montoya.
George Ford is forced off the field with what looks like an ankle injury, Freddie Burns is on at 10.
Ford with a penalty from 40 metres, out on the left side, just wide of the right-hand post. Still 0-3.
An opportunity for Tigers after Goode is forced to dot down over his own tryline, but the 5-metre scrum ends with a Sarries penalty.
Penalty from Farrell gives Saracens a lead on 5min.
FINAL DAY KICK-OFF | Tigers v Saracens
It’s time for kick-off, it will be Owen Farrell to get the game started for Saracens. Tigers are playing North to South, left to right if you look from the benches. HERE WE GO!
After a red-hot countdown to Final Day, it has been warm and breezy around Twickenham with a few spots of rain today. Still a few raindrops around and it is warm, about to get much warmer…
Saracens: 15 Alex Goode, 14 Max Malins, 13 Elliot Daly , 12 Nick Tompkins, 11 Sean Maitland, 10 Owen Farrell (c), 9 Aled Davies; 1 Mako Vunipola, 2 Jamie George, 3 Vincent Koch, 4 Maro Itoje, 5 Nick Isiekwe, 6 Theo McFarland, 7 Ben Earl, 8 Billy Vunipola
Replacements: 16 Kapeli Pifeleti, 17 Eroni Mawi, 18 Alec Clarey, 19 Jackson Wray, 20 Andy Christie, 21 Ivan van Zyl, 22 Duncan Taylor, 23 Alex Lozowski
HOW TIGERS LINE-UP
15 Freddie Steward , 14 Chris Ashton , 13 Matías Moroni , 12 Guy Porter , 11 Harry Potter , 10 George Ford , 9 Richard Wigglesworth ; 1 Ellis Genge , 2 Julián Montoya , 3 Dan Cole , 4 Ollie Chessum , 5 Calum Green , 6 Hanro Liebenberg , 7 Tommy Reffell , 8 Jasper Wiese 
16 Charlie Clare , 17 Nephi Leatigaga , 18 Joe Heyes , 19 Harry Wells , 20 George Martin , 21 Ben Youngs , 22 Freddie Burns , 23 Matt Scott 
MATCH PREVIEW | Gallagher Premiership Final
Leicester Tigers reach double figures in Premiership Rugby Final appearances, but also a first since 2013 as they meet Saracens in the domestic season’s showpiece.
As the top two in the Gallagher Premiership table at the end of a 26-round season, Tigers and Saracens go head to head in the Final for a third time, with each club taking one win from encounters at Twickenham in 2010 and ’11.
Dan Cole, a starter when Tigers last won the title at Twickenham in 2013 and making his 290th first-team appearance today, said: “You learn over time and appreciate how hard it is just to win games in the Premiership let alone get to Finals.
“We will never have this same set of players again, maybe not have the same opportunities again. You impress on the guys that you hope Leicester have many more finals but you have to appreciate this for what it is on the day.
“There have been a lot of changes at the club on and off the field, and I think to get to the Final it is a nice way of showing all the hard work that everyone has put in.”
Leicester have lost just one of their last five matches at Twickenham in Premiership action, against Bath in ‘The Clash’ in April 2017.
Saracens have won on their last eight visits since defeat by Northampton in the 2014 Final. This is their eighth Premiership Final appearance.
Sarries captain Owen Farrell said: “We’ve got an opportunity to do something special and we’re really looking forward to it.
“We’re up against a fantastic side who we respect, so we have had to make sure our preparation has been right. The past is the past and we want to make sure that all of the exciting stuff is in front of us.”
Referee Wayne Barnes takes charge of his 10th Premiership Final.
Great reception from the fans for the Tigers team arrival.
It’s Gallagher Premiership Rugby Final Day. Wherever you are, you can keep up to date with Matchday Live on the Tigers App and website at www.leicestertigers.com.
We are LIVE from Twickenham Stadium as Leicester Tigers face Saracens. Kick-off is at 3.00pm.