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Painful end to champions' reign

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Yes it hurts, a first semi-final defeat of any competition since 2006, only a second derby defeat in the last dozen games, the first Premiership Final since 2005 without the Tigers. It all hurts.

It will feel raw with the players and the staff too, knowing this season ended not on the turf of Twickenham but at Franklin’s Gardens.

The title defence ended at the penultimate stage, the cruellest stage of all.

It is worth repeating that Tigers were the defending Premiership champions up until Friday evening because it seems to have been forgotten along the way.

Saracens and Saints had the consistency to take the top two places, and Harlequins made a late surge. Bath missed out on the top-four placings solely on the day it mattered, while Gloucester could not live up the pre-season billing which saw many pundits tip them to break into the ranks of contenders. Tigers just got on with it, took their blows when they were down, then bounced back up again to show their true colours and make it to the knockout stages for the 10th consecutive year.   

Tigers were the reigning champions throughout 2013/14, from the three wins in the opening four games, through the trials and travails of Lions injuries and other key men watching from the sidelines, to the last-minute draw at home to Saints and the wins at Kingsholm, at Franklin’s Gardens (don’t forget we did that again) and at Salford, through the run of one defeat in the last 12 league games, one league defeat in 2014.

However raw and hurt it feels now, the morning after defeat by our nearest neighbours, remember that the defence of the league title – the tenth league title in the 26 years of the competition – went to the 79th minute of the penultimate game. 

We’ll be back.