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Rugby News

Final report | Tigers take title with late drama

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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.