Tigers v Sarries in Final
PREMIERSHIP WRAP: Leicester will face Saracens in their first Final for nine years after beating Northampton 27-14 on Saturday.
The Tigers’ return to the English showpiece came just hours after Saracens crushed Harlequins 34-17 in the day’s first semifinal.
Leicester, unbeaten at Welford Road in the Premiership for more than a year, were pushed hard by their midlands rivals, but 22 points from George Ford proved decisive.
Ford, on his final Leicester home appearance before joining Sale later this summer, contributed a try, a conversion, four penalties and a drop-goal, and delivered a scoring pass for Freddie Steward’s clinching late touchdown.
Northampton replied through a Tommy Freeman touchdown, with Dan Biggar kicking two penalties and James Grayson one.
Leicester will go in search of a ninth Premiership title against Saracens at Twickenham on June 18.
“What a club. I’ve been here eight years in two stints and I’ve loved every second if it, the highs and lows,” Ford said.
“I don’t think you’ll come across a more traditional rugby club. I’m going to miss it.
“We’ve got a job to do next week. We’re going to have to be at our very best. We can’t wait for it.”
Back in the top flight after being relegated for repeated salary cap breaches, Saracens have made amends for their spell in exile and now stand one win away from claiming the title.
They saw off defending champions Harlequins in the semi-final despite being reduced to 13 men at one stage during the final quarter.
Ben Earl, the Premiership’s Player of the Season, led the charge with a hat-trick of tries.
Nick Tompkins and Aled Davies also crossed in a determined performance that was orchestrated by Owen Farrell.
“It’s been a tough two and half years and it was a problem of our own making,” Saracens rugby director Mark McCall said.
“Mistakes were made, but 99 percent of the people in the organisation weren’t responsible for what happened and that’s never talked about.
“Every one of them, staff and players, had a reason to leave and an excuse to go if they wanted, but none of them did. That level of loyalty probably saved the club, to be honest.
“We saw out on the field against Harlequins where that loyalty comes from, that togetherness that exists. This is a special group of players and I couldn’t be prouder.”
Farrell finished with his bloodied head wrapped in a bandage after a bruising encounter that saw Harlequins hooker Jack Walker sin-binned for a dangerous tackle in the third quarter.
Harlequins threatened a late comeback when they scored two converted tries in a desperate bid to overcome a 27-12 deficit.
But, even when yellow cards to Elliot Daly and Billy Vunipola reduced Saracens to 13 men, Quins could not take full advantage.
Saracens lost a third player to the sin-bin when Alex Lozowksi also departed for a high tackle, but their resilience swept them to a deserved win.
The scores and scorers
Leicester Tigers 27-14 Northampton Saints
For Leicester Tigers
Tries: Ford, Steward
Pens: Ford 2
For Northampton Saints
Pens: Biggar 2, Grayson
Leicester Tigers: 15 Freddie Steward, 14 Harry Potter, 13 Matías Moroni, 12 Dan Kelly, 11 Guy Porter, 10 George Ford, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Jasper Wiese, 7 Tommy Reffell, 6 Hanro Liebenberg, 5 Calum Green, 4 Harry Wells, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Julián Montoya, 1 Ellis Genge (captain).
Replacements: 16 Charlie Clare, 17 Nephi Leatigaga, 18 Joe Heyes, 19 Ollie Chessum, 20 George Martin, 21 Jack van Poortvliet, 22 Freddie Burns, 23 Nemani Nadolo.
Northampton Saints: 15 Tommy Freeman, 14 Matt Proctor, 13 Fraser Dingwall, 12 Rory Hutchinson, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Alex Mitchell, 8 Juarno Augustus, 7 Lewis Ludlam (captain), 6 Courtney Lawes, 5 Api Ratuniyarawa, 4 Alex Coles, 3 Ehren Painter, 2 Sam Matavesi, 1 Emmanuel Iyogun.
Replacements: 16 Mike Haywood, 17 Alex Waller, 18 Oisín Heffernan, 19 David Ribbans, 20 Aaron Hinkley, 21 Tom James, 22 James Grayson, 23 Piers Francis.
Referee: Matthew Carley
Assistant referees: Craig Maxwell-Keys, Jack Makepeace
TMO: Stuart Terheege
Saracens 34-17 Harlequins
Tries: Earl 3, Tompkins, Davies
Cons: Farrell 3
Tries: Dombrandt, Care, Murley
Saracens: 15 Alex Goode, 14 Sean Maitland, 13 Elliot Daly, 12 Nick Tompkins, 11 Max Malins , 10 Owen Farrell (captain), 9 Aled Davies, 8 Billy Vunipola, 7 Ben Earl, 6 Theo McFarland, 5 Tim Swinson, 4 Maro Itoje, 3 Vincent Koch, 2 Jamie George, 1 Mako Vunipola.
Replacements: 16 Kapeli Pifeleti, 17 Eroni Mawi, 18 Alec Clarey, 19 Nick Isiekwe, 20 Andy Christie, 21 Ivan van Zyl, 22 Alex Lozowski, 23 Duncan Taylor.
Harlequins: 15 Huw Jones, 14 Tyrone Green, 13 Joe Marchant, 12 Andre Esterhuizen, 11 Cadan Murley, 10 Marcus Smith, 9 Danny Care, 8 Alex Dombrandt, 7 Will Evans, 6 Stephan Lewies (captain), 5 Hugh Tizard, 4 Matt Symons, 3 Will Collier, 2 Jack Walker, 1 Joe Marler.
Replacements: 16 Joe Gray, 17 Simon Kerrod, 18 Wilco Louw, 19 Matas Jurevicius, 20 Tom Lawday, 21 Lewis Gjaltema, 22 Tommy Allan, 23 Luke Northmore.
Referee: Luke Pearce
Assistant referees: Christophe Ridley, Anthony Woodthorpe
TMO: Ian Tempest