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Champion Lawes: 'I don't think we could have played worse'

REACTION: Courtney Lawes said his career in the English club game had finished with the “ending you want”.

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Northampton beat 14-man Bath 25-21 in a dramatic Premiership Final.

But the 35-year-old former England captain, who will join French club Brive next season, was almost denied a fairytale finale in front of a packed crowd of nearly 82,000 at Twickenham on Saturday.

Bath played nearly an hour of the game a man down after prop Beno Obano was sent off, yet were still 21-18 ahead seven minutes from time before a brilliant run by Northampton replacement George Hendy led to England scrum-half Alex Mitchell scoring a game-clinching try.

Even then, however, Northampton – who only just topped the regular season table from Bath after both sides finished on 60 points – had to put in one last colossal defensive effort to secure a first Premiership crown since powerhouse forward Lawes helped them win the 2014 title.

But by the time he attended the post-match press conference, Northampton skipper Lawes was in a more relaxed mood, the blindside flanker taking questions while bare-chested and with a pair of ski goggles perched on top of his head.

“I don’t think we could have played worse,” he said with a laugh.

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“But what a way to go out, I’m over the moon and couldn’t have asked for more.

“We got across the finish line, and that’s what rugby is. Sometimes it doesn’t look pretty, and it certainly didn’t today [Saturday], but we won, and that’s what matters.”

Not long after Obano saw red for a shoulder-led tackle onto the head of Northampton No.8 Juarno Augustus, the Saints surged into a 15-3 lead thanks to tries from Tommy Freeman and Ollie Sleightholme.

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But Bath were level at 18-18 midway through the second half before edging three points in front thanks to a penalty from fly-half star Finn Russell.

Nevertheless, it was Mitchell’s try – converted by fellow England international George Furbank – that proved decisive.

“It’s the ending that you obviously want,” said Lawes.

Saturday’s match was Lawes’s 283rd game for Northampton, with the Midlands team the only club he has so far represented in his 17-year senior career.

“There are a lot of things I will never do again at the Saints, but I owe the club so much,” he said. I’m just really happy to have been able to deliver what the club deserves, really.”

Bath boss Johann van Graan had few complaints about a red card that threatens Obano’s involvement in England’s upcoming tour of Japan and New Zealand.

“Beno is disappointed but…we win together and we lose together,” he said. “We’ll have no issue with the red card, that’s the decision that was made.

Nevertheless, the South African coach added: “I don’t believe it was foul play. It was a collision between two extremely powerful rugby players, a ball-carrier and a tackle.

“All we’ll focus on is our performance, which was heroic. I couldn’t be prouder of the players.”

 

In the latest episode of Walk the Talk, Jim Hamilton chats with double World Cup winner Damian de Allende about all things Springbok rugby, including RWC2023 and the upcoming Ireland series. Watch now for free on RugbyPass TV

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