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Saints edge Van Graan's 14-man Bath in dramatic Premiership Final

MATCH REPORT: Courtney Lawes bowed out of the English game as a Premiership champion after his Northampton side edged 14-man Bath 25-21 in a dramatic Final at Twickenham on Saturday.

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Northampton skipper Lawes, a former England captain, was playing his 283rd and final game for the Saints before the 35-year-old powerhouse forward joins French side Brive.

After Bath prop Beno Obano was sent off in the 22nd minute for a dangerous tackle, Northampton – who topped the regular season table – surged into a 15-3 lead.

But Bath fought back to be level at 18-18 in the second half only for Northampton scrumhalf Alex Mitchell to put the Saints four points ahead when he went over for a converted try seven minutes from time following a brilliant run by replacement George Hendy, the player of the match.

Victory gave Northampton their first Premiership title since 2014, with Lawes also involved in that success as well.

“I couldn’t have thought of a better way to go out,” Lawes told TNT Sports after paying tribute to Bath’s resilience.

Mitchell, meanwhile, said Hendy deserved the credit for his score.

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“George Hendy took on about five other boys, I didn’t have to do much!,” Mitchell told the BBC.

“We were actually a bit off it today but we found a way and now we’re champions, so I’m delighted.”

Defeat left Bath, who only two years ago finished bottom of the table, still searching for their first major honour in 16 years.

‘Stick around Obano’

“What a game of rugby from our side, we were tough to beat today but congratulations to Saints, I can’t be more proud of my team,” said Bath boss Johann van Graan, who has overseen the southwest side’s revival since joining the club in 2022.

“To play for 60 minutes with 14 men in a final makes it extremely difficult but we are one group united, we’ll stick around Beno Obano.”

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The seventh minute of the sun-drenched Final in front of a crowd of over 81,000 featured a minute’s applause for the late Rob Burrow, who wore the No.7 shirt, following the Leeds and England Rugby League star’s death aged 41 from Motor Neurone Disease.

Bath flyhalf Finn Russell kicked Bath into a 3-0 lead before opposing playmaker Fin Smith landed a 30-metre drop-goal.

Bath then lost Obano when referee Christophe Ridley, following a video review, decided the prop’s shoulder-led challenge to the head of Northampton No.8 Juarno Augustus merited a red card.

Northampton, beaten in this season’s European Champions Cup semifinal by Leinster, wasted little in making their advantage count, creating an overlap for England wing Tommy Freeman to score a 24th-minute converted try.

And they were 15-3 up when left wing Ollie Sleightholme touched down his own chip ahead.

Bath, however, hit back on the half-hour mark when, from a line-out, South African prop Thomas Du Toit powered over before Russell landed a tough conversion from wide out to leave Northampton 15-10 ahead at half-time.

But after a penalty exchange, Bath were level at 18-18 when scrumhalf Ben Spencer’s cross-kick was knocked backwards by Hendy, with left wing Ollie Muir touching down for a score that Russell could not convert.

Russell then landed a penalty to leave Bath 21-18 ahead with 14 minutes to play against an error-strewn Northampton.

But the Saints had the last word when after Hendy’s break, Mitchell crossed for a try converted by England fullback George Furbank.

The scorers:

For Northampton Saints:
Tries: Freeman, Sleightholme, Mitchell
Cons: Smith, Furbank
Pen: Smith
DG: Smith

For Bath:
Tries: Du Toit, Muir
Con: Russell
Pens: Russell 3

Red card: Ben Obano (Bath, 22′ – foul play, dangerous tackle)

Teams:

Northampton Saints: 15 George Furbank, 14 Tommy Freeman, 13 Burger Odendaal, 12 Fraser Dingwall, 11 Ollie Sleightholme, 10 Fin Smith, 9 Alex Mitchell, 8 Juarno Augustus, 7 Tom Pearson, 6 Courtney Lawes (captain), 5 Alex Coles, 4 Alex Moon, 3 Trevor Davison, 2 Curtis Langdon, 1 Alex Waller.
Replacements: 16 Sam Matavesi, 17 Emmanuel Iyogun, 18 Elliot Millar Mills, 19 Temo Mayanavanua, 20 Sam Graham, 21 Lewis Ludlam, 22 Tom James, 23 George Hendy.

Bath: 15 Matt Gallagher, 14 Joe Cokanasiga, 13 Ollie Lawrence, 12 Cameron Redpath, 11 Will Muir, 10 Finn Russell, 9 Ben Spencer (captain), 8 Alfie Barbeary, 7 Sam Underhill, 6 Ted Hill, 5 Charlie Ewels, 4 Quinn Roux, 3 Thomas du Toit, 2 Tom Dunn, 1 Beno Obano.
Replacements: 16 Niall Annett, 17 Juan Schoeman, 18 Will Stuart, 19 Elliott Stooke, 20 Josh Bayliss, 21 Louis Schreuder, 22 Orlando Bailey, 23 Miles Reid.

Referee: Christophe Ridley
Assistant referees: Luke Pearce, Anthony Woodthorpe
TMO: Tom Foley

In this 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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