Planet Rugby

Saracens wrestle crown off Leicester

28th May 2011 14:03

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Party time: Saracens

Saracens exacted revenge for last season's heartbreaking defeat by overcoming Leicester 22-18 in the Aviva Premiership Final in London.

Like in 2010, there was a dramatic finish to events at Twickenham as Tigers launched a 25-phase assault at their rivals. But the Men in Black this time stood firm thanks to some fine defence.

Saracens deserved their win in truth and their title triumph was down to tireless tackling, hunger, and the probably the hurt of last year's wounds.

Nerves were most definitely on show during the early sparring, with both teams resorting to sending the ball skywards before settling into their respective games. Saracens found their stride first and silenced those who have been labelling them boring, putting on an entertaining brand that had the Tigers at sixes and sevens.

It was apparent that Mark McCall's side were winning all of the mini-battles around the pitch and were deserving of their 16-9 half-time lead.

The pressure they were applying on the Leicester whitewash all began when Brad Barritt made inroads before offloading to a surging Neil de Kock, who had secured his starting spot via a toss of a coin. Richard Wiggleworth was subsequently sitting on the bench and just like clockwork appeared on 50 minutes. Speaking of scrum-halves, that aforementioned passage led to the opposing Ben Youngs being sent to the bin for an infringement at the breakdown, just as Saracens were motoring.

Owen Farrell knocked over the resulting three points to open the game's account but on nine minutes, Leicester hit back through the boot of England number ten Toby Flood.

Flood then went on to push Leicester ahead on 18 minutes following a mix-up between Schalk Brits and De Kock on the ground. However that advantage did not last long, as George Chuter then infringed to allow Farrell the chance to level matters. He did.

Despite the scores being tied up there was still the sense that Saracens were very much on top, and that was rewarded just before the half-hour when Brits claimed a quick line-out and set about finding Marcos Ayerza in the defensive line. The South African hooker took the Argentine on the outside with relative ease before feeding wing James Short for the try.

Richard Cockerill was left looking perplexed while Brendan Venter and McCall sat purring in the stands as two more Farrell penalties to one from Flood ended an entertaining half.

Upon the resumption, Saracens continued to dominate during the early stages and their imperious fly-half Farrell was on-target again to kick them ten points clear. But Flood once again reduced the arrears with two more penalties for his side.

The playmaking duo traded three pointers and in a dramatic finish to the contest, which saw Leicester pound the opposition line for several minutes. But their efforts proved fruitless.

Finally the inevitable happened as a penalty awarded by referee Wayne Barnes against the Midlands side for holding on sparked scenes of jubilation amongst the Saracens players, coaches and fans as they claimed their first trophy since 1998.

Man-of-the-match: Credit to Owen Farrell for his faultless kicking display but the award goes to Schalk Brits for an incredible effort for Saracens. He ran all day for his side.

The scorers:

For Leicester:
Pen: Flood 6

For Saracens:
Try: Short
Con: Farrell
Pen: Farrell 5

Leicester: 15 Scott Hamilton, 14 Horacio Agulla, 13 Matt Smith, 12 Anthony Allen, 11 Alesana Tuilagi, 10 Toby Flood, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Jordan Crane, 7 Craig Newby (capt), 6 Tom Croft, 5 George Skivington, 4 Steve Mafi, 3 Martin Castrogiovanni, 2 George Chuter, 1 Marcos Ayerza.
Replacements: 16 Rob Hawkins, 17 Boris Stankovich, 18 Dan Cole, 19 Ed Slater, 20 Thomas Waldrom, 21 James Grindal, 22 Jeremy Staunton, 23 Billy Twelvetrees.

Saracens: 15 Alex Goode, 14 David Strettle, 13 Chris Wyles, 12 Brad Barritt, 11 James Short, 10 Owen Farrell, 9 Neil de Kock, 8 Ernst Joubert, 7 Jacques Burger, 6 Kelly Brown, 5 Mouritz Botha, 4 Steve Borthwick (capt), 3 Carlos Nieto, 2 Schalk Brits, 1 Matt Stevens.
Replacements: 16 Jamie George, 17 Rhys Gill, 18 Petrus du Plessis, 19 Hugh Vyvyan, 20 Andy Saull, 21 Richard Wigglesworth, 22 Nils Mordt, 23 Noah Cato.

Referee: Wayne Barnes
Assistant Referees: Dave Pearson, Stuart Terheege
Television match official: Graham Hughes

By Adam Kyriacou

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