Premiership semi-finals winners and losers: Deserving finalists, departing legends and Jonny Hill’s bust-up

Jared Wright
Ted Hill of Bath Rugby and Saracens captain Owen Farrell.

Ted Hill of Bath Rugby and Saracens captain Owen Farrell.

The Premiership finalists have been confirmed following two epic semi-finals in England’s top flight.

Northampton Saints and Bath will battle it out at Twickenham Stadium to decide who lifts the trophy, taking over the title from Saracens.

Following the weekend’s action, here are our winners and losers.

Winners

Premiership finalists

It’s only fitting that the two most consistent teams over the Premiership season have reached the final, with the top seed Northampton Saints and second-placed after the regular season, Bath, both winning their semi-finals.

The level of rugby witnessed at Franklin’s Gardens and the Rec was nigh on international standard, setting the scene for a thrilling final at the home of English rugby.

Both teams were thoroughly deserving of their victories and final appearance as Bath look to end nearly a 30-year-long wait for a title and Saints a decade-long one.

It’s the best of the best in the final and frankly, both teams are deserving of a title.

Owen Farrell

It’s certainly not the way Owen Farrell wanted to bow out as Saracens’ greatest-ever player – there is not much of a debate left on that really – as he was unable to skipper his side to another Premiership title despite his heroic efforts.

Still, the ex-England captain showed his warrior spirit with a standout performance despite suffering a quad injury in training before the semi-final.

The injury meant he was unable to kick comfortably off his dominant right leg, but first-time viewers would have never guessed that his left peg was his weaker foot as he still produced a strong showing and marshalled his troops around the pitch.

His brilliant show and go before a deft grubber to set up Alex Lewington will live long in the memory of Saracens fans as he departs for Racing 92. He showed his class after the defeat too, spending an age signing autographs, posing for photos and speaking glowingly about his time at his boyhood club in multiple interviews. A true winner.

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Departing Saints legends

On the opposite of the result, the Saints faithful bid farewell to their legends Courtney Lawes, Alex Waller, Ethan Waller, Lewis Ludlam, Paul Hill and others who are on to pastures new and into retirement.

They will still have one more match as they seek to clinch their first Premiership title since 2014, but the Saints stars thrilled for one last time at the Gardens and were given a guard of honour in a fitting farewell.

Juan Martin Gonzalez

After the demise of London Irish, Saracens swooped to snap up Los Pumas star Juan Martin Gonzalez’s services and it is safe to say it was a masterstroke.

The Argentine has been incredible all season, and the semi-final was no different as he put in yet another stellar performance, including a ludicrous try-saving tackle to deny Alex Mitchell. He could not inspire his side to victory, but he showed a winning spirit.

Johann van Graan

On 11 July 2022, Johann van Graan set the goal for Bath to reach the Premiership final, and not even two years later, the South African has guided the West Country outfit to Twickenham with one last hurdle awaiting them.

The ex-Munster head coach has been a revelation for the side since his arrival, making several sharp signings, including world-class fly-half Finn Russell.

Many were highly critical of Munster’s playing style under Van Graan but his Bath side has been largely praised and rightly so after transforming the pack and pairing it with a lethal backline, turning the club into a real force in English rugby again.

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Tom Curry

After seven months on the sidelines, Tom Curry made a blockbuster return to the rugby pitch, hammering Josh Bayliss and shining in his cameo off the bench.

It was not just the fact that he made his comeback but the manner in which he performed on his return, quickly returning to something at least resembling his usual standard.

His injury threatened his career and it was pleasing for rugby fans as a whole to see the talented loose forward back in action.

Luke Pearce

One of England’s finest referees notched up yet another milestone this weekend as Luke Pearce officiated his 150th Premiership match.

A huge congratulations to Pearce, who once again barely put a foot wrong, which made for an enthralling spectacle at the Rec.

Losers

Saracens

There was always going to be two losers this weekend and unfortunately for the defending champions their title defence came to an end at Franklin’s Gardens.

The defeat brought the curtain down on a special era in Saracens rugby, with Mark McCall set to usher in a new generation next season.

Sarries put up a strong fight against the Saints but ultimately were undone in the scrums and picked apart by Northampton’s stunning attacking patterns.

Departing Sarries legends

Farrell appears on both ends of the list, as Saracens fans saw him and many of his long-time teammates represent the club for one last time.

While the skipper put in a fine shift, the same cannot be said of Mako and Billy Vunipola, with the former being dominated in the set-pieces and the latter nowhere near his destructive best. It just wasn’t to be for Saracens in the end with Sean Maitland’s absence through injury also hampering the side.

Unfortunately for the Londoners, they will be left thinking what could have been.

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Sale Sharks

Sale Sharks boss Alex Sanderson revelled in the fact that many had written off his side ahead of the semi-final against Bath at the Rec and while they put in a sterling effort, they ultimately fell short.

On the whole, Sale are winners for making back-to-back semi-finals, particularly after a poor patch of results, but they will still feel that they had more in them and could have reached the final.

In fact, Sanderson said as much.

“We were victims of our own demise but all credit to Bath. They were consistent throughout the game,” he said.

“It felt at times like we had the winning of the game. These big games turn on very small things.”

Jonny Hill

A real blight on what was otherwise a fantastic celebration of rugby this weekend as England and Sale lock Jonny Hill was involved in a bust-up with a fan after the final whistle at the Rec.

Hill has been sidelined since January and was a spectator on Saturday when he was allegedly involved in a confrontation with a fan.

The fan claimed that Hill grabbed him around the throat and left with a cut above his eye after breaking his sunglasses.

READ MORE: Classy Ben Spencer and Finn Russell take Bath into Premiership final after thrilling victory over Sale Sharks