Blogs & Opinion


Premiership final: Dewi Morris expects a fierce clash between Northampton and Leicester

Dewi Morris Posted 22nd May 2013 view comments

An East Midlands derby is rarely a thing of beauty. But at the very least the Premiership final between Leicester and Northampton at Twickenham this weekend is going to be fierce, tense and tighter than Stuart Barnes' wallet.

Am I expecting an open game? To be honest, I'm not. I am expecting a game of territory and tension, where both teams will look to put pressure on their opponents and kick their goals. I don't think either team will over-elaborate or look to offload too much.

Tom Croft: key player for the Tigers

Tom Croft: key player for the Tigers

It is all about controlling the ball so accurate kicking will be key from both sets of half-backs. It is about territory, putting pressure on the opposition and making them make mistakes. Whoever will blink first will probably lose the game. So it will be very tight, very forceful and the setpiece will be crucial.

Few people would have predicted that Saints would get to the final. They were absolutely demolished 36-8 by Leicester at Franklin's Gardens at the end of March and at that stage I thought Jim Mallinder's team did not have a plan B. He disagreed with me on television and since then they've been attempting to show greater variety.

If Northampton can replicate the performance from the semi-final for 80 minutes we are in for a hell of a game on Saturday.

Dewi Morris
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They've played with more width and offloaded the ball more. So from that dark moment they have increased their workload and options, and more than deserved their victory over Saracens in the semi-final. They took Saracens on, they pressurised them and they kept it up for 80 minutes.

Unbelievable

Leicester tend to get stronger as the season progresses and they have done just that. They have gone about their business brilliantly. It is their ninth final on the trot, which is unbelievable.

I don't think the fact that Leicester have lost the last two finals will have a negative effect on them. The last two finals could have gone either way. They will be focused on the game in hand and if anything it will make them more desperate to get some silverware.

For me they are the more balanced side than Saints. They have strength in depth, can play any way. Recently Tom Croft's performances have been brilliant, the Youngs brothers, Ben and Tom, have been excellent, Toby Flood will want to prove a point to the Lions and in Vereniki Goneva and Manu Tuilagi they've got game breakers.

They will be well aware that the battle of the breakdown will be crucial. Northampton put Saracens under pressure and they will want to negate Julian Salvi, the openside, and disrupt as much ball as possible to Youngs and Flood.

For Northampton, Samu Manoa - one of the best signings they have ever made - and Courtney Lawes will be key. They can do the tight stuff but their tackling around the field is sensational and devastating.

Also, I've criticised Lee Dickson, the scrum-half, in the past for over-egging it but against Saracens he was top drawer. He had empathy with his forwards, put players into space and stepped on the accelerator when needed. His half-back partner, Stephen Myler, will be just as important in managing the game and the scoreboard.

Leicester will be the favourites, and rightly so. But if Northampton can replicate the performance from the semi-final for 80 minutes we are in for a hell of a game on Saturday.

It was one point in the Heineken Cup final and I think it will be as close as that. I'd like to say Northampton but I think they played their final against Saracens. I think it will be Leicester's year but it will be so, so close.

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