Sweet revenge for Sarries
Saracens were crowned kings of English rugby after an epic 22-18 triumph over Leicester at Twickenham on Saturday.
By Simon Dilger
Last Updated: 29/05/11 9:46am
Saracens were crowned kings of English rugby following a monumental 22-18 triumph over defending champions Leicester at Twickenham on Saturday.
For a full eight minutes after the allocated time was up, Sarries were forced to mount a titanic defensive effort as the Tigers launched wave after wave of attack inches from their line.
Trailing by just four points and the clock reading zero, Leicester hammered Saracens through more than 30 phases as they desperately pushed for a last gasp win.
But the Sarries defence held firm to deny the Tigers' their third straight Premiership title and secure the London club their first.
When the end finally came the release around Twickenham was immense and there will be few fingernails left among those leaving headquarters on Saturday night.
The Tigers were stronger at the scrum during the first half but Sarries bossed things in every other aspect of the encounter and the victory was thoroughly deserved.
The only try of the match came through winger James Short in the first half, although the real star of the show had to be youngster Owen Farrell.
Farrell, who had been recalled from loan mid-season as injury cover, showed composure and a cool head way beyond his years under the intense pressure of his first Twickenham final.
The 19-year-old fired five penalties from five plus a conversion and played a central role in his side's backs-to-the wall defence.
Toby Flood on the other hand could find sleep hard to come by after missing two kickable second-half penalties that ended up costing the Tigers dear.
Leicester were reduced to 14 men within five minutes when Ben Youngs committed a professional foul and joined Andy Gomersall to become only the second man to be sin-binned in a Premiership final.
Farrell stepped up to slot the penalty and put Saracens 3-0 ahead but Flood cancelled them out four minutes later when Sarries were pinged as the Tigers put them under pressure.
The Leicester number 10 struck his second penalty on 18 minutes to nudge Leicester into the lead after hooker Schalk Brits was caught offside.
But the points were wasted within two minutes, when Brits' counterpart George Chuter also went offside in front of his own posts and Farrell duly slotted a simple kick to level things up again.
Alex Goode fired a drop goal attempt wide in the 24th minute but with 11 minutes to go to half-time Brits created a brilliantly worked opening try to put Sarries back in front.
The former Springbok blasted through the Tigers' midfield and drew the outside defenders before delivering a neat offload to Short.
The winger raced for the line, showing fantastic agility and balance to ride a last-ditch touchline tackle and dive over in the left corner.
After a short wait the TV official confirmed he had avoided touch and Farrell added the extras with a superb kick from wide out to take Sarries into a 13-6 lead.
And the young fly-half wasted no time in adding three more when the Leicester forwards were penalised for going off their feet at the ruck seven minutes later.
Flood managed to pull three back on 38 minutes to take the defending champions into the break trailing 16-9 at the end of a half that had seen Saracens remain largely in control.
But within three minutes of the restart Farrell had restored his side's ten point advantage with a another fine penalty.
Flood booted his fourth on 49 minutes to keep Leicester in touch, but when replacement Rhys Gill was pinged for illegal scrimmaging the Tigers' stand-off sent a relatively straightforward kick wide of the posts.
Moments later Sarries were caught with a hand in the ruck while well within range. But Flood missed again in what would prove two crucial moments to the Tigers' hopes of retaining the title.
Flood did hit the target from 37 metres to put his side within four points with just 12 minutes to go.
But young Farrell proved himself equal to the England star when he fired back another three-pointer on 72 minutes to restore the advantage.
It would not last long however as careless play by Sarries saw them give up a penalty within easy kicking distance, although Flood's kick only just crept over the bar to make it 22-18 and set up a nerve-jangling finale.
Saracens were pinged again for illegal scrimmaging with just 90 seconds left and Flood booted to the corner to set up an attacking lineout yards from Sarries line.
From there the sides launched the brutal onslaught and epic rearguard action that lasted well past the 80 minute mark, and will undoubtedly do so in the memories of those who bore witness long after the gates at headquarters have closed.