Irish fly half rules second half as Leinster come back from 22-6 down to win Heineken Cup 33-22 against Northampton.
|Saracens’ James Short just manages to keep himself inside the line to score a crucial try for his team [GALLO/GETTY]
Saracens claimed their first English Premiership title, and denied Leicester their third consecutive one, with a nail-biting 22-18 victory at Twickenham on Saturday.
Outside-half Owen Farrell’s 100 percent kicking performance and a heroic display from Man of the Match Schalk Brits helped give Saracens an unassailable lead despite the Leicester Tigers pushing for the winning try into stoppage time.
Leicester’s points all came from the boot of England No 10 Toby Flood, but the reigning champions’ much vaunted forward pack were unable to cross Saracens’ whitewash in an enthralling seven minutes of added time.
For Saracens, it was redemption for losing 33-27 to Leicester in last year’s final, something not lost on the players.
“Revenge was very sweet,” said South African hooker Schalk Brits.
The Saracens player added that his team had been prepared for Leicester’s final efforts.
“That’s what we expected from Leicester, they’re a never-say-die side, and we’re over the moon.”
Brits also credited team officials with having helped bond the squad with trips to the Munich beerfest and also to the Miami Dolphins.
“There’s some great friendships,” he told ESPN television.
Leicester coach Richard Cockerill was magnanimous in defeat, saying it had come down to “tiny margins”.
“It’s disappointing but it happens sometimes,” the former England prop said.
“We didn’t have any ball in the first-half.”
|Schalk Brits of Saracens holds aloft his Man of the Match medal after setting up the only try of the final at Twickenham [GALLO/GETTY]|
“Saracens probably desrved to win. Right at the death we had an opportunity to win it, I have nothing but admiration for our guys.”
Farrell and Flood exchanged two early penalties as Leicester suffered a blow when England scrum-half Ben Youngs was sin-binned in the seventh minute for cynically killing the ball as counterpart Neil de Kock went close.
Brits was instrumental in setting up the opening try, the three-timed capped Springbok making a searing break cross pitch and off-loading in timely fashion to winger James Short, who beat covering full-back Scott Hamilton to dot down in the corner.
The durable Brits, who has missed just one Premiership game in two seasons, then almost played Andy Saull in, a scrambling defence just managing to halt the attack.
Farrell added a third penalty in the 36th minute after Leicester strayed offside in front of their own posts, while Flood claimed back three points to leave it 16-9 at half-time.
The 19-year-old Farrell, son of former Great Britain rugby league legend Andy – now a coach at Saracens, nailed his fourth penalty shortly into the second period.
Tigers claw back
Flood responded with his own penalty to keep Leicester within seven points but then missed two further efforts.
The England outside-half finally refound his range to boot Leicester to within four points with 12 minutes remaining.
As the game opened up, Farrell and Flood again exchanged penalties to make it 22-18 to the London side with five minutes to play.
“We want to be here every year and we want to be like Leicester because they are a great club”
Saracen’s director of rugby Mark McCall
The outstanding Brits was then on hand to haul down Alesana Tuilagi with the Samoa-born England winger staring down a touchline sprint to the line.
In a nail-biting climax, Leicester won a late penalty and kicked to the corner, but Saracens held on through 31 incredible phases of play with the clock already stopped.
A Brits infringement handed Leicester another penalty in front of the posts but Saracens, for whom Farrell made a crunching tackle on Flood in the dying moments, held on for a memorable victory.
Saracens’ director of rugby Mark McCall hailed the character of his players, who stayed calm under pressure in the closing stages, but said they must now build on their success.
“For the first hour of the match we were in control, I think in some ways it was fitting that it ended in that way to defend three or four minutes showed our character and how much they work for each other,” McCall said.
“We want to be here every year and we want to be like Leicester because they are a great club.”