Leicester claim dramatic victory against Saracens at Twickenham

Leicester 15-12 Saracens: Freddie Burns comes off the bench to kick a dramatic LAST-MINUTE drop goal to hand the Tigers their first Premiership title since 2013

  • Hanro Liebenberg and Jasper Wiese scored first half tries for Leicester
  • Owen Farrell kicked Saracens back into the game after the interval
  • Freddie Burns stepped up to secure the win for Leicester with a late drop goal 
  • Burns was introduced to the action early on after George Ford went off injured 

Leicester won their first title since 2013 amid scenes of utter mayhem at Twickenham as Freddie Burns’ last-minute drop goal settled this Gallagher Premiership Final in thrilling fashion.

The Tigers recovered from the early loss of George Ford and harnessed a raging sense of injustice to shock favourites Saracens and cap a remarkable resurgence under Steve Borthwick. Ellis Genge’s last act as Leicester captain before his summer move to Bristol was to lift the coveted trophy in front of thousands of the East Midlands club’s delirious supporters.

This was redemption for Leicester, who have been through some dark days in recent years. It was a return to the heights of their past eras of glory, when days like this were a matter of routine. They finished top of the Premiership table and claimed the prize they craved in defiance of being cast as the underdogs.

Freddie Burns proved to be the match-winner as he kicked the crucial drop goal late on

Burns came on early on after George Ford had to go off due to injury in the first half

The climax of this match was astonishing to behold. Burns had replaced the stricken Ford in the 24th minute and he turned out to be the hero of the hour. Owen Farrell’s fourth penalty had somehow dragged Saracens level with just four minutes to go but Leicester pounded forward in one last desperate onslaught and it paid off, as Ben Youngs sent the ball back to Burns in the pocket and he slotted the high-stakes drop goal.

Seconds later, the veteran No 10 kicked the ball off the field to settle the contest in the Tigers’ favour and set off on a crazed celebration run before being mobbed by team-mates. Meanwhile, up in the stand, Borthwick showed barely a flicker of emotion as he hugged his assistants and staff. This success is a stunning tribute to the hard work put in by the head coach.

Tries by Hanro Liebenberg and Jasper Wiese had such up this tense victory for Leicester, after Aled Davies, the Saracens scrum-half, was lucky to avoid a red card for a shoulder to the head of Julian Montoya. Later, Tigers centre Matt Scott was equally fortunate when he committed a similar offence, with a high hit on Billy Vunipola – who was outstanding in a losing cause.

Before the real drama began, it was all a bit drab early on. Both teams settled into a low-risk, high-kicking contest. There were signs of nerves all round. Freddie Steward made a couple of glaring errors which were out of character. A fifth-minute Owen Farrell penalty put Saracens ahead and they had more of the possession and territory, but neither they nor the Tigers established much fluency in the opening exchanges.

Leicester celebrate Hanro Liebenberg’s try which put them ahead at Twickenham

Jasper Wiese extended Leicester’s lead by going over from close range in the first half

Eventually, the aerial barrage created a scoring opportunity as Davies spilled an up-and-under and Ollie Chessum gathered, to launch a Leicester raid. When the ball reached Chris Ashton, on the prowl in space, he kicked towards the left corner and Alex Goode raced back to cover but was tackled behind his own line. The Tigers had an attacking scrum, but they conceded a penalty and remained scoreless, as they did soon after when Ford missed a shot at goal.

But after the East Midlands club saw their playmaker limp from the fray, they seemed to rise to the occasion in his honour. Just after Davies escaped with a caution for his high hit on Montoya, the Tigers struck to take the lead against 14 men.

Freddie Burns, who had replaced Ford, passed long to Steward on the right and England full-back was able to fend off Elliot Daly and go clear. He released Ashton who crashed on towards the line and was stopped, but Ellis Genge drove on and from the ensuing ruck, Hanro Liebenberg was able to force his way over to score, aided and abetted by Dan Cole. Burns converted.

Just after the half-hour, a trademark long-range penalty at the other end by Daly pulled Saracens back to within a point, but the force was with Leicester and they soon extended their lead. Richard Wigglesworth’s charge-down of a Farrell kick set up an attack down the right and when Leicester were awarded a penalty near their opponents’ line, they took full advantage.

Owen Farrell kept Saracens in touch with the boot in the second half at Twickenham

Genge took a tap but instead of a straight charge, he veered right, towards the edge of the massed Saracens forwards. His shrewd angle allowed Leicester to recycle the ball quickly and from Wigglesworth’s pass, Jasper Wiese blasted over to touch down. Burns couldn’t add the wide conversion, but his side went into the break 12-6 up and armed with thunderous momentum.

They had a chance to extend their lead early in the second half but Burns was unable to land a penalty shot from wide on the left, near halfway. But the veteran fly-half kept playing on instinct and his distribution and little chips continued to test the Saracens defence, after a monstrous touch-finder by Steward put Leicester on the front foot again.

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For all their pressure, the Tigers could not pull clear and McCall’s men eventually rallied. Another Farrell penalty 16 minutes from full-time made it 12-9 and after a scorching break by Andy Christie, Saracens earned another shot and their captain duly knocked it over to level the scores with four minutes remaining, after Leicester lost Scott to the sin-bin for a high tackle on Billy Vunipola which may have justified a red card.

It looked like extra-time was on the cards, but then up stepped Burns to deliver the title-winning strike. What a finish. What a triumph.

Tom Youngs and Ellis Genge lifted the Premiership trophy after a tense final at Twickenham

Leicester’s victory hands them their first Premiership title since 2013




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