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As it happened - Leicester v London Irish

Guinness Premiership final result: Leicester 10-9 London Irish


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By Rob Hodgetts

A very glum-looking set of Exiles collect their medals before the jubilant Tigers march up. They don't look quite right in those sky-blue shirts but they won't care. They gather on stage waiting for everyone to get their gong before the tracksuited club captain Martin Corry lifts the trophy.

Young coach Richard Cockerill looks on, clapping and shaking his head. There may have been a tear there, too. Hugs all around, plans are made for a lap of the ground and the celebrations can start.

Thanks for your company this afternoon. Come back for live text from the Heineken Cup final next Saturday. Would be good to have you with us.

80 mins: Tigers grab a second title in five straight final appearances despite playing below the heights they have displayed in recent weeks. London Irish pushed them hard and unsettled the Tigers' rhythm but may rue a decision before half-time to go for a try instead of kicking a penalty. Leicester raised themselves for the killer strike when Jordon Crane went over and they hung on for an eighth Premiership title win.

"The boys worked very hard, we're on a decent enough run but we'll need more than that next week. We'll have to raise our game tenfold," says Tigers captain Geordan Murphy.

Leicester take on Leinster in the Heineken Cup final on 23 May.

Ace_four on 606: "I'll take that thanks! Big wake up call for the Tigers for next week though! We'll have to perform far better otherwise we'll get stuffed!"

BBC Sport's Phil Harlow at Twickenham: "It probably won't go down as one of the classic finals, but Leicester couldn't care less. As it turned out, London Irish, the great entertainers, couldn't get over the tryline for all their possession and it was good old-fashioned doggedness that won the day for Leicester."

78 mins: From the line-out Leicester drive them back in midfield and Irish get a line-out on the left on their 22. They try to break out, Leicester sneak the ball, Dupuy's kick is sent back by Irish but Tigers go to ground, smother the ball and run out the clock.

77 mins: Irish are handed a lifeline as Tigers give away a penalty. Mike Catt bangs the ball down towards halfway.

75 mins: Leicester have a line-out on the left in Irish's 22 and despite dropping a succession of balls, they keep pressing, chewing up valuable time in the process.

74 mins: Mike Catt conjures a good clearance after Leicester were camped in their 22. Because the scrum has now been nullified as a weapon, Tigers replace nuggety prop Julian White with the more mobile Dan Cole.

71 mins: PENALTY Leicester 10-9 London Irish

The Exiles earn a penalty about a yard inside Leicester's half. Delon Armitage gets the nod and strokes a peach just over the crossbar. There's one point in it.

Disastrously, though, we're down to uncontested scrums as Irish prop Clarke Dermody goes off injured. That means Irish have no more specialist front rowers on their bench.

69 mins: More mistakes. A promising Leicester move off a line-out on the left but the thundering Ayoola Erinle drops the ball as he hits the line. Exasperating.

67 mins: Leicester sniff a chance of a breakout from their own 22 but Kiwi Scott Hamilton lofts a long, loopy pass to no-one. In fact, it was nowhere near him either. Arrgggh. These blokes get paid big bucks for this, you know.

64 mins: Game well and truly on and London Irish coach Toby Booth may well be rueing those decision to go for a try instead of taking the points. Still, might not matter. Long way to go.

60 mins:TRY Leicester 10-6 London Irish Some good handling among the Tigers loose-forwards, notably a reverse pass from Lewis Moody, allows Ayoola Erinle to sneak through a half-gap. Tigers keep the move alive and Jordan Crane reaches out to touch down on the right. Julien Dupuy converts.

57 mins: Good work from the scrum by Chris Hala'ufia and Irish's Steffon Armitage opens his legs down the left flank and Geordan Murphy has to take one for the team as he flings himself under the charging flanker. Irish pour forward but Peter Hewat wastes the possession with a kick straight down Leicester's throat and Tigers edge forward.

Lewis Moody on for Ben Woods for Tigers.

56 mins: Leicester hooker George Chuter is replaced by Benjamin Kayser.

55 mins: Leicester keep up the pressure and charge one way, then the other. Irish nudge them back a bit after hesitation from Sam Vesty but the Tigers are finally looking more Tiger-like.

52 mins: Great stuff from Tigers. Sam Vesty's long pass is almost intercepted but Scott Hamilton collects and hares off upfield. He finds Dan Hipkiss, who is almost free before Mike Catt's brilliant tap-tackle, but Leicester rumble deep into the Irish 22. However, the Exiles turn it over and Tigers squander their best platform.

49 mins: From the restart Irish number eight Chris Hala'ufia makes a surging break but spills it and Leicester reply with a counter of their own. But they also make a hash of it and hand Irish the initiative once again.

47 mins: PENALTY Leicester 3-6 London Irish

Exiles win a penalty midway into Leicester's half and ginger sub Tom Homer jogs in off his wing for a crack, but the ball is handed to Delon Armitage, who finds the target.

Leicester's Jordan Crane comes back from the sin-bin.

44 mins: London Irish seem to have continued where they left off as Mike Catt orchestrates a series of probes at the Leicester midfield. Delon Armitage kicks on and Irish get a scrum on the line, eight against seven. Centre Seilala Mapusua goes for glory but Tigers are defiant and flanker Ben Woods keeps him out. Leicester earn a penalty and clear their lines for now.

41 mins: The players re-emerge for the second half. Forty minutes to secure a winners' medal. Big effort, lads. For Irish Tom Homer is on for Adam Thompstone and Richard Thorpe is on for Declan Danaher. Tigers still with 14 men don't forget, as Jordan Crane sits on the bin.

Leicester make the first inroads with Matt Smith down the right. He skins Seilala Mapusua but the move breaks down.

40 mins: So Tigers boss Richard Cockerill and Exiles counterpart Toby Booth will have to earn their money while their men chomp oranges. Leicester have been a shadow of the dominant force of recent matches and will be looking to control the game a bit more up front. Irish will be encouraged by the second half of the first period but may have to rethink their tactic of going for the try when there are points on offer. Points, as we all know, mean Premiership prizes.

Fabuniqueusername on 606: "Hmmm... the best of English rugby. 3-3 at half-time. The South Africans must be trembling."

Mmm, has he/she got a point?

N-price on 606 says: "None of the players on the field, are as yet going with the Lions!"

True, but I think the point is about the general style of rugby. Is it? Or am I barking up the wrong goalpost?

37 mins: From the scrum, the Exiles launch a series of probes but Leicester remain firm for now. Another penalty comes Irish's way and Leicester get a warning from the ref. Scrum-half Paul Hodgson tries to dart through before Seilala Mapusua has a crack. Finally, the ref has had enough and Jordan Crane is sin-binned for coming around the side of the maul.

Irish go for another scrum but pass it straight out. Leicester harry and there's a bit of biffo but the ref gives a knock-on and blows for half-time.

606 gang - 87% of statistics are made up.

35 mins: Irish centre Seilala Mapusua slips a delightful little grubber through and it takes a slightly cheeky off-the-ball shove from Geordan Murphy to prevent the first try. Irish are camped on Leicester's line and they spin it out to Steffon Armitage on the left who tries to bullock his way over. The ref calls them back for a penalty and Irish skipper Bob Casey makes the brave call to go for the scrum.

30 mins: Leicester snuff out the immediate threat of the fired-up Irish but it is still the Exiles who are on the front foot. Mike Catt tries to generate something but he hesitates and his attempted grubber is charged down by Ayoola Erinle.

Ace_four no 606: "Rob, are you secretly Heathmeister making all the comments and putting them on the live text page?? Are you? Are you?"

Er, no. Just liked his/her comments. As I do yours! Could do with more, though, team. Leicester don't seem able to exert their usual authority on this and you wonder whether the Exiles might not be a better bet if the score is still close after an hour or so. Mind you, the Tigers' experience could see them play a more patient game. Exciting isn't it?

25 mins: The Exiles are upping the ante and Peter Hewat's long pass exploits the out-of-position Dan Hipkiss to release lock James Hudson. The move breaks down but Irish are still surging forward and Sailosi Tagicakibau surges to within yards of the Leicester line. Tigers skipper Geordan Murphy is injured in the tackle.

22 mins: London Irish enjoy their own best moment as Paul Hodgson takes a quick tap penalty, Mike Catt offloads quickly to Seilala Mapusua and Delon Armitage roars on. Irish win a penalty at the breakdown but Aussie Peter Hewat hits the left post with his kick and Leicester escape.

18 mins: Best moment of the match so far as Tigers fly-half Sam Vesty opts to run a counter and offloads to Dan Hipkiss. The centre runs strong and straight before stepping around Delon Armitage and feeding Geordan Murphy, who immediately finds Johne Murphy. London Irish are stretched and concede another penalty but Julien Dupuy misses the kick. Johne Murphy, who has looked sprightly after a shaky start, limps off. Actually, it's not so much a limp as he's got a shoulder/upper arm injury and looks done for the day.

14 mins: PENALTY Leicester 3-3 London Irish

The Exiles ship the ball down their backs but it's a bit laboured and Tigers' Johne Murphy hacks through after Peter Hewat's wayward pass under pressure. The Tigers back looking sharp there, and soon after Geordan Murphy launches their own attack with a long pass out left to Johne Murphy. The move breaks down but Leicester are awarded a penalty when George Chuter is taken out by Delon Armitage. Scrum-half Julien Dupuy steps up and bangs a good one between the sticks.

Heathmeister on 606: "Leicester have been fantastic on the counter so far, whereas London Irish seem static. Leicester are on top but must clean up their act, too many penalties so far."

11 mins: Irish are handed a penalty just inside Leicester's half and after a bit of discussion between skipper Bob Casey and Mike Catt, Delon Armitage is tasked with the kick. It's got the legs but he pushes it right.

Seven mins: Johne Murphy looks alright now, mind, as he sparks a counter attack after a quick line out in his own half. Murphy accelerates and fires a long pass out to Sam Vesty who makes some ground before the move breaks down. Soon after, Leicester sneak through the Irish line but the referee rules that there was deliberate blocking and hands Irish a penalty. Delon Armitage went down heavily in the move but gets up eventually.

Six mins: Slightly shaky start from Leicester wing Johne Murphy, as he drops a Mike Catt kick. Murphy was an injury scare before kick-off and had to have his ankle strapped up.

Three mins: After the initial shock, the Tigers pack gets its hands on the ball and begins the softening up process with a series of probes into the Irish rump.

According to those in the know on 606, Irish came out to the Dropkick Murphys.

1732: DROP-GOAL Leicester 0-3 London Irish. Mike Catt drops out to start proceedings for Irish. The Exiles regain the ball from a poor Tigers clearance and full-back Peter Hewat snaps a drop-goal from about 35 yards out on the left.

1728: Here comes the teams and Exiles skipper Bob Casey leads out his side to a rock version of traditional Irish music. Leicester, who look like they are going to play the role of pantomime villain today, are greeted by a roar/boos (sounded like a bit of both). They are led out by captain Geordan Murphy to ACDC's Thunderstruck. The Tigers are in a sky-blue kit. Strange.

1720: "We have bundles of self belief, and they've won one final in three years (four actually) so the statistics say we've got a chance and we have,"London Irish coach Toby Booth.

Leicester boss Richard Cockerill: "We talked about it this morning - we deserve to be in the final but we don't deserve to win it, we have to front up and perform. If we can do what we can do we'll be alright."

Kingplaymaker on 606: "Probably Leicester, London Irish are too unpredictable."

Boru82 on 606: "If Irish continue from their 2nd half performance in the semi, Id go for Irish."

1715: BBC Sport's Phil Harlow at Twickenham: "Nice moment as Matt Hampson, the England Under-21 and Leicester player who was paralysed in a training accident, is introduced to the crowd. A star-studded support cast travelled down to Twickenham under their own steam to raise money for the Matt Hampson Trust and the children's charity SpecialEffect. He gets a warm reception from the rapidly filling Twickenham."

Here's Heathmeister on 606 again: "My heart, as a Tigers fan, says Tigers by 15, but my head knows that it'll be a lot closer than that if London Irish turn up. So I'll say Tigers by 5."

1710: Just a reminder that London Irish were forced into a late change after lock Nick Kennedy failed a fitness test.

Kennedy has not recovered from a knee injury so James Hudson comes into the side and Gary Johnson joins the bench.

Leicester made one change to the side that beat Bath in the semi with veteran Julian White replacing the injured prop Martin Castrogiovanni.

Leicester: G Murphy (capt); Hamilton, Erinle, Hipkiss, J Murphy; Vesty, Dupuy; Ayerza, Chuter, White, Croft, Kay, Newby, Woods, Crane. Replacements: Kayser, Cole, Deacon, Moody, Ellis, Smith, Varndell.

London Irish: Hewat; Thompstone, D Armitage, Mapusua, Tagicakibau; Catt, Hodgson; Dermody, Coetzee, Skuse, Hudson, Casey (capt), Danaher, S Armitage, Hala'ufia. Replacements: Corbisero, Buckland, Johnson, Thorpe, Seveali'i, Richards, Homer.

Referee: Wayne Barnes (England).

1705: Here's a bit more from BBC Sport's Phil Harlow at Twickers: "The TV cameras for the big screen inside the stadium keep on picking out poor old Martin Corry, who isn't going to be involved today.

"The former England skipper is retiring at the end of the season, but has not been given a Lawrence Dallaglio-esque opportunity to bow out on a high at Twickenham. Tough old club, Leicester. Still there's always the Heineken Cup final on 23 May if Richard Cockerill is feeling a little more generous.

"Leicester come out for their team photo in the sky blue change strip they have been instructed to wear in order to avoid a possible clash of kits with the Exiles. The club, who are top seeds and nominally the home side at Twickenham, were not overly impressed with the decision and I have to say it doesn't seem quite right."

Heathmeister on 606 points out Phil's deliberate mistake below: "It's Matt Smith, not Ollie Smith, Ollie is currently at Montpellier."

Good man, that Heathmeister.

1655 BST: Afternoon everyone and a very warm oval-ball welcome to the Guinness Premiership final at Twickenham.

Leicester power v London Irish pace, eh? Mmm, doesn't it?

Tigers, the Man Utd of English rugby, are trying once again to prove they are the best side in the land after finishing top of the table. But they've struggled in these one-off showdowns in recent years, winning only once - against Gloucester in 2007 - despite making the last four finals.

London Irish, on the other hand, are the young upstarts in their first final, despite fielding the oldest player in the Premiership, 37-year-old Mike Catt. (He's three days younger than me, by the way).

Toby Booth's side are full of exciting runners such as Delon Armitage, Seilala Mapusua and Sailosi Tagicakibau, but the pack will have to front up against a ferocious Tigers unit inspired by coach Richard Cockerill, the pugnacious former England hooker.

Here's the scene down at Twickers from BBC Sport's Phil Harlow: "It's a funny old day at Twickenham, weatherwise. We've had a classic example of that old weatherman's staple: 'sunshine and showers'.

"It's pretty blustery, and ever so slightly chilly in the shade, inside the stadium. I'm just glad I brought my stripy cardigan after mulling it over before I left the house. What's that? You couldn't give a monkey's... suit yourselves....

"The London Irish squad came out for a stroll around the stadium at about 1600 BST before posing for the obligatory team photograph. The TV cameras are pretty keen on their veteran fly-half Mike Catt, while the Armitage brothers walk along side by side with Delon sporting a pair of oversized headphones that a Premier League footballer would be proud of.

"For Leicester, only their replacements come out to the pitch initially, and I can exclusively reveal that Ollie Smith and Lewis Moody are surprisingly good at keepy-uppy with a rugby ball."

Leicester: G Murphy (capt); Hamilton, Erinle, Hipkiss, J Murphy; Vesty, Dupuy; Ayerza, Chuter, White, Croft, Kay, Newby, Woods, Crane.
Replacements: Kayser, Cole, Deacon, Moody, Ellis, Smith, Varndell.

London Irish: Hewat; Thompstone, D Armitage, Mapusua, Tagicakibau; Catt, Hodgson; Dermody, Coetzee, Skuse, Kennedy, Casey (capt), Danaher, S Armitage, Hala'ufia.
Replacements: Corbisero, Buckland, Hudson, Thorpe, Seveali'i, Richards, Homer.

Referee: Wayne Barnes (England).

Assistant referees: Dave Pearson and Robin Goodliffe (both England).

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