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Page last updated at 18:56 GMT, Saturday, 29 May 2010 19:56 UK

Leicester 33-27 Saracens

Leicester (20) 33
Tries: Smith, Youngs, Hipkiss Cons: Flood 3 Pens: Flood 4
Saracens (14) 27
Tries: Joubert 2 Cons: Jackson Pens: Jackson 5

Leicester celebrate victory
The Leicester squad celebrate their ninth English league title

By James Standley
BBC Sport at Twickenham

Defending champions Leicester won their third title in four years after they finally subdued the challenge of Saracens in a pulsating Premiership final at Twickenham.

A breathless first half saw Sarries take an early 6-3 lead through the boot of Glen Jackson, with Toby Flood replying with a penalty for Leicester.

The Tigers then took the lead with a superb converted try from Matt Smith but Saracens hit back with a stunning try of their own from captain Ernst Joubert.

Tit for tat penalties saw the lead change hands twice before Ben Youngs crossed for a converted try to finally get some daylight for Leicester, who led 20-14 at the break.

The Tigers came out after the interval determined to tighten things up and edged into a nine-point lead through Flood's third penalty, only for Joubert to score his second try to keep Saracens' hopes alive.

Flood edged Leicester into a five-point lead as their pack took control in the scrum, but Jackson landed two penalties of his own to put Sarries into the lead inside the last five minutes.

It looked as though they might claim their first ever title but Leicester would not be denied and Dan Hipkiss raced over for a dramatic score to break Saracens' hearts.

The match had been billed as a classic clash of styles, with Leicester's forward power and strength in the tight matched against the all-action attacking style Saracens have employed in the second half of the season.

606: DEBATE
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Finals are often weighed down by the fear of failure and can be attritional affairs, but both sides seemed unaware of that as they produced a match brimming with attacking rugby.

The respective defence coaches must have been tearing their hair out but the near 82,000 in attendance were far happier as the teams hammered into each other from the first whistle.

Two penalties for Saracens fly-half Jackson, playing his last game before heading back to New Zealand to start a refereeing career, to one from England number 10 Flood, gave Sarries an early 6-3 lead.

When Leicester twice narrowly failed to score the first try of the game, with Anthony Allen dropping a Youngs pass and Tom Croft then knocking on two yards from the line in a tackle from Hugh Vyvyan, it briefly look like Leicester might regret failing to take their chances.

But within a minute of Croft's near miss the Tigers had taken the lead with a fine try.

Leicester took a quick thrown-in, Alesana Tuilagi trucked it up the middle and when they recycled, crisp passing gave Smith the space to race clear down the touchline before running round under the posts to make the conversion, from Flood, a formality.

But Saracens were determined to show that anything Leicester could do, they could do better, and they hit back with a spectacular try of their own.

After sweeping the ball across to the right wing they switched play back to the left and a cute run-around between Jackson and livewire hooker Schalk Brits prised open the Leicester defence.

Jackson put Jacques Burger through the resulting hole and the Namibian blind-side sent South African number eight Joubert powering over in the corner.

Jackson narrowly failed with the conversion but Sarries led 11-10 with just under an hour to play.

Referee Dave Pearson was keen to make sure tacklers rolled away immediately and he penalised both sides in quick succession, with Flood edging Leicester back in front, only for Jackson to restore Saracens' lead with a penalty of his own within a couple of minutes.

It had been an action packed opening to the game and if anything the pace then increased, with Leicester soon claiming the third of the match.

Not for the first time Jordan Crane and Martin Castrogiovanni ripped Saracens apart around the edge of the ruck and after recycling possession Youngs, the young players' player of the year, used Pearson as a screen before sniping over from the 22.

Flood converted and Leicester led 20-14 at the break after a high-octane first half.

It seemed impossible that the second half could match the first and Leicester looked determined to tighten things up, edging into a nine-point lead though a third Flood penalty after Castrogiovanni took Matias Aguero apart at a scrum.

But Saracens have been in superb form since March, including ending Leicester's unbeaten home record in the last league game of the regular season, and they hit back with another fine try, with Andy Saull breaking through the midfield before sending captain Joubert racing over.

Jackson converted and at 23-21 the Londoners were right back in it with quarter of the game to go, but the Leicester pack then took control of the game.

Jordan Crane (l) and Dan Hipkiss
Hipkiss (right) celebrates scoring his late try with Crane

They earned three penalty chances for Flood but his failure to land more than one looked like it could be hugely costly as fired-up Saracens came roaring back at them.

Brits could not gather a bouncing ball with the line at his mercy but Jackson, who had missed one long-range penalty, made no mistake with two more chances to give Saracens the lead and send the fans into raptures, with the Twickenham commentary gantry literally rocking.

It looked as though they were set to complete a stunning comeback and win their first English title but Leicester are not top dogs for nothing and they struck back from the kick-off.

Scott Hamilton claimed the kick and fed Hipkiss on the scissors.

The desperate Saracens defenders tackled Hipkiss high and as they saw the referee's arm start to go out to indicate a penalty, they froze.

The stocky centre took full advantage and shook off their attentions before racing over for the decisive score, with Flood converting to put Leicester six points clear.

After such a titanic effort Saracens were not going to go down without one last effort and they earned a penalty which they kicked into the corner.

Sarries prepared to try and drive their way over but Leicester second row Geoff Parling soared highest to steal the throw and ensure the Tigers retained the title after one of the most dramatic finishes Twickenham can have ever seen.


Leicester: G Murphy; Hamilton, M Smith, Allen, Tuilagi; Flood, B Youngs; Ayerza, Chuter, Castrogiovanni, L Deacon, Parling, Croft, Moody, Crane.

Replacements: Hipkiss for M Smith (68), Staunton for Tuilagi (74), Cole for Castrogiovanni (67), Newby for Moody (68).

Not Used: Duffey, Stankovich, Woods, Grindal.

Saracens: Goode; M Tagicakibau, Powell, Barritt, Wyles; Jackson, De Kock; Aguero, Brits, Du Plessis, Borthwick, Vyvyan, Burger, Saull, Joubert.

Replacements: Ratuvou for Tagicakibau (57), Marshall for De Kock (65), Gill for Aguero (49), Botha for Borthwick (45), Melck for Saull (65).

Not Used: Ongaro, Skuse, Hougaard.

Att: 81,600

Ref: Dave Pearson (RFU).



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see also
Twickenham epic is greatest final
30 May 10 |  English
Cockerill hails try hero Hipkiss
29 May 10 |  English
Premiership final as it happened
29 May 10 |  Rugby Union
Premiership final photos
29 May 10 |  Rugby Union
Tigers coach receives RFU warning
27 May 10 |  Leicester
Venter final ban appeal rejected
26 May 10 |  Saracens
Newby cleared to appear in final
25 May 10 |  Leicester
Hooker Brits wins players' award
26 May 10 |  English
Borthwick back for Saracens final
25 May 10 |  Saracens


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