Northampton Saints beat Saracens in extra time
Northampton are champions for the first time after beating Saracens 24-20 in extra time in the Aviva Premiership final.
Saints won a thrilling game with a last minute try by Alex Waller in extra time at Twickenham.
Northampton’s victory came just over a week after they had beaten Bath in the European Challenge Cup final and meant double heartbreak for 2011 champions Saracens, who lost to Toulon in the Heineken Cup final last Saturday.
Charlie Hodgson’s two penalties after the game finished 14-14 following 80 minutes of fierce combat looked to have seen Saracens home, but Saints had one more attack left in them and replacement forward Waller pounced for a score that Stephen Myler converted.
Owen Farrell earlier kicked three penalties and centre Marcelo Bosch scored a try for Saracens, while Northampton claimed touchdowns for full-back Ben Foden and centre George Pisi, with Myler booting both conversions and landing an extra-time penalty.
A cramped-up Farrell went off in the second half, just 48 hours before he flies to New Zealand and joins England’s tour squad.
And he was also at the centre of the game’s most controversial moment after he claimed a seemingly-good try that referee J P Doyle concurred with, before Doyle belatedly required a TMO verdict and the try was ruled out for a forward pass in the build-up.
Saracens kept their nerve during most of a frenzied finale, but they ultimately ran out of time.
The opening flurries were tense and riddled with mistakes and, although Northampton dominated in terms of territory, it was Saracens who went ahead when Farrell landed a 35-metre penalty after 11 minutes.
Northampton needed to shake off Saracens’ suffocating approach and it arrived 10 minutes before the break when wing Ken Pisi broke free from deep inside his own half.
Saracens had sufficient defensive numbers to thwart the danger, but it proved only a temporary reprieve as Saints capitalised in devastating fashion.
Myler sparked an attack 10 metres out and the finish was devastating as Luther Burrell and Pisi combined to send Foden over, with Myler’s conversion putting Northampton 7-6 ahead.
Farrell put Saracens back in front through a 45th-minute penalty, but back came Northampton as they exerted another spell of sustained pressure that stretched their opponents on both flanks.
Saints skipper Dylan Hartley appeared off the bench after 55 minutes for his first outing since suffering a shoulder injury two months ago, suggesting he will be ready to join England’s tour party in New Zealand early next week.
And his arrival coincided with Northampton looking to increase the tempo as a tight, tense final approached its final quarter.
Saints possessed a prolific force in North and it was his power and destructive capability that smashed Saracens’ defence out wide and set up a chance for the midlanders to pounce.
And Myler did not require a second invitation, as his superbly-placed kick was gathered by Pisi for Northampton’s second try that Myler again converted.
Saracens looked to have drawn level with 18 minutes remaining when Farrell finished off a move sparked by Goode and Chris Wyles, but referee Doyle disallowed the try after initially appearing to award it as he belatedly referred matters to television match official Graham Hughes.
It was a defining moment, but one that went in Saints’ favour as they closed in on a second piece of silverware in eight days.
But Saracens were not finished and they drew level seven minutes from time after brilliant approach work by hooker Schalk Brits led to a try for Bosch before Hodgson’s conversion attempt hit a post.
And it meant the final going to an added 20 minutes for the first time in the event’s 12-year existence, with Hodgson’s penalty double edging Saracens ahead before Waller provided stunning late drama.
Saracens – 20
Try : Bosch
Penalty goals: Hodgson (2), Farrell (3)
Northampton – 24
Try: Foden, Pisi, Waller
Penalty goals: Myler
Conversions: Myler (3)
Saracens: 15 Alex Goode, 14 Chris Ashton, 13 Marcelo Bosch, 12 Brad Barritt, 11 David Strettle, 10 Owen Farrell, 9 Neil de Kock, 8 Billy Vunipola, 7 Jacques Burger, 6 Kelly Brown, 5 Mouritz Botha, 4 Steve Borthwick (c), 3 Matt Stevens, 2 Schalk Brits, 1 Mako Vunipola
Replacements: 16 Jamie George, 17 Rhys Gill, 18 James Johnston, 19 Alistair Hargreaves, 20 Jackson Wray, 21 Richard Wigglesworth, 22 Charlie Hodgson, 23 Chris Wyles
Northampton: 15 Ben Foden, 14 Ken Pisi, 13 George Pisi, 12 Luther Burrell, 11 George North, 10 Stephen Myler, 9 Kahn Fotuali’i, 8 Sam Dickinson, 7 Tom Wood (c), 6 Calum Clark, 5 Courtney Lawes, 4 Samu Manoa, 3 Salesi Ma’afu, 2 Mike Haywood, 1 Alex Corbisiero
Replacements: 16 Dylan Hartley, 17 Alex Waller, 18 Tom Mercey, 19 Christian Day, 20 Phil Dowson, 21 Lee Dickson, 22 James Wilson, 23 Tom Stephenson
Date: Saturday, May 31
Kickoff: 15:00 (local, 14:00 GMT)
Referee: JP Doyle
Assistant Referees: Wayne Barnes, Paul Dix
TMO: Graham Hughes