Saturday, 7 June 2014

Saints V Saracens Rugby Union Premiership Final

It was the last day of the domestic rugby season and an early start to catch the coach down to the home of English rugby 'Twickenham'.Saints played in last years final also at Twickenham in what is known as The Aviva Premiership Final and lost to Leicester by 37 points to 17 in the game which saw Dylan Hartley being sent off by Referee Wayne Barnes thus losing his place in the British Lions Tour. This time Saracens were the opponents who finished clear at the head of the table some 9 points more than Saints winning 3 more games. There were some 60 odd coaches alone booked to take the army of fans down to the capital and maybe in excess of 30,000 in total from Northampton. As expected arrived in plenty of time and the 'Village' hadn't even opened for paying customers. The 'Village' is essentially the fans zone located behind the giant West Stand with entertainment ranging from changing the tyres on a Formula 1 car to face painting stalls on offer . Additionally numerous bars charging exorbitant prices and a pulsating sound system playing stuff I had never heard previously except maybe a bad day at the gym. At 1:30 the Northampton coach arrived to a huge ovation , it seemed that Saracens had arrived much earlier and had popped over the road to Harlequins ground 'The Stoop' for a quick warm up. Seating an impressive 82,000 spectators, Twickenham is the largest dedicated rugby union venue in the world. It's hard to believe that this historic venue began life as a humble cabbage patch, but that's exactly what it was before the RFU purchased the land for just over £5,500 in 1907. Not a bad seat all things considered, about half way back almost level with the try line and directly above the BT sumarisers. Saints fans were in good voice and all that was needed now was for the game to kick off. The game itself was always going to be close with two such closely matched teams. But what an absolute thriller it turned out to be going to the wire in extra time! Northampton, who had only won three of the previous 12 Premiership matches against Saracens, had more of an edge and were more resourceful with the ball in hand. I always fancied The Saints fitness to come into play if they could just keep it tight going into the last 20 minutes. Saracens took six-point lead through two Farrell penalties after a scratchy opening, but as the game settled down, it was Saints who led 7-6 at the break through Ben Foden's converted try. Saracens twice regained the lead through the boot of Farrell and his replacement, Charlie Hodgson, but Northampton’s second try, scored by George Pisi from Myler’s chip after another tackle-breaking run by George North. The most contentious decision came on the hour when Saracens, trailing 14-9, were awarded a try and, as Alex Goode was waiting to take the conversion, the referee JP Doyle – having seen a replay on the big screen – decided that Goode’s pass to Chris Wyles needed a closer look in case of a forward pass. The pass from Goode to Wyles was adjudged to have been made with the full-back’s hands pointing forward. The pass did look to be forward, as opposed to the backward forward pass that is now the law, and justice was done. Intense Saracens pressure eventually paid off, though, as Bosch went over in the corner after a brilliant offload by Schalk Brits, but Hodgson's conversion hit the post and the scores were level at 14-14. Sarries continued to press late in the 80 minutes, but Northampton held out and the game went into extra time. Saracens went ahead this time through Hodgson's second penalty but Northampton threw everything at Sarries and Waller somehow managed to squeeze through a a pile of bodies on the ground under the posts, seemingly unaware that a drop goal would have been enough for the title. Stephen Myler was named the man of the match – his precision goal-kicking, a deft chip for his side’s second try and two crucial tackles were significant contributory factors but Courtney Lawes in my opinion had a massive game and was possibly the reason between winning or losing. It was the original 'nail biter' of a game and it looked for so long like the Saints were going to end up defeated again , or choking as some critics like to call it. It was a deserved win as well because Northampton scored three tries to one and were, generally, sharper in attack and I believe attacking play should be rewarded . Congratulations Saints !

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