Aviva Premiership final: Leicester Tigers hold off Northampton Saints
Last Updated: 25/05/13 5:39pm
Leicester celebrate after winning their 10th Premiership title
Leicester bounced back from successive Aviva Premiership final defeats to beat Northampton 37-17 in a thrilling climax to the domestic season at Twickenham.
This was a 10th English title for the Tigers but they had lost on their last two final appearances - to Saracens in 2011 and Harlequins last year.
Northampton battled bravely and scored three tries in their first final appearance, but they were not helped by the dismissal of their skipper Dylan Hartley for dissent on the stroke of half-time.
Leicester made a fast start and were quickly ahead thanks to Toby Flood's penalty and on seven minutes they had the first try, Flood's inside pass creating the initial break for Vereniki Goneva, before the fly-half was on hand to take a return pass and put Niall Morris in at the corner. Flood then converted for a 10-0 lead.
No side has ever come back to win the final after trailing by more than three points but Northampton quickly responded, as Manu Tuilagi failed to release in the tackle, Lee Dixon took a quick tap penalty and Luther Burrell sent Stephen Myler in for a try. Myler missed the conversion.
Flood's game was to end after just 20 minutes following two crunching tackles by Courtney Lawes - the first judged illegally late, the second ruled fair.
Ben Youngs missed the subsequent penalty chance and shortly afterwards George Ford was on for Flood.
He had his first points after a 60-metre burst by Mathew Tait earned a penalty for offside, then the chance of another three from in front after Northampton's scrum crumbled.
Sent to the stands
But first Hartley abused Wayne Barnes for his decision and was sent to the stands.
Ben Foden was denied a first-half try by the TMO but did get over in the corner shortly after the break, after a brilliant pass from Mike Haywood to Myler. Myler's missed conversion left the scores at 16-10
Tigers stretched that lead when Northampton were pushed off their own scrum ball and Graham Kitchener threw a dummy and charged between front-rowers Brian Mujati and Soane Tonga'uiha to the line.
Ford missed the conversion but his penalty gave Leicester a 24-10 lead, before Foden's jinking run and Luther Burrell's offload to Lee Dickson hauled Northampton briefly back into the game, with Myler converting.
But the 14-men tired in the final quarter and first Tuilagi and then Vereniki Goneva were able to cross for tries, wrapping up a victory for Leicester which was nowhere near as comfortable as the scoreline suggests.