Aviva Premiership: Tom Wood late try gives Northampton dramatic win over Leicester
By Paul Higham Twitter: @SportsPaulH. Last Updated: 16/05/14 11:34pm
Tom Wood scored a dramatic late try to earn Northampton a thrilling 21-20 victory over old foes Leicester in an all-action Aviva Premiership semi-final at Franklin's Gardens.
A pulsating game played in a pulsating atmosphere saw four tries, three yellow cards and one red - amazingly now making it 12 Premiership games in a row between these two teams in which there has seen a sending-off.
Manu Tuilagi and Ben Youngs scored first-half tries for Leicester but, despite having Salesi Ma'Afu ordered off for punching Tom Youngs, who was himself yellow carded, Northampton were continually on top in the second 40 minutes.
George North gave them hope with his 65th-minute try, and although a late penalty could have knocked the stuffing out of them, Saints kept pushing and pushing until Wood won it for them as he dived over two minutes from the end.
The result sends Northampton to Twickenham after avenging last year's final defeat against Leicester, while also ending the Tigers' incredible run of making the last nine Premiership finals in a row.
Saints swarmed all over Leicester at the start of the game, thundering into bone-crunching tackles, but the Tigers went ahead as Toby Flood kicked a 10th-minute penalty.
Myler responded after 23 minutes but Leicester remained unfazed and they scored the opening try of the night two minutes later when Mathew Tait danced through a couple of tackles before the ball moved right to Tuilagi to simply walk over the line.
The first card of the night then came out as Niki Goneva saw yellow just before the half hour, and Myler slotted the resulting penalty to reduce the gap to 10-6.
Yet even with 14 men Leicester managed to find another try after a Logovi'i Mulipola drive from a line out led to Ben Youngs picking the ball up and diving over for a 17-6 half-time lead.
15-a-side lasted just five minutes of the second half before Leicester's Dan Bowden was given ten minutes in the sin bin for a dangerous tackle, and that was just a sign of things to come.
Myler made it 17-9 before the game erupted again with Tom Youngs and Ma'Afu clashing off the ball. Youngs got a yellow card and a left hook to the jaw - for which Ma'Afu saw red to continue the long run of sendings off in this fixture.
Northampton kept driving forward though and North set up a thrilling finale as he arrived at pace to crash over from close range to make it 17-16, after the conversion, with 15 minutes still left to play.
It looked like being the same old story for Northampton when Owen Williams slotted a penalty for Leicester to go 20-16 in front just eight minutes from time.
Franklin's Gardens was begging for more from their team, however, and they kept pushing and pushing, switching to the left, right and crucially left again where Luther Burrell fed Wood, who fended off a tackler to plunge over.
Myler hit the post with the conversion as it remained 21-20 and gave the Saints fans one more minute of tension to get through. Eventually the crowd and players alike were able to start celebrating the final whistle as Northampton booked their spot in the Aviva Premiership final.
Fri 24th Apr
Bath43 - 18London Irish
Sat 25th Apr
Sale Sharks23 - 25Harlequins
Gloucester42 - 40Newcastle Falcons
Leicester Tigers38 - 17London Welsh
Northampton25 - 20Saracens
Sun 26th Apr
Wasps0 - 0Exeter
Fri 8th May
Harlequins0 - 0Bath
Sat 9th May
Sale Sharks0 - 0Newcastle Falcons
Gloucester0 - 0London Irish
Northampton0 - 0London Welsh
Wasps0 - 0Leicester Tigers
Sun 10th May
Saracens0 - 0Exeter
Sat 16th May
Bath0 - 0Gloucester
Exeter0 - 0Sale Sharks
Leicester Tigers0 - 0Northampton
London Irish0 - 0Wasps
London Welsh0 - 0Saracens
Newcastle Falcons0 - 0Harlequins
Aviva Premiership 2013/14 semi-finals
Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall says squad morale is high after their Premiership semi-final victory.
Saracens booked their place alongside Northampton in the Aviva Premiership final after a 31-17 victory over Harlequins.
Northampton have buried the myth of Leicester Tigers' hoodoo over the Franklin's Gardens club, according to Tom Wood.