The Final Whistle


By Andrew Hartup, Rugby World reader

So, it’s a Leicester vs Saracens final. You all predicted that, right? Sure, if you’d been forced to pick two teams for the play-off final at Christmas, these are the pair most would have gone for. But since them Bath and Northampton have come on leaps and bounds.

It was a sad end of the season for Bath at Welford Road, but it leaves the team with a hope and momentum that was somehow lacking after the near identical semi last season. The first half of the game was a Bath team in command, and I can’t help but wonder what might have been had the teams not gone in level at half time to a questionable Toby Flood penalty. But in the end, the better team ran out the winners thanks to their set-piece dominance – it was as if Lee Mears was practicing for next season by throwing the ball to the Leicester back row.

The frightening thing is that the home team wasn’t even playing 100% for most of the match. We didn’t see much of the backs, and aside from the odd smash-tackle, the Leicester back row was relatively quiet. If they bring their ‘A game’ to the final, Sarries – brilliant as they have been – will be outclassed.

Speaking of which, the semi at Franklin’s Gardens was one of the tensest games we’ve seen all season, coming down to a kick in the final few minutes. This came after the video referee was influential again, deciding that Brit’s driven-over try counted. In the end, the best team won, but there was little to choose between the two and seeing the English talent on show makes us puzzle even more over Martin Johnson’s exclusion of all Saracens players from his Southern Hemisphere squad in the Autumn.

That leaves a Leicester vs Saracens final on the 29 May. It’s great to see the Saracens resurgence generating exciting rugby and some actual tries – something fans weren’t used to seeing until recently – but with Leicester keeping free-scoring Bath away from their line for a full 80 minutes, it’s tough to see Sarries finding any gap in their defence. The title this year is Leicester’s to give away – fitting considering the way they’ve dominated the Premiership all season.

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