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Fairytale finish for Lawes as Northampton edge Bath in Premiership final

Champion finish: Northampton captain Courtney Lawes led his side to an English Premiership final win over Bath at Twickenham (Darren Staples)
Champion finish: Northampton captain Courtney Lawes led his side to an English Premiership final win over Bath at Twickenham (Darren Staples)

Courtney Lawes bowed out of English club rugby a Premiership champion after his Northampton side just edged 14-man Bath 25-21 in a dramatic final at Twickenham on Saturday.

Northampton skipper Lawes, a former England captain, was playing his 283rd and final game for the Saints before the 35-year-old powerhouse forward joins French side Brive.

After Bath prop Beno Obano was sent off in the 22nd minute for a dangerous tackle, Northampton -- who topped the regular season table -- surged into a 15-3 lead.

But Bath fought back to be level at 18-18 in the second half only for Northampton scrum-half Alex Mitchell to put the Saints four points ahead when he went over for a converted try seven minutes from time following a brilliant run by replacement George Hendy, the player of the match.

Victory gave Northampton their first Premiership title since 2014, with Lawes also involved in that success as well.

"I couldn't have thought of a better way to go out," Lawes told TNT Sports after paying tribute to Bath's resilience.

Mitchell, meanwhile, said Hendy deserved the credit for his score.

"George Hendy took on about five other boys, I didn't have to do much!," Mitchell told the BBC.

"We were actually a bit off it today but we found a way and now we're champions, so I'm delighted."

Defeat left Bath, who only two years ago finished bottom of the table, still searching for their first major honour in 16 years.

- 'Stick around Obano' -

"What a game of rugby from our side, we were tough to beat today but congratulations to Saints, I can't be more proud of my team," said Bath boss Johann van Graan, who has overseen the southwest side's revival since joining the club in 2022.

"To play for 60 minutes with 14 men in a final makes it extremely difficult but we are one group united, we'll stick around Beno Obano."

The seventh-minute of sun-drenched final in front of a crowd of over 81,000 featured a minute's applause for the late Rob Burrow, who wore the number seven shirt, following the Leeds and England rugby league star's death aged 41 from Motor Neurone Disease.

Bath fly-half Finn Russell kicked Bath into a 3-0 lead before opposing stand-off Fin Smith landed a 30-metre drop-goal.

Bath then lost Obano when suffered a major setback when referee Christophe Ridley, following a video review, decided the prop's shoulder-led challenge to the head of Northampton No 8 Juarno Augustus merited a red card.

Northampton, beaten in this season's European Chhampions Cup semi-final by Leinster, wasted little in making their advantage count, creating an overlap for England wing Tommy Freeman to score a 24th-minute converted try.

And they were 15-3 up when left wing Ollie Sleightholme touched down his own chip ahead.

Bath, however, hit back on the half-hour mark when, from a line-out, South African prop Thomas Du Toit powered over before Russell landed a tough conversion from wide out to leave Northampton 15-10 ahead at half-time.

But after a penalty exchange, Bath were level at 18-18 when scrum-half Ben Spencer's cross-kick was knocked backwards by Hendy, with left wing Ollie Muir touching down for a score that Russell could not convert.

Russell then landed a penalty to leave Bath 21-18 ahead with 14 minutes to play against an error-strewn Northampton.

But the Saints had the last word when after Hendy's break, Mitchell crossed for a try converted by England full-back George Furbank.

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