Premiership: Freddie Burns the hero as Leicester Tigers beat Saracens to claim first title since 2013

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 Credit: PA Images
Credit: PA Images

Fly-half Freddie Burns went down in Leicester folklore as he kicked a late drop-goal to win the Premiership title for the Tigers, snatching a 15-12 victory over Saracens.

In a fiercely contested final, it was a tight game throughout between the best sides in England’s top-tier.

Sarries took an early lead thanks to Owen Farrell’s penalty but, after Aled Davies had been yellow carded for the Londoners, Leicester hit back through Hanro Liebenberg’s try.

Elliot Daly reduced the arrears from the tee but Leicester managed to touch down once more while Davies was off the field as Jasper Wiese crossed the whitewash.

That gave the Midlanders a 12-6 buffer at the break, a scoreline that remained until the third quarter when Farrell added another three-pointer.

The fly-half would then kick a fourth penalty to level matters and at that point extra-time beckoned, but Burns had other ideas, handing the Tigers their first Premiership title since 2013.

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Saracens’ dream of a sixth league crown being secured only 15 months after they were ambushed by Cornish Pirates in Penzance – following demotion to the Championship and a £5.36million fine for repeated salary cap breaches – was extinguished.

Leicester only avoided relegation two years ago due to Saracens being punished, yet their revival under head coach Steve Borthwick has been spectacular.

And after finishing top following the regular league season, in addition to winning all 12 Premiership home games plus a play-off, they again delivered when it mattered.

Borthwick sprung a surprise at scrum-half, preferring former Saracens player Richard Wigglesworth to Ben Youngs, while Guy Porter moved into midfield as replacement for an injured Dan Kelly and Premiership record try-scorer Chris Ashton also started.

Saracens showed just one change following their play-off victory over Harlequins, with lock Nick Isiekwe replacing Tim Swinson.

Leicester found themselves under immediate pressure, and Farrell kicked a fifth-minute penalty after Liebenberg infringed through a challenge on Nick Tompkins.

Tigers grew into the game, and they gained an attacking five-metre scrum following defensive hesitancy between Saracens backs Davies and Alex Goode.

But Leicester captain Ellis Genge was penalised for collapsing the scrum, and Saracens surged back upfield through a Billy Vunipola charge.

George Ford missed a chance to haul Leicester level when he drifted a 38-metre penalty chance wide, and his Tigers farewell then ended prematurely, limping off after he fell awkwardly.

The on-pitch temperature had gone up a notch, and Davies was yellow-carded for his challenge on Julian Montoya, with Leicester immediately punishing them.

The Leicester backs launched a thrilling move that had Saracens back-pedalling, and Liebenberg crossed from close range before Burns converted.

Saracens needed to regroup, and Daly booted a 48-metre penalty, cutting the deficit to 7-6.

But Leicester struck again just before Davies returned, with Wiese scoring after Genge took a quick penalty and Tigers led by five points at the interval.

Saracens’ Sean Maitland did not return for the second period, with Alex Lozowski replacing him, while Daly moved from centre to wing.

Leicester had all the momentum, and they exerted relentless pressure midway through the third quarter after Burns missed a long-range penalty.

Saracens’ defence was tested in all areas, yet they managed to keep Tigers out and still trailed by six points entering the final 20 minutes.

Farrell’s second-successful penalty brought Saracens back to within touching distance and the closing stages proved inevitably frantic, with Tigers substitute Matt Scott being yellow-carded for a high challenge on Billy Vunipola, and Farrell’s 76th-minute penalty levelled it up.

Burns, though, had the final say as the 32-year-old dropped a goal and Leicester could celebrate wildly.

READ MORE: Super Rugby Pacific: Crusaders crowned champions after victory over Blues in final

The article Premiership: Freddie Burns the hero as Leicester Tigers beat Saracens to claim first title since 2013 appeared first on Planetrugby.com.

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