Northampton Saints won their first ever Premiership Trophy after a titanic battle against Saracens. This was an amazing experience, one that I don’t think could ever be bettered.
I left Milton Keynes at 9am for destination London. Despite numerous delays including the part closure of the District Line, we were not to be denied reaching our destination of Richmond. I met some other Saints fans on the way as we descended upon our first pub The Orange Tree. The party atmosphere was unrivaled as Northampton Saints painted a picture of Green and Gold.
Twickenham village was full of fun packed activities including the opportunity to hold the Aviva Premiership Trophy. We met Lawrence Dellaghio and saw Claire Baldwin amongst others who gathered in anticipation for Rugby Unions showpiece of the season. The sunshine was providing a cheerful backdrop as just under 82,000 fans gathered together. There were fans from other clubs including Leicester Tigers and Bath who had hoped to be taking part in the final.
Saracens were the local team and after a terrific season finished top of the league campaign. Northampton Saints finished 2nd and were here not just to make up the numbers. After the breathtaking last minute Semi Final win against local rivals Leicester Tigers, Saints backed it up with their first trophy of the season beating Bath in the Amlin European Cup Final in Cardiff last week.
Saints edged the first half 7-6 and found themselves winning 14-9 with ten minutes to go thanks to George Psisi touching down in the corner. A game full of controversial moments saw a Saracens try disallowed by the Video Referee for a forward pass in the build up that ironically saw Farrell injure himself kicking the ball away in celebration just before it was scratched off.
Saracens did get their first try to tie the game but we couldn’t believe it when the simple conversion striked the post and bounced clear. The game headed into Extra Time and both sides exchanged penalties in the first half at 17-17. Saracens regained the lead up until the final seconds before the dramatic end. Trailing 17-20 with the clock on zero, Saints forced Saracens back and with one final push Alex Waller drove the ball over under a defensive wall. The referee referred back to the video official who after 4 replays awarded the winning try.
The party atmosphere was immense as the final whistle went and Saints clinched their first ever Premiership Crown. The whole experience was hard to describe but it’s one I will never forget. Come on You Saints!!
Friday night rugby is something I’ve discovered since moving to Towcester and being fifteen minutes away from Franklin’s Gardens makes it even more accessible. I was one of the 13,491 lucky people to be in the ground this Friday just gone (16th May 2014) to view an amazing spectacle of full blooded fierce rugby union between two massive East Midlands Rivals.
Leicester Tigers are a modern day giant and the success they have had this last decade is a true testament to what has been built at the club. Northampton Saints are a team who are coming good, a side who tasted defeat to this Tigers side in last seasons Premiership Final. Some will argue that if it wasn’t for some poor discipline on the day, then it could very well have been Saints taking last seasons show piece. One thing is for sure, Northampton Saints can make the big finals, they just need to start winning some, to start what could be a period of success.
Northampton Saints headed into this Semi Final with home advantage after finishing 2nd in the seasons campaign. Leicester Tigers were 3rd after another typical strong finish after the 6 Nations campaign which strips them of their internationals for 6 weeks of the season. Leicester had beaten the Saints in the previous 9 contests, so it was going to take something extremely special to win this battle.
The game was played in a passionate atmosphere with both teams in full voice. Chants of TIGERS were returned with choruses of “when the Saints go marching in” it was a vocal bombardment from the sell out crowd. Leicester took control in the first half and scored a couple of tries in the process. A couple of sin bins were also dealt out as both sides demonstrated full bloodied play. The Saints could only score a couple of penalties as they went into the break 6-17 down to a Tigers side in control, it was going to take something special to turn this around.
The second half continued with the hard plays and Leicester had another player sin binned to which Saints tried to take advantage of. It became apparent after the break that the Saints had found another gear and suddenly possession was being kept into phases of over ten plays. A penalty brought the game back to 9-17 as Saints kept plugging away.
A tangle between Tom Youngs and Salesi Maafu saw Youngs sin binned but Maafu red carded. The Saints were suddenly down to fourteen men with memories of last years final back in everyone’s minds. The crowd were feeling it and as the game headed into the final quarter, George North found a way over the Tigers line to bring Saints back to within a score at 16-17.
The Saints didn’t let the numerical disadvantage put them off despite a penalty giving the Tigers a 20-16 lead. As the clock headed into the last five minutes, Saints kept turning the possessions into plays and were knocking on the Tigers line, asking their defense a lot of different questions.
Heading into the final 2 minutes, Tom Wood found a way over and the solid Tigers defense was breached again. Franklin’s Gardens was celebrating, everyone both on and off the pitch in Green and Gold jubilant. As the clock ticked into the final minute the conversion hit the post, Saints had 20 seconds to hold onto a 21-20 lead, their first lead of the night.
And hold onto it they did, as the clock ticked past 80 minutes the ball was kicked out in front of us as the referee brought the game to an end. Northampton Saints are going to Twickenham and boy did they deserve it, there is now a real opportunity to end this season in style, starting next weekend in Cardiff in the European Final against Bath.
Well done Saints! We are all extremely proud of you.
Saturday saw my first visit to Franklin’s Gardens to watch Northampton Saints play Bath in the Aviva Rugby Union Premiership. I was treated to use of the Travis Perkins Box for the day and took some customers and colleagues along for a truly amazing day. The weather was perfect for the Sold Out match with a clear, bright, sunny day providing the pleasant backdrop for the near 13,000 crowd. Northampton Saints and Bath were 2nd and 3rd heading into this game, with the possibility of taking top spot depending on Saracens result.
Part of the day involved a tour around the stadium which was pretty exciting. We got to walk around the ground and have a look in the players tunnel as well as the Home Changing Rooms. We were not allowed into the visitors changing rooms because apparently there were private confidential game plans on show! Either way this didn’t spoil the opportunity to look at parts of the ground many people could only dream of doing. There is a plaque on the wall by the Home changing room which lists by caps, the most capped players at the club in Saints history. This dates back to 1895 which is where all the records that weren’t destroyed by a fire are available to. There are some pretty impressive capped players with over 400 caps. I was also really grateful to get a photo taken by Pisi’s shirt, he is one of my favorite Saints players!
As we looked around the bars and the trophy room we were also shown a wall which had all the photos of players past and present who have been capped by their respective country. This is when I discovered that Gregor Townsend who is my favourite Scottish player, used to play for Saints! A little bit of trivia as I like to educate my blogs followers, Franklin’s Gardens is the only English Rugby Ground to have a War Memorial Situation within it. I think this photo shows it off nicely.
The food in the box was spot on and the drinks were flowing. Everybody was in great spirits ahead of the promising match that awaited us. Now I’m not one with great knowledge of Rugby Union, but Saints found themselves 0-13 behind after 10 minutes and staring into the possibility of being left behind. Bath were reduced to 14 men and in that time, 2 tries for Saints saw them take a lead that they never relinquished. The game saw Saints score six tries in total and claim a 43-25 win which was full of entertainment.
There was one final twist as I discovered that I’d be presenting the Travis Perkins man of the match award to Christian Daly at the end of the game. There was also an opportunity to shake hands with North who played well and get right close to the team huddle at the end of the game. There will be a better photo to follow but this one shows me on the pitch. One funny moment is when I turned up to the box we were in during the game from the pitch, to see all the guys waving and chanting my name, awesome effort guys!