Northampton Saints became English rugby union champions for the first time in their history on Saturday beating Saracens 24-20 with a last minute try by Alex Waller in extra-time in the Premiership final at Twickenham.
Northampton’s victory came just over a week after they had beaten fellow English side Bath in the European Challenge final and meant double heartbreak for 2011 English champions Saracens, who lost to French side Toulon in the European Cup final last Saturday.
The game had gone into extra time with the sides locked at 14-14.
It was still level at 17-17 before Charlie Hodgson kicked Saracens ahead. But it was Waller who dived under a heap of bodies at the death to claim the try although a drop goal would have been sufficient as they had outscored their opponents two tries to one at that stage.
It took a couple of minutes for the video referee to tell referee JP Doyle he could award the try. The Saints players dropped to their knees in joy and celebration while the Saracens players were left distraught.
“I haven’t slept all week and now a finish like that, I don’t think I’ve got any hairs or fingernails left,” Northampton captain Dylan Hartley told BBC radio.
“It means everything to win it. We were so close last year. I’m proud to do it, not just for the town, but for all these special people here. I’m so proud of the squad.”
It had been a very different picture early on as Saracens took an early lead through a 13th minute penalty by England fly-half Owen Farrell.
Farrell made Saints pay for another infringement as five minutes later he landed another penalty to make it 6-0.
However, despite at one point threatening to swamp their opponents Saracens missed a chance to go 9-0 up when Farrell sent a penalty wide of the posts.
However, Northmaton were sparked into life by Ken Pisi, who produced the move of the first half when the Saints wing went on a weaving 60-yard run from inside his own half and provoked a penalty being awarded to them.
Captain Tom Wood turned down two chances of a kick at goal in order to maintain the pressure by kicking for line-outs in the right-hand corner. And from the second the bold move was rewarded with the opening try as the ball swept along the Saints back row and finally Luther Burrell’s deft pass to Ben Foden saw him dive over.
Stephen Myler converted for a 7-6 half-time lead only for Farrell to nose Sarries ahead again with his third penalty early in the second half.
Myler then took control to send George Pisi over the line for the second try. He produced a perfectly weighted kick through to open up the Saracens defence and Pisi dived on the ball. Myler converted but then came a moment of drama when their opponents thought they had grabbed their first try.
Referee JP Doyle awarded a try when Chris Wyles’ pass to Farrell saw him stroll over the line.
Doyle signalled for the conversion to be taken and Farrell was setting up to kick but a message came over from the TMO in the stands that there had been a forward pass earlier in the move.
Alex Goode’s pass to Wyles was judged to have gone forward and Doyle, to sarcastic cheers from the Saints fans, went back on his original decision.
However, showing great character Saracens regrouped and replied with a stunning try just seven minutes from time. A rare move across the back line saw a sublime pass from hooker Schalk Brits put centre Marcello Bosch over in the right hand corner.
Charlie Hodgson, who had come on as a replacement for the injured Farrell, held his head in his hands as his conversion attempt from the touch line bounced back off the right-hand post.
Myler and Hodgson exchanged penalties before Hodgson put Saracens ahead. But it was left to Waller to become the Saints hero with his dramatic try at the end.