Best of the Weekend: Leicester and Leinster triumph in finals

Leicester Tigers lift Premiership trophy in memorable final

Twickenham played host to one of the most memorable finals in recent history on Saturday, as the Northampton Saints ultimately fell to a 37-17 loss to the new Aviva Premiership champions, the Leicester Tigers. The match was Northampton’s first trip to the Premiership final, but two moments of madness at the end of the first half effectively killed off any chance they had of emerging victorious. The win for Leicester was sweet relief for their players, who had made it to the same stage of the competition for the last two years, but had fallen short on both occasions.

Northampton could be criticised for coming out of the blocks slowly, and looked lethargic in defence early on, allowing both Vereniki Goneva and Anthony Allen to break tackles and make significant ground, all of which culminated in Niall Morris diving over in the corner for a try. The try did seem to wake up the Saints however, and they responded with a well-worked try of their own. Manu Tuilagi was penalised for not releasing in the tackle, and Lee Dickson took a quick tap and go from the penalty, unleashing Luther Burrell, who then found Stephen Myler, with the fly-half also finishing in the corner.

Madness then descended on Twickenham as the first half drew to a close, with two incidents surrounding referee Wayne Barnes. With time over in the first half, Barnes informed Myler that he could not kick the ball out on the full, but presumably the fly-half did not hear Barnes correctly, and proceeded to kick the ball straight out into touch. This then resulted in a Leicester scrum inside the Northampton 22. After awarding a penalty to Leicester at the scrum, Barnes, who had already warned Northampton captain Dylan Hartley for his use of language toward the referee, gave a red card, the first in Premiership Final history, to the hooker for the alleged use of offensive language to Barnes once more.

Hopes of a revival for the 14-man Northampton team were rekindled early in the second half, as Ben Foden, who had enjoyed a great first half, raced his way to the try-line, and brought the Saints to within a score of the Tigers. Unfortunately for Northampton however, the disparity between the two teams was soon restored as Graham Kitchener powered his way over in the corner, helping Leicester move 11 points clear of their opponents. Momentum now seemed well and truly with Leicester, especially after a successful George Ford penalty kick, but a searing break from the rejuvenated Foden gave Northampton excellent territory, which Burrell exploited by offloading to Dickson and the scrum half slid over the try-line, cutting Leicester’s lead to just seven points. Northampton showed incredible resolve in the second half, but tries from Manu Tuilagi and Goneva opened up an unassailable lead for the Tigers, and ensured Leicester lifted their 10th domestic title of the modern era.

Leinster pick up their second trophy in as many weeks

Almost 300 miles away from Twickenham another final was being hotly contested, and concluded with Leinster being crowned the RaboDirect PRO12 champions, as they saw off the challenge of Ulster at RDS, recording a 24-18 victory. It may have not matched the Premiership final in terms of tries scored or controversial incidents, but it was equally enthralling.

Only two tries were scored in the game, both by Leinster, with back row forwards Shane Jennings and Jamie Heaslip getting their names on the score sheet. Jonathan Sexton also added 14 points to the tally, whilst Ruan Pienaar contributed all of Ulster’s 18 points, kicking six penalties. The game was competitive throughout, and despite Ulster’s table topping form this season, they weren’t quite a match for Leinster, who have been imperious of late, and the Dublin-based side added the PRO12 trophy to the Amlin Challenge Cup that they collected at the same ground last week

With the duo of Leicester and Leinster contributing no less than 12 players to the Lions squad, the games will have proven fairly comfortable viewing for Warren Gatland, who will have certainly enjoyed seeing the Australian-bound contingent in good form, and come through the games relatively unscathed.

Youthful England trounce Barbarians

As the Twickenham bars opened up for a second day of hefty business this bank holiday weekend, on the pitch a youthful and exuberant England ran riot against a vastly more experienced Barbarians outfit. All the tries came from the backs as Freddie Burns, Kyle Eastmond, Marland Yarde, Christian Wade and Billy Twelvetrees all crossed the whitewash to secure a most impressive 40-12 victory and send them off to Argentina in perfect fashion.

It wasn’t the most imposing Barbarians lime-up ever seen – especially given the squad they announced initially – and it will now be interesting to see how many changes are made before they take on the Lions in Hong Kong next weekend.

Not the most spectacular you will ever see, but Try of the Week goes to Lee Dickson. The build-up involved a sensational break from Foden, and great support from Burrell, who then did well to offload in contact to the arriving Dickson. They were arguably the three best players for Northampton, and their endeavour fully deserved the try.

Despite being on a losing team, the Hero, or more aptly, Heroes of the Week, are Lee Dickson and Ben Foden. Both played exceptionally well all game, but particularly in the second half, when Northampton were hamstrung by Hartley’s dismissal. They encapsulated Northampton’s resolve, fighting spirit, and determination.

A fairly obvious Villain of the Week this weekend, as Dylan Hartley was given a red card for use of offensive language to the official. Not only did he severely hamper his team’s chances, but he also now misses out on the Lions tour.

by Alex Shaw (@alexshawsport)

28 thoughts on “Best of the Weekend: Leicester and Leinster triumph in finals

  1. Very pleased to see your villain is Dylan Hartley and not Wayne Barnes. Barnes was right all along in that kerfuffle. Slightly odd decisions in some other scrums but not a terrible game for the ref really. I’m told it’s hartley’s 4th career ban now. What a muppet. I still think the argument that he was using that he wasn’t talking to the ref is pretty weak as well. He shouldn’t be using that language on the pitch at all.

    On the up side the rest of the Northampton team were playing well. You haven’t even mentioned Lawes’ 2 thumping tackles on Flood. Both perfectly legal if you ask me. I’m no fan of Lawes but they were impressive.

  2. Good article by Brian Moore in the Telegraph this morning but a remarkable amount of criticism of Wayne Barnes in the online comments. Actually, probably not THAT remarkable if I am honest, but certainly unfair.

    Really pleased to see/hear/read a lot of measured support for the Red card and subsequent ban as although I have nothing against Hartley, it is right that this behaviour is treated with the seriousness it deserves. Now they must address the behaviour of Cockerill (and others who have acted similarly).

    1. glad to see i am not the only one who thinks it is a bit dodgy that Hartley gets the ban, and Cockers gets away scot free for his outburst on the touchline.

      i agree that hartley was stupid, and his ban is fair because we cannot have things like this in rugby. the actions of the disciplinary committee are sending a clear message.
      having said this, the fact that Flood (who wasnt on for long) had been warned about how he was “talking to the ref” and Hartley had been warned about 2 mins previous seems a bit odd. either both players had mental melt downs and decided to act inappropriately (unlikely for experienced test players) or Barnes was feeling a little touchy and decided in advance that everything was being said to him.

      I am not suggesting that i dont think Hartley wasnt talking to Barnes (the talking to Youngs argument seems pretty weak) but had Hartley not been warned minutes earlier (for something that possibly wasnt directed at the ref) would Barnes have gone straight for a red? or maybe he would have had a stern word? i guess we will never know.

      either way, whats done is done. and i understand the stance behind backing the ref. i do hope however that behind closed doors there is a bit more of a review of Barnes, as he seemed pretty poor in the final. (after all, his unclear communication with Myler caused the whole problem in the first place)

  3. A couple of comments on the Lawes/Flood tackles.

    Firstly I believe that the first was marginally late but the sanction of a penalty and NO card was spot on. I do accept that it was marginal, and if it had not been penalised I could also understand this.

    As a coach, you would be very pleased with your prime tackler with such a tackle. I do not wish to see players injured, but you do want to see your big defenders putting in such tackles on the opposition playmakers. there is an old, old saying that one should “get your first tackle in early, even if it is late”. It is part of the game.

    Lastly, I was very impressed by the way Flood put himself in the firing line immediately after (and got “shot” again) by taking the ball up to the tackle line before off-loading. I have never been a big fan of Toby Flood, but that was very professional – and very brave.

  4. I was there on Saturday and there was real confusion amongst the crowd. Hartley was completely in the wrong, and deserves his ban, but I feel for the Saints as clearly Barnes did not give very clear instructions for Myler.

    Foden was also fantastic on Saturday, really impressed with him, it looked the the old Foden again. Put him in the England back line that played against the Baa Baas, with the likes of Youngs and Tuilagi to come back in there, could England actually have a good attacking back line? Or am I being a bit ambitious?

    1. Here’s a thought on that 22m drop out;

      Myler could have walloped it into row z if he had wanted to. He didn’t. He hit it low, and not very long. I think that he was trying to make it bounce in play before going out – which would have finished the half.

      In the event it was very nearly blocked by the Leicester player – why risk this if he had’t heard – or had mis-heard Barnes?

      1. I didn’t see it like that. A lot of players only knock the ball out at the end of play. It was clear from his reaction that he intended for the ball to go out, as he kicked it and then went to follow it off the field. And then looked extremely shocked when a scrum was given.

        I think it was unlucky for Saints, but my bet is that from now on they will make sure they know the rules so they don’t have to check with the referee at all.

        1. i agree, i think Myler was trying to go out on the full. the problem arose because Barnes was not clear enough in his communication to the players. (ironic that he was pretty clear and blunt when he was telling Hartley to leave the field…)

          the only thing about saying saints will know all the rules from now on, is that that isnt always going to help. I have had numerous instances in my playing days where i have had a disagreement with a ref over his interpretation of a rule. (one example was when my team kicked to touch on a penalty, the opposing fullback took a quick lineout, and the ref called play on… ignoring the fact that it was our put in…)

          obviously the top flight refs SHOULD have an encyclopaedic knowledge of the rules, but they do occasionally make mistakes. the issue is, most of the refs (Barnes and Walsh in particular) are so arrogant and pigheaded, that they would never admit any fault of their own, and therefore tend to punish the players.

  5. Regarding the England Baa Baas game, I thought that although Launchbury put himself around a lot, and his tackle and carry count was probably one of, if not the highest, 12T should have got man of the match. He was involved so much in all the attacks, and took the ball to the line excellently and offloaded when it was on. He varied his game and the Baa Baas couldn’t handle it. It will be interesting to see him against the Argies, but if he keeps playing like that, I think Barritt could be out. He also made Burns life a lot easier by taking control of some of the kicking. Brown also played excellently, making yards from nothing and kicking sensibly.

    Also a note on Hartley. I think he has really shot himself in the foot here. Not only will he miss out on the Lions tour, but after Webber’s performance and Youngs’ continual improvement, Hartley is another one who could potentially find himself in the England wilderness. MUPPET!

    Any chance of some player ratings for the England game?

    1. I agree with you at 12T, but not Hartley. Yes he is a muppet, I agree there, but I can not see him being in international wilderness. Lets not forget how good he was in the semi-final, and that he is an excellent player. He had the best throwing percentage in the Premiership this year, carries well and always puts in a shift. In my opinion, he is our best hooker by quite some way, even if Youngs is making ground. Yes he is an idiot for what he did, but for me still a class act.

      1. You’re probably right, but I just feel that with guys like Webber, Buchanan and Youngs getting better all the time, it may not be long before Hartley is put aside, especially if he keeps getting himself into trouble like this. We know that SL is big on discipline, and verbally abusing the ref, or another player is something I think SL will not take lightly.

        1. Completely agree, in fact I saw an SL interview where he said Hartley will have to earn his trust back again. But I don’t think that they players behind him a truely international class. Webber, although played well on Saturday, is just a good premiership player IMO, Buchanen has impressed me, but is a very similar player to Youngs. I would be surprised if we didn’t see Hartley in the Autumn internationals put it that way.

      2. I think we have enough in the hooker dept to ensure Hartley is not missed by England, yes he is as good as the stats suggest but there is always that ‘Babies Got A Temper’ moment where, if in a close game with a top nation he just snaps we could be looking at 14 against 15 in a Grand Slam Decider or a World Cup final.

    2. Agree with the Baa Baa’s comments & I also feel that Chris Ashton should now feel the pressure as, yes I accept the opposition may not have been top level but the likes of Wade, Yarde and Eastmond impressed.

      Quick question who took the last conversion attempt I thought it was half time again?

    3. I must say, i am loving the 12Ts and Launchpad love at the moment. Both of them used to play for the same club when they were kids (different age groups), so as a former clubmate of theirs, its nice to see them performing on the big stage.

      Launchbury was pretty outstanding to be fair, but i agree that Twlevetrees was exceptional. Jospeh was actually pretty quiet, whether that be 12Ts making him look so, or he wasnt doing much. i would like to see eastmond get a shot at 13 with 12Ts on the tour. He looked dangerous in his time on the field. also england ran him at 15 and 10, which are the two positions in the backline he seems to have had the least time in.

      Yarde and Wade looked great too. i fully expect the likes of Ashton, Strettle and Barritt to struggle to get back in the team come the autumn.

      I think it is good that SL has made the comments about Hartley. he needs to get himself sorted, as he is one of the leaders of england. its bad enough for a player to get banned for that kind of thing, but a captain? thats pretty unforgivable.

  6. I agree with Blub above, I think Myler just ballsed the kick up. He was trying to be clever and make it bounce so it would have ended the half. Otherwise he would have leathered it into the second tier and not risked anything.

    Thought Burrell was excellent for Saints. Hard to stop, good off-loads and a couple of excellent long passes. Hope he gets a chance to play in Argentina

    Whilst Barnes does seem to attract controversy and some of his scrum calls were mystifying (as was his call against Tuilagi which lead to the Saints try in the first half) – his decision against Hartley was absolutely correct. Many of us in the stands at first thought he’d over-reacted, but when we learned that Hartley had already been warned, the majority decided that Barnes was correct.

    A fascinating game though. Great to watch

    1. interesting point about the Tuilagi penalty.

      Barnes did ping him for “not releasing the tackled player” which did seem pretty harsh. however (before barnes had even called advantage for the not releasing) Manu went off his feet over the ball, preventing any saints from getting it.
      Basically, Barnes gave a penalty for the wrong thing, but imo a penalty should have resulted from the ruck anyway.

  7. Oh,forgot to mention. If Hartley gets a red card for abusing the ref, why the hell has Cockerill not received any punishment?

    His actions were inexcusable and it was good to hear the ground booing him as he berated the refs

    1. agree 100%.

      Also, the fact is that Cockers’ outbreak was widely televised. its all well and good “sending a message” about respecting the officials by carding and banning a player, but Cockers showed similar behaviour (to multiple officials) and he has walked away from it.

      seems pretty inconsistent to me.

  8. No issue with the ban for Hartley. Even if his words were directed at Youngs he’s a tool for taking the risk after such a clear warning from Barnes.

    Hartley didn’t however get up in his face, start finger jabbing or show any anger/aggression towards an official. Cockerill was well out of line and shouldn’t escape punishment. Personally I think it was a legal hit as well, not that it would excuse or justify if it wasn’t.

    On the positives, I thought Foden was electric. Hope to see him back in a test 15 shirt this summer.

    1. Foden was good and from what I heard re the England game, Brown showed pretty well also – pleased he’s being picked in his best position.

      Foden or Brown – with Tait coming up fast on the outside. Nice little dilemma for SL!

      1. Eastmond is another possible at FB. Scored his try from there against the Baa Baas, and looked much more useful playing there than he did at FH. He really reminds me of Jason Robinson.

        1. i thought Daly showed potential as well.

          really disappointed that both Tait and Daly were overlooked for Joseph. after all, they both play 13, wing and 15 just like him.

          i would be looking to Eastmond and Burrell to battle for the 13 shirt. Twelvetrees has 12 stitched up, especially with burns playing 10.

          1. Completely agree with you on 12T having the 12 shirt. He will hopefully play well enough to keep Barritt out. Also agree that Daly should have toured over Joseph. I really have not been impressed with him this season, and he was anonymous amongst a back line that had a lot of ball on Sunday. Daly looked more impressive in a team that had very little ball.

  9. Just seen the short highlights. Superb speed from Yarde and Wade for their tries, lots of good play from 12T

    A lovely try at the end from Daly – he could really be something special

  10. Whislt the BaaBaas are not as organised as an international sides, plenty to be excited about. Wish Myler wasn’t touring! Gotta get Ford up to speed or lure in Botica.

    Going forward:

    Foden, Brown, Tait/Goode, Wade, May, Yarde, Ashton, Eastmond, Daly, Joseph, Twelvetrees, Barritt, Burrell, Burns, Farrell, Ford/Botica, Youngs, Care, Morgan, Vunipola, Kvesic, Fraser, Robshaw, Croft, Wood, Wallce/Clark/Johnson, Launch, Atwood, Slater, Parling, Lawes, Cole, Wilson, Thomas, Hartley, Youngs, Corbs, Vunipola, Marler.

    In a few years, would quite like to see a line up of:
    Foden, Wade, Tuilagi, 12t, Yarde, Youngs, Burns, Morgan, Kvesic, Wood, Launchbury, Slater, Cole, Hartley, Corbs – Vunipola, Wilson, Youngs, Lawes, Croft, Care, Farrell, Daly

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