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Saracens claim title

Saracens claim title
By Eurosport

29/05/2011 at 00:09Updated 29/05/2011 at 06:05

Saracens were crowned Premiership champions after surviving an astonishing onslaught at the end to beat Leicester 22-18 at Twickenham.

The London side were far more creative and attacking throughout and thoroughly merited their victory as a blistering man-of-the match performance by Schalk Brits and some nerveless kicking by Sarries' 19-year-old fly-half Owen Farrell denied the Tigers a 10th title.

Saracens went into the match with a reputation for conservative rugby, but shocked the nine-times champions by opening up the match at every opportunity.

Farrell was outstanding from the start, distributing the ball brilliantly and making probing runs into the gaps left by the uncharacteristically disorganised Tigers defence.

But it was Saracens scrum-half Neil de Kock who made the first clear chance of the match, bursting through into the Tigers 22m after five minutes and getting almost to the try line before being stopped. Leicester killed the ball to deny a try-scoring chance from the follow-up, earning a yellow card for Ben Youngs, but Farrell slotted over the penalty to put Saracens ahead.

Yet the pre-match underdogs were unable to build on the chance, with Matt Stevens - back at Twickenham for the first time since returning from his drug ban - conceding a kick in front of the posts just five minutes later which Toby Flood put through the posts.

Saracens remained in the ascendancy, enjoying both the lion's share of possession and field position, so when de Kock picked up the ball while offside to gift Leicester a 6-3 lead it was against the run of play as the game reached the 20 minute mark.

The scores were level just three minutes later when George Chuter gave away another penalty, and more pressure from Sarries - including a drop-goal effort from 30m that Alex Goode really should have landed - finally turned into a try when Farrell broke up the right.

A lightning switch saw the inspirational Saracens hooker Brits open up Leicester with a perfect diagonal run through a gap left by Chuter, and James Short took the offload then did well to touch down in the corner.

Another penalty put Saracens even further ahead before a daft mistake by Stevens 25m in front of the posts let Flood bring the scoreline back to 16-9 before half-time.

Judging by the manner in which they began the second-half Leicester had clearly been given an ear-bashing by their coaching staff at half-time, immediately keeping the ball much more effectively and giving away far fewer chances.

But for all their possession the Tigers failed to make any try-scoring chances, while the kicking of Flood - making just his 10th Premiership start after a season interrupted by injury and internationals - was at fault for missing two straightforward penalties that Leicester's pressure had forced.

Yet he landed a far tougher effort with 12 minutes left to cut the deficit to just four points, giving Leicester hope of turning it around to defend their title.

Five minutes later a moment of indiscipline - far from the first - by Horacio Agulla conceded a penalty on the left edge of the pitch which Farrell did brilliantly to convert, putting Sarances seven points clear again.

But straight from the restart Steve Borthwick conceded a penalty that Flood landed to bring the Tigers' back within four points.

That sparked an astonishing climax to the match which saw Leicester camped on the Saracens' try-line for over 10 minutes after the clock turned red.

But Saracens' defence held firm time and again, and when a Leicester blunder gave away a penalty Farrell was left to boot the ball into the crowd and confirm his side as Premiership champions for the first time.