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Last-minute Burns drop-goal gives Leicester Premiership title

Freddie Burns's last-minute drop-goal helped Leicester end a nine-year wait to be crowned champions of England as they defeated Saracens in a dramatic Premiership final. Photo: @LeicesterTigers/Twitter

Freddie Burns's last-minute drop-goal helped Leicester end a nine-year wait to be crowned champions of England as they defeated Saracens in a dramatic Premiership final. Photo: @LeicesterTigers/Twitter

Published Jun 18, 2022

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London — Freddie Burns's last-minute drop-goal helped Leicester end a nine-year wait to be crowned champions of England once again as they defeated Saracens 15-12 in a dramatic Premiership final at Twickenham on Saturday.

The Tigers had been 12-6 ahead thanks to tries by Hanro Liebenberg and Jasper Wiese only for Saracens to draw level through the boot of England's Owen Farrell.

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But with 22 seconds left on the clock, Burns — only on the field as a replacement for the injured George Ford — dropped a goal that gave Leicester their 11th English title.

"That's my job to kick it but we were up against it and we pulled ourselves up from the depths again," Burns, 32, told the BBC.

"I'm in shock... I said when I was five years old that I had two ambitions and that was to play for my country and to win the Premiership and with a year in Japan I thought it has gone," he added.

Leicester dominated territory and possession but were unable to put Saracens away until Burns scored his first drop-goal of the season.

Two years ago, five-time Premiership champions Saracens were relegated from the top-flight after being hit with a 105-point deduction for breaches of salary cap rules.

Had it not been for that huge penalty, Leicester, the English club game's dominant force for much of the 1990s and 2000s, would have been demoted to the Championship.

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But under the guidance of former England captain Steve Borthwick, who started his coaching career while a player at Saracens, the Tigers were never headed at the top of the table during the 2021/22 regular campaign.

It was Saracens, however, who opened the scoring with Farrell's fifth-minute penalty.

Opposing fly-half Ford limped off in the 23rd minute with what appeared to be an ankle injury as he was consoled by boyhood friend Farrell.

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It was not the way Ford would have wanted to bow out in his last Leicester appearance before joining Sale next season and put a question mark over his availability for England's three-Test tour of Australia next month.

Saracens, however, were reduced to 14 men soon afterwards when Aled Davies was yellow-carded by referee Wayne Barnes for a shoulder challenge to the head of opposition hooker Julian Montoya.

Leicester, in what had been an attritional match, capitalised on their man advantage with two tries.

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Full-back Freddie Steward made a break before finding Chris Ashton. The wing, playing against his old club, was brought down near Saracens' line but Liebenberg then forced his way over for a try converted by Burns.

Elliot Daly's long-range penalty just after the half-hour mark cut the gap to a point before Leicester hit back with their second try.

Ellis Genge, another of the England internationals on show, tapped a penalty after Saracens collapsed a scrum near their own line and charged into the opposing pack, with a pass from veteran scrum-half Richard Wigglesworth, preferred to current England No. 9 Ben Youngs in the starting XV, sending in Wiese on the blindside for a try that left the Tigers six points ahead at half-time.

Five-times capped Burns missed a penalty early in the second half and the Tigers, despite being repeatedly encamped near Saracens' line, could not add to their points tally in the face of committed defence by the London club.

Farrell's 64th-minute penalty then reduced Leicester's lead to three points before he levelled the scores from in front of thee posts four minutes from time.

But with extra-time looming and Leicester a man down following Matt Scott's dangerous tackle on the impressive Billy Vunipola, it was Burns who had the final say.

AFP

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