Northampton Saints director of rugby Jim Mallinder heaped praise on Luther Burrell after the England centre had a big hand in clinching a dramatic victory over Leicester Tigers.
In a hot-tempered affair at Franklin’s Gardens the Aviva Premiership Rugby leaders were down to 14 men after just a quarter of an hour, Dylan Hartley shown a red card for striking Matt Smith.
Minutes later the hosts were behind, courtesy of a penalty try, but Leicester Tigers didn’t have it all their own way.
A couple of Stephen Myler penalties kept them in the hunt and Alex Waller scored after the break to hand them an unlikely leads.
Niki Goneva hit back before Ben Foden once again handed Northampton the lead, only for Goneva’s second of the afternoon to turn the game on its head once more.
However, replacement Jamie Elliott popped up in the dying seconds to secure a famous triumph after powerful running from Burrell had taken Northampton deep into opposition territory.
“I thought Luther Burrell was outstanding,” said Mallinder. “After 20 minutes we said we were still going to take them on and what we needed from Luther was to stay strong and on his feet and he did that brilliantly.
“At half-time Tom Wood said 'let's do it for Dylan'. It was a tremendous, spirited performance. Not just relying on spirit and guts but also a lot of technical and tactical work.”
Meanwhile, Leicester boss Richard Cockerill conceded his side were simply second best on the day despite their numerical advantage.
“I'm frustrated with how we managed that second half,” he said. “We got what we deserved.
“You have to control that field position and get that forward pack into the right areas of the field so we can have opportunities to create attacks.
“We were defensively poor. We were too narrow. It will be interesting on Monday morning when we look back and see a side with one less back creating opportunities.
“Saints outplayed us. They took advantage of our naivety in defence. We seemed to go AWOL at times in defence.”
Northampton Saints: Wilson, Pisi (Elliott 73), Stephenson (Haywood 18), Burrell, North, Myler (Foden 49), Fotuali’i (Dickson L 69), Waller A (Waller E 64), Hartley, Ma’afu (Denman 53), Lawes, Day (Dickson S 64), Clark (Dowson 64), Wood, Manoa
Leicester Tigers: Tait, Scully (Benjamin 68), Smith (Burns 59), Allen, Goneva, Williams, Youngs B, Ayerza (Balmain 59), Youngs T (Ghiraldini 44), Cole, Kitchener, Parling, Croft (Barbieri 54), Salvi, Crane
Replacements not used: Rizzo, De Chaves, Harrison
Tries: Waller, Foden, Elliott
Penalties: Myler 2
Tries: Penalty, Goneva 2
Conversions: Williams Burns
Referee: JP Doyle
From 9am on Boxing Day get 20 per cent off a limited number of tickets to the Aviva Premiership Rugby Final 2015. Click this link to take advantage of this great offer