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Match Report: Saracens 44 Leicester Tigers 17 Match Report: Saracens 44 Leicester Tigers 17

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Match Report: Saracens 44 Leicester Tigers 17

Saracens suffered an almighty scare, but their first-half dominance proved sufficient to see them reach a third successive Aviva Premiership Rugby final.

The home side had built a 31-point lead at the break with wing Chris Wyles running in two of four tries.

Their advantage was cut back to 14 points quick as a flash after the restart, but Leicester Tigers ran out of steam and Mark McCall’s men hung on to book their place at Twickenham next weekend.

Leicester looked to have stunned Allianz Park with the opening try inside the first minute when England centre Manu Tuilagi broke clear and crossed, but the TMO ruled Dom Barrow had played the ball on the floor in the build-up and the score was chalked off.

In the fourth minute though, it was Saracens who took the lead with a sweeping move inside from the left channel, finished off under the posts by Will Fraser after good work from Schalk Brits. Owen Farrell nailed the simplest of conversions to reach the 100-point milestone for the Aviva Premiership Rugby season.

Tigers pushed for a way back in, but knock-ons from both Telusa Veainu and Graham Kitchener saw them twice fail to exploit rare space in behind the Saracens lines – this was to become a growing theme.

In a wide-open contest Saracens had the second try midway through the first half. Wyles intercepted a grubber kick from Owen Williams and cut through the middle of the visitors’ defence before touching down under the posts. Farrell was again successful with the extras and Leicester’s afternoon got worse as Tuilagi limped off, with ice applied above his right knee as he sat on the bench.

The contest looked over on 25 minutes when Billy Vunipola collected the ball at the base of a scrum and began a move out to the right flank, finished off by Chris Ashton who rode two tackles before diving over the whitewash. Farrell from the right touchline superbly bisected the posts.

Farrell extended the lead to 24 points with a penalty from 42 metres and before the interval the home side ran in a fourth try when Wyles intercepted a pass from Ben Youngs deep inside his own half and raced virtually the length of the field to cross. Farrell continued his 100 per cent record off the tee to send Saracens in at the break with a 31-0 lead.

The city of Leicester has seen some astounding sporting accomplishments in 2016, but a Tigers comeback was a step too far – wasn’t it?

The visitors burst out of the traps and Veainu saw space to exploit on the left-flank, gathered Williams’ pass and went over within 60 seconds of the restart. Williams converted and suddenly the home supporters were a little less buoyant.

With tension in the air Maro Itoje conceded a penalty for a high tackle 25m from the posts and Williams was on target to continue to chip away at the Saracens’ lead.

On 50 minutes Veainu was held up a metre from the line and the ball broke loose, but was pulled back for a Leicester penalty following an infringement at the line-out and Fraser was sent to the sin bin.

And Leicester made the advantage count, Barrow being carried over the line from a driving maul and another Williams’ conversion reduced the deficit to 14 points.

A penalty from Farrell looked like it would bring some respite, but when his kick held up in the wind short of the posts you could have forgiven Saracens fans for fearing the worst.

An injury to Farrell with 20 minutes remaining saw Charlie Hodgson introduced to the Allianz Park crowd for the final time in his career. And two successful penalties saw Saracens lead back up to 20 points with 10 minutes left on the clock.

Leicester’s spirit was broken eight minutes from time. Itoje kicked the ball low through the middle, Ashton kicked it away from the covering defender and splashed down. Hodgson added the extras, the final score of a captivating semi-final.
 
If you want to be at the world's biggest club rugby final, this year's Aviva Premiership Rugby Final is on 28 May at Twickenham, tickets are available from premiershiprugby.com/final
 

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