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Throwback Thursday: Classic cup semi-finals

Throwback Thursday: Classic cup semi-finals

Four teams will face off in Premiership Rugby Cup semi-finals this weekend as Saracens, Worcester Warriors, Newcastle Falcons and Northampton Saints do battle.

Ahead of the last four action, we look back at some thrilling semi-final encounters from the competition’s previous incarnations to get you in the mood.

Exeter Chiefs 20-17 Newcastle Falcons, March 2018

The Falcons face Northampton Saints in the semi-finals of this year’s competition and they will be hoping they can go one step further after bowing out to Exeter Chiefs at this stage last year.

Newcastle fans will not need reminding that their team surrendered a ten-point half-time lead, after a strong first-half display saw them 17-7 in front.

Exeter made the dream start to the match inside three minutes when Santiago Cordero made a brilliant line break and offloaded to Stu Townsend to go over.

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Newcastle registered their first points as veteran Toby Flood kicked a penalty, before the visitors would take a surprise lead as a well-worked lineout maul saw Kyle Cooper score and Flood convert.

The Falcons then extended their lead further, piling more misery onto the Chiefs.

The ball was worked wide to Simon Hammersley who had the simple job of dotting down before the trusty boot of Flood kicked the conversion.

Exeter needed a response after the break and following eight minutes of pressure the Newcastle defence was breached.

Joe Simmonds

Townsend flung the ball wide to Simmonds, who produced a clever side-step to cut back past the Newcastle defender and go over for his side’s second try of the afternoon, which he duly converted.

Exeter drew level when Simmonds planted a 25-metre penalty and after Flood missed a chance to restore Newcastle’s lead, the Chiefs man converted again to put his side 20-17 ahead.

This was not the end of the action, though, as Newcastle were awarded a late penalty and with Flood having departed, responsibilities were left to Joel Hodgson.

Sandy Park watched on as Hodgson’s kick fell agonisingly short and into the clutches of Cordero, signalling the end to the epic encounter.

Harlequins 20-21 Newcastle Falcons, March 2011

Another semi-final classic involving Newcastle which this time saw the Falcons advance to the final, where they would go on to lose to Gloucester Rugby 34-7 in the showpiece.

This match was famed for its late drama and for the fact it was one of the closest LV Cup semi-finals in the competition’s history.

Quins made a lighting quick start to the game and Karl Dickson went over within the opening 56 seconds, before Harlequins’ Rory Clegg and Newcastle’s Jimmy Gopperth traded penalties.

The visitors then were reduced to 14 men after Andrew Van der Heijden was sent to the sin-bin for dangerous play, but Quins were not able to fully capitalise.

Clegg kicked another penalty to put the hosts 13-3 ahead but that advantage could have been increased had Ugo Moyne not let the play spill out of his hands with the try line in sight.

Before the break, Gopperth slightly decreased the deficit by booting home another penalty.

After the break and Falcons fly-half Gopperth levelled the scores when he brilliantly claimed the loose ball and ran the length of the field to score, and then convert his own try.

The New Zealander remained cool, calm and collected to put the Falcons in front for the first-time in the game with another astutely taken penalty.

With little over ten minutes left, Harlequins needed a route back into the match and after a remarkable 25 phases, Mike Brown was on-hand to go over in the corner.

With Newcastle camped on their own try-line, Clegg carved open defence and supplied a pass to Brown to dot down, before the fly-half converted.

But there was to be an incredible twist to the tale, when Newcastle centre Tane Tu’ipulotu sealed victory by finishing off a flowing Falcon’s move with the last play of the game.

Saracens 24-20 Northampton Saints, March 2015

This last four tie from 2015 saw two of this year’s semi-finalist do battle at Allianz Park, where the hosts were making their fifth semi-final appearance in a bid to reach a first LV Cup final.

Saints had denied them the opportunity both in the previous year and back in 2010, but this was to be Saracen’s day as they battled back to secure their maiden final appearance in the competition.

Northampton raced into an early 6-0 lead after John Olver kicked two penalties, but it would be Saracens who would score the opening try of the fixture when David Strettle dotted down.

Olver’s brilliant start to the game continued for Saints, as he carved away through Saracens’ defence to go over, before converting his own try to establish a 13-5 lead for the visitors at the break.

Saracens came storming out of the traps after the restart as Mike Ellery gathered the ball from the lineout and smashed his way through to score.

Scrum-half Ben Spencer chalked up a hat-trick of penalties for Saracens to capitalise on Northampton errors and move the hosts into the lead for the first-time in the match.

Northampton fought back and managed to reduce the deficit to just a single point when Phil Dowson went over.

With just minutes left and tensions high, Saracens’ South African centre Nils Mordt kicked a superb drop goal to increase their narrow lead to four points.

Saints applied some serious pressure on the Saracens defence late on, but they managed to remain resolute to send the home fans into delirium.

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