Throwback Thursday: Five classic semi-finals
Following a breathless conclusion to the regular season last weekend, all eyes are now firmly set on this Saturday’s mouth-watering Gallagher Premiership Rugby semi-finals.
Defending champions Saracens host Gloucester Rugby in the day’s early kick-off, before table-topping Exeter Chiefs entertain Northampton Saints.
With some great semi-final clashes over the years, we’re taking a trip down memory lane to remind us of five of the best to truly whet the appetite before the action gets underway.
Gloucester Rugby 50-9 Saracens, 2007
With Gloucester unbeaten at Kingsholm all season and Saracens coming unstuck at Worcester Warriors on the last day of regular action, Alan Gaffney knew his visiting side were in for a tough afternoon.
After a slow start, the Cherry and Whites took the lead through a controversial penalty try and gradually added to their lead with a Peter Richards score which saw them go into the break 14-3 ahead.
After the interval however, they truly turned on the style which had seen them finish top of the table, with tries from Luke Narraway, Mark Foster, Anthony Allen, Andy Hazel and Christian Califano.
Willie Walker also kicked 15 points for Gloucester, who were ultimately undone by a classy Leicester Tigers side in the final the following week.
Northampton Saints 21-20 Leicester Tigers, 2014
Fourteen-man Northampton’s thrilling comeback against defending champions Leicester Tigers sent them to their third final of the season in truly dramatic fashion.
Despite Vereniki Goneva being sent to the sin-bin early on, Leicester dominated the first half and went into the break 17-6 ahead.
The Saints were rejuvenated after the break and clawed their way back into contention, until Salesi Ma’afu’s red card for punching Tom Youngs looked to have halted their response with 25 minutes left to play.
But George North went over to bridge the gap, before Luther Burrell’s quick hands set up Tom Wood to score in the dying seconds to seal their spot at Twickenham.
In total, the game saw three yellow cards and one red card but it was Saints who reached the showpiece.
Exeter Chiefs 18-16 Saracens, 2017
In 2017’s first semi-final Exeter dashed Saracens’ hopes of consecutive domestic and European titles as Sam Simmonds’ late try paved the way for the Chiefs to claim their first ever Premiership Rugby title.
A cagey first period saw Owen Farrell and Gareth Steenson kick the sides to a 6-6 half-time scoreline, before the game really got going after the break.
Jack Nowell and Chris Wyles exchanged tries, before Mike Ellery looked to have won it for Sarries when he went over with five minutes left on the clock.
But substitute Henry Slade’s well-executed penalty set the Chiefs up for one final chance and Simmonds drove over to send the Sandy Park faithful into raptures and seal revenge over Saracens who had denied them in the final 12 months earlier.
Wasps 21-20 Leicester Tigers, 2017
With a lot to live up, 2017’s other semi-final didn’t disappoint as Josh Bassett’s try two minutes from time squeezed Wasps into their first Premiership Rugby Final in nine years.
Dai Young’s side had built a healthy, ten-point lead, but Peter Betham’s first-half try reduced the Tigers’ deficit to just three points at the break.
Wasps had not lost a league match at the Ricoh Arena since December 2015, but it looked like they were heading for defeat when a Telusa Veainu try and a Freddie Burns kick put Leicester four ahead.
Thomas Young spurned a great chance for the hosts with time running out, but Bassett made no mistake in the final stages to send Wasps through and succumb the Tigers to semi-final defeat for the fourth consecutive season.
Saracens 57-33 Wasps, 2018
Last year’s record-breaking semi-final saw Saracens make their fourth Premiership Rugby Final in five years with an emphatic victory over Wasps.
With 11 tries and 90 combined points, there was plenty for the Allianz Park crowd to feast their eyes on and it was a classic from the off as Alex Lozowski went over for the second-fastest try in Premiership Rugby semi-final history after just 94 seconds.
Chris Wyles scored a record-breaking fifth semi-final try shortly after the restart, before Wasps rallied and got within ten points with scores from Jake Cooper-Woolley, Thomas Young and Willie Le Roux.
But quick-fire tries from Juan Figallo and Maro Itoje put the game beyond Dai Young’s men and, despite a Christian Wade score, Ben Spencer had the final say with seven minutes left to send Sarries to Twickenham.