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Live Commentary: Aviva Premiership final - Leicester Tigers 37-17 Northampton Saints - as it happened

Live text coverage of the Aviva Premiership final between Leicester Tigers and Northampton Saints.
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Leicester Tigers lifted the Aviva Premiership trophy after beating Northampton Saints in an action-packed final at Twickenham this afternoon.

Leicester lost captain Toby Flood to a concussion early on, while Saints skipper Dylan Hartley saw red just before half time.

Tries from Niall Morris, Graham Kitchener, Manu Tuilagi and Vereniki Goneva helped seal the win for Tigers.

Read for all the action unfolded below.


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Good afternoon. The Aviva Premiership final will be getting underway at Twickenham in less than an hour! Let's take a look at the lineups for today's match.

LEICESTER XV: Tait, Morris, Tuilagi, Allen, Goneva, Flood, B Youngs, Mulipola, T Youngs, Cole, Kitchener, Parling, Croft, Salvi, Crane

NORTHAMPTON XV: Foden, K Pisi, Wilson, Burrell, Elliott, Myler, Dickson, Tonga'uiha, Hartley, Mujati, Lawes, Day, Dowson, Wood, Manoa


LEICESTER REPLACEMENTS: Hawkins, Balmain, Castrogiovanni, Slater, Mafi, Harrison, Ford, Smith

NORTHAMPTON REPLACEMENTS: Haywood, Waller, Mercey, Nutley, Van Velze, Roberts, Lamb, G Pisi


This will be Leicester's ninth consecutive appearance in the Aviva Premiership final, but in their previous eight, they have won just three times. Meanwhile, Northampton will be making their debut in the final.

Leicester have stuck with the same starting lineup that beat Harlequins in the semi-finals two weeks ago. There's just the one change for Saints, as Phil Dowson replaces the injured Calum Clark at flanker.

This season, Tigers have already beaten their East Midlands rivals twice, taking a narrow 16-12 win at Welford Road, before recording a 36-8 win at Franklin's Gardens.

Ahead of today's game, Northampton's director of rugby Jim Mallinder told BBC Radio Northampton: "They're a quality side. If we play against them like we did here we'll get beaten. I'm motivated to make Northampton the best club in England. It's something we've not done before."

Tigers' director of rugby Richard Cockerill told BBC Radio Leicester: "We have to get it right because in the last two years we haven't played well enough. The history between the clubs brings something extra out of the supporters, players and coaches. We know exactly how they will play, what their strengths and weaknesses are, it is whether we are good enough to stop them."

Both sides also took part in this season's Heineken Cup, with differing results. Leicester topped their pool before losing to eventual winner Toulon in the quarter-finals. However, Saints were unable to progress from their group, and narrowly missed out on a place in the Challenge Cup on points difference.

One player who Leicester fans may be disappointed to see left out of today's squad is Geordan Murphy. The Ireland international is retiring at the end of this season, having played for Tigers since 1997. It's not the end of his time with the club though, the 35-year-old will be taking up a coaching role with Leicester.

Today's teams are both heading into the final off the back of a good run of form. Leicester lost just one of their last six premiership matches, while Northampton had three wins in their last four fixtures, before beating the top seeds Saracens in the playoff semi-final.

A big roar goes around Twickenham as the trophy is brought out onto the field. It will be a sell-out crowd for the final at the home of English rugby for the sixth year in a row.

The bookmakers have Leicester as the heavy favourites for this afternoon's clash, and it's hard to disagree. The Tigers have much more experience in big games, but have shown in recent years that they don't cope well if their opponents gets an early lead. Northampton will need to start well this afternoon.

Harlequins' Ugo Monye is part of ESPN's commentary team this afternoon. Ahead of the game, he said: "I expect [Leicester] to be doing it. It's a massive game in terms of physicality and intensity, and whoever brings that the most and keeps their discipline will win."

The players have been out on the pitch warming up but have now headed back into the dressing rooms for some final words with their coaches just ahead of kickoff.

It's probably about time to make a prediction. Northampton performed well to knock out Saracens two weeks ago, but Leicester were clinical in their last four clash too. I think it will be a close match, but I expect Leicester to pull away late in the second half and lift the trophy.

Both teams are in the tunnel ready to head out to the pitch and get this afternoon's final underway.

Leicester get the first half underway.

Leicester are on the attack early and win a lineout in a strong position, but Tom Youngs' throw isn't straight, and the referee awards Northampton a scrum. If there were any nerves in the Tigers' side, that won't have helped them.

Leicester force another lineout, and this time Youngs is able to get the ball to Crane and launch a Tigers attack. Tuilagi gets the ball to Tait who forces his way before. Ben Youngs draws a penalty but looks to get the ball out wide, but it's intercepted by Saints, so Flood will go for the posts.

PENALTY! Leicester Tigers 3-0 Northampton Saints (Flood)

Leicester are awarded a scrum. Crane kicks the ball up to Ben Youngs who breaks forward, picking out Flood, this is looking dangerous.

TRY! Leicester Tigers 8-0 Northampton Saints (Morris)

Flood runs out of space but spots Niall Morris out wide, and the Irishman has a clean run over the try line. It's been a blistering start by the Tigers.

CONVERSION! Leicester Tigers 10-0 Northampton Saints (Flood)

It's a tricky angle for the conversion but it doesn't matter to Toby Flood, he just managed to curl the ball inside the uprights. Northampton need to find a way to cut Leicester's lead as soon as possible.

Worrying stat for Northampton supporters; no team has ever come back from a deficit of more than three points in a premiership final. They already trail by more than triple that. However, they do have a penalty as Tuilagi is caught holding on, and will have a lineout inside the Leicester 22.

Ken Pisi gets the ball from the lineout and finds Dickson, who returns it to Pisi, but he's blocked just short of the try line, but Northampton are penalised for a knock on in the build up.

TRY! Leicester Tigers 10-5 Northampton Saints (Myler)

Leicester try to clear their territory from the scrum, but they only get it as far as Pisi who charges into the Tigers 22 before offloading the ball to Dickson, who flicks it out wide for Stephen Myler. The fly-half is tackled as he crosses the line, but he has the momentum to keep the ball in play and score the try.

MISSED CONVERSION! Myler fails to add the extra two points, sending the ball well wide of the posts.

Northampton are almost in again as Ben Foden gains possession unexpectedly from a Leicester lineout, but the Tigers' backs are able to organise themselves and stop the attack. It's been a good response from Northampton to Leicester's early dominance.

Courtney Lawes is on the receiving end of a stern word from referee Wayne Barnes for a late tackle on Toby Flood. Replays show that the Saints man had already committed to the tackle before Flood passed the ball, so Lawes may feel hard done by. However, it has left the Leicester fly-half on the ground receiving medical treatment. He's been immense for Tigers in the opening 20 minutes, and will be a big miss if he has to go off.

Leicester's Richard Cockerill is not happy that Lawes has been allowed to stay on the pitch, giving one of the assistant referees a piece of his mind. Flood is finally back on his feet having had a minute or two to get over the Lawes tackle, and it looks like he'll be ok to continue, but Ben Youngs is going to kick the penalty while Flood recovers.

MISSED PENALTY! It's a good effort from Youngs, who doesn't normally take kicking duties, but the ball just curls wide at the last minute.

Flood is still playing but looks groggy. Youngs passes the ball to the fly-half but he's hit by Lawes again, this time legally, and it leaves Flood looking shaken, and hands possession back to Northampton.

Flood is going off the pitch for a concussion break, bringing George Ford into the game. It's a smart move from the Leicester medical team, he's not looked himself since the Lawes tackle.

Northampton are on the attack from a lineout, with Ken Pisi and Ben Foden teaming up well, but it looks like Foden has injured his ankle in the build up while Mujati also seeks medical treatment.

After undergoing an assessment by Leicester's medical team, Flood will not be returning the match. He'll be a big loss for Tigers.

After another strong attack from Northampton, Leicester win the ball back and build pressure on the half-way line. Ford tries to chip the ball forward, but none of teammates give chase and it goes into touch for a Saints lineout.

Leicester win the ball back from the Saints lineout, and Mathew Tait goes on a brilliant charge down the wing, gaining around 50 yards for Tigers before being dragged down. He manages to get the ball away, and Leicester are awarded a penalty.

PENALTY! Leicester Tigers 13-5 Northampton Saints 5 (Ford)

It's George Ford's first real test since replacing Toby Flood earlier in the half and he doesn't disappoint the Leicester fans, increasing their lead to eight points.

Luther Burrell strips the ball away from Vereniki Goneva, but Parling and Ford defend well to prevent Burrell getting away.

Northampton may have just scored their second try, with Ben Foden taking the ball over the line, but the video referee will be needed to check to grounding.

NO TRY! After a lengthy review by Television Match Official Graham Hughes, it's been ruled that Foden's feet were in touch as he got the ball down. It was a marginal decision, there was very little in it and Foden is not happy.

Northampton try to break from a scrum, but Elliott is penalised for a forward pass to Wilson. The decision just seem to be going against Saints at the minute.

Dylan Hartley lets his frustrations at the decisions out, and earns himself a telling off from the referee. The mic didn't seem to pick up whatever Hartley said to Wayne Barnes, but the official made it clear that he wasn't happy with the Northampton captain's attitude.

MISSED PENALTY! Leicester win a penalty from a scrum. With just seconds on the clock, Tigers go for the goal posts, but it's well outside Ford's range.

RED CARD! Dylan Hartley is sent off!

Wayne Barnes tells Stephen Myler that he cannot kick the ball straight out, but he does it anyway. The crowd thinks it's half time and a dance troupe come onto the pitch for a half-time performance, but Barnes awards a scrum to Leicester. In the aftermath, Hartley is shown a red card. He's only just been warned about speaking to the referee inappropriately and may have lost his temper. Leicester have a penalty.

PENALTY! Leicester Tigers 16-5 Northampton Saints (Ford)

HALF TIME: Leicester Tigers 16-5 Northampton Saints

Wow! What a 40 minutes that was! So often the first half of the final is all about no losing the match rather than trying to win it, but that's not been the case this afternoon, with both sides going on the attack in the opening period.

Let's get to the main talking point, the rather farcical end to the first half which saw Northampton captain Dylan Hartley dismissed from the game. Stephen Myler was instructed by referee Wayne Barnes not to kick the ball directly into touch. When he did, the ref awarded a scrum and Hartley was sent off. ESPN has reported that Hartley called the referee a "cheat", having already been warned about his attitude just minutes earlier.

Leicester managed to force a penalty from the scrum, and take an 11-point advantage into the break. With Saints now a man down, Leicester should be able to take control of the match in the second half.

Hartley isn't the only captain to have exited the game early. Leicester will surely have been worried when Toby Flood, having been so influential at the start of the tie, was forced into the dressing room with a concussion. However, George Ford has played well since replacing the Tigers skipper.

Until Hartley's dismissal, Northampton hadn't looked down and out. Despite no team ever coming back from more than three points in the final, Saints looked dangerous every time they entered the Leicester 22, and will fell hard done by not to have been awarded a second try when Foden broke the whitewash.

The players are heading back out for the second half. If it's anything like the opening 40 minutes we're in for a treat.

Northampton kick off the second half.

Leicester are on the ball in the opening seconds, but Ford kicks the ball away, allowing Foden to collect it for Northampton. Haywood picks it up out wide but is pushed into touch.

TRY! Leicester Tigers 16-10 Northampton Saints (Foden)

Northampton have made a brilliant start to the second half. From the lineout, Dickson and Lawes team up to gain territory before finding Haywood. He's about to get tackled so offloads to Foden who sprints over the try line.

MISSED CONVERSION! It's another tricky angle for Myler, and once again he can't get the ball on target to an the extra two points.

Just when you thought you'd seen it all, this game gets even crazier! Saints are right back in this. They gain possession again with a lineout, but Haywood knocks out, giving Leicester the scrum.

TRY! Leicester Tigers 21-10 Northampton Saints (Kitchener)

Straight from the scrum, Tom Youngs flings the ball out wide to Graham Kitchener, who seems surprised to gain possession, but he finds a gap in the Northampton defence and powers over the line.

MISSED CONVERSION! Ford can't add the extras, but Tigers will be relieved to have halted the resurgent Saints.

Leicester have the ball and are patiently gaining possession, but Parling is tackled by Dowson and loses the ball. Northampton elect to take a lineout, but Leicester steal the catch, and get the ball to Ford, who almost reached the try line, but he's blocked before the line and can't get the ball cleanly to Anthony Allen. However, Leicester have a penalty, as Ford was tackled after he's got rid of the ball.

PENALTY! Leicester Tigers 24-10 Northampton Saints (Ford)

Ford almost misses again, but his effort finds the posts and bounces inside the uprights.

Northampton get an extraordinary break, and Lee Dickson thinks he's added a try. TMO Graham Hughes has been called upon again.

TRY! Leicester Tigers 24-15 Northampton Saints (Dickson)

After checking a superb offload from Luther Burrell, Lee Dickson's try is awarded. A brilliant break from Foden set up the try, and keeps Saints in the match.

CONVERSION! Leicester Tigers 24-17 Northampton Saints (Myler)

On his third attempt this afternoon, Myler finally manages to split the posts and leaves Northampton just one converted try behind their opponents.

Leicester win a lineout but the thrown goes long and Northampton claim the ball. Manoa and Dowson help Saints move into Leicester territory, but Tigers manage to get the ball back and Ford kicks it away.

There's another injury concern for Leicester as Ben Youngs appears to have injured his neck, but after a quick check from the medics he's cleared to continue.

Leicester are just beginning to dictate the pace of the game a little more and keeping possession. However, Northampton steal the ball from a lineout, the fourth that they've claimed from Leicester and try to break down the wing, but GJ van Velze then James Wilson are both tackled.

Niall Morris finds Tom Youngs but the Leicester charge is halted by a strong tackle from Van Velze, but Leicester keep the ball and are patiently gaining territory again.

TRY! Leicester Tigers 29-17 Northampton Saints (Tuilagi)

Just inside the Northampton 22, Van Velze is blocked as he's marking Manu Tuilagi, allowing the England international to race to the line.

MISSED CONVERSION! It's another miss for Ford, he's struggled with his accuracy in the second half.

Leicester almost break again, but George Pisi, who has only just come off the replacement bench, makes a crucual tackle.

Tom Croft steals the ball from a Northampton lineout inside the Saints 22, but Northampton have number back regain possession before pushing into Leicester territory. There's still fight in this Northampton side.

TRY! Leicester Tigers 34-17 Northampton Saints (Goneva)

A pass intended for George Pisi goes astray and Steve Mafi manages to pick out Vereniki Goneva, who scores what will surely be the championship-winning try for Leiceseter.

MISSED CONVERSION! Ford has struggled in this second half but manages to raise a smile as his latest effort goes well wide, knowing that his performance shouldn't effect the result.

Leicester are all about defence now. Northampton have the ball but there are few gaps for Saints to find their way through. Leicester have a lineout, can they finish with a flourish?

Leicester's director of rugby Richard Cockerill is already shaking the hands of the Northampton Saints coaching staff, he knows it's only a matter of waiting for the clock the run down.

PENALTY! Leicester Tigers 37-17 Northampton Saints (Ford)

FULL TIME: Leicester Tigers 37-17 Northampton Saints

LEICESTER TIGERS ARE THE AVIVA PREMIERSHIP CHAMPIONS!

A penalty in the final seconds for George Ford ensures that Leicester Tigers beat their East Midlands rivals by 20 points to be crowned English champions for the 10th time.

Northampton put in a brave performance in the second half, having seen their captain sent off in the first half. It was only in the last 15 minutes that Leicester really made their numerical advantage count.

The trophy is back on the pitch to be presented to Leicester. That's all from the Aviva Premiership final at Twickenham this afternoon and this season! Thanks for joining us today!

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Leciester Tigers' Toby Flood runs away to score the first try of the match against Harlequins on February 16, 2013
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