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Northampton survive fightback by 14-man Bath to win Premiership final classic

Alex Mitchell and Tom Pearson of Northampton Saints celebrate with the Premiership trophy
Northampton are the champions of England - Getty Images/David Rogers

Northampton Saints 25 Bath 21

A stunning Premiership final, one that confirmed Northampton Saints as the best team in the country but also revealed Bath to be the most courageous. That it was Bath, forced to play with 14 men after prop Beno Obano was sent off in the 22nd minute, that finished the game desperately seeking a match-winning try, deep in the Northampton 22, says everything about their breathtakingly heroic effort.

Northampton’s all-court game, with a bolstered set-piece and ferocious defence, had seen them often cruise to victories in the final quarter of game this season. Here, in the glorious sunshine at Twickenham, they had to fight for their lives against a Bath side that simply refused to wilt.

And when it mattered they found their champion spirit. Alex Mitchell, the England scrum-half, was finally rewarded for his determination to attack, even when presented with kickable penalties, by finishing off a brilliant, jagged run by George Hendy to score the decisive try seven minutes from time.

Alex Mitchell scores the game's decisive try
Alex Mitchell scores the game's decisive try - Getty Images/David Rogers

It was enough to ensure that departing Saints legends Courtney Lawes, Lewis Ludlam and Alex Waller finished their Franklin’s Gardens careers as English champions, 10 years after their last Premiership title, when the club’s director of rugby, Phil Dowson, was still a player.

Lawes was the first to admit that his side had not reached the peaks of their league campaign. But the 35-year-old knows that in finals all that matters is the result. No matter how you get there.

“I’m actually still livid from the game,” the former England and Lions forward joked. “I don’t think we could have played worse. But what a way to go out, I’m over the moon and couldn’t have asked for more. I think we’ve deserved it throughout the season. Seeing these lads grow up has been really special.”

On the significance of the red card in the first half, Lawes also said: “I’ve been on both ends of it. Sometimes when you receive a red card it actually galvanises you a bit. You’ve got nothing to lose and there’s no pressure on you. All of a sudden all of the pressure is piled on to the side with 15 and we really felt that today. We didn’t fire on all cylinders and didn’t get our game on to the pitch. But we did enough to win and that’s what matters. I’m ecstatic.”

A tearful Obano was dismissed with the scores locked at 3-3 after a tricky opening period in which Johann van Graan’s side were attempting to dominate physically, with their aggressive defence, set-piece edge and breakdown dominance. It appeared to be working, with Fin Smith forced to drop a goal to level the scores after the first of three penalties by Finn Russell. But then Bath’s world fell apart.

Obano was shown a red card for making contact with the head of Juarno Augustus as the Northampton No 8 drove forward into contact. Augustus was dropping slightly in the tackle but it was hard to argue with the decision as the Bath prop was upright in the tackle. That it forced Bath to remove one of their most potent ball carriers, Alfie Barbeary, in order to ensure that scrums would remain contestable, made the punishment even more impactful.

Juarno Augustus is tackled high by Beno Obano, resulting in a red card for the Bath prop
Juarno Augustus was tackled high by Beno Obano, resulting in a red card for the Bath prop - Getty Images/Steve Bardens

Saints took immediate control. Ollie Sleightholme slashed across and deep into Bath territory, George Furbank cut an inside line from a wrap-around run by Mitchell and then a flat pass put Tommy Freeman over for the opening try.

It would get worse for Bath. Another counter-attack by Furbank put Sleightholme into space and he kicked ahead, winning the race to the ball over the line to put Saints 15-3 up.

It is almost exactly 27 years since his father, Jon Sleightholme, won the last of his 12 caps for England, against Argentina in Buenos Aires. It now seems certain his son, the Premiership’s top try-scorer, will follow suit by winning international recognition when Steve Borthwick names his squad for the tour of Japan and New Zealand on Monday.

Yet somehow Bath found a way back into the game. At the time the try by Thomas du Toit looked little more than a consolation. Surely there was no way Bath could make a game of it, with a man down against such a potent attacking side and in the draining heat of Twickenham?

Thomas du Toit bulldozes his way over for a Bath try
Thomas du Toit bulldozes his way over for a Bath try - PA/Mike Egerton

Their answer was unequivocal. Russell cut the deficit again with a penalty and although Smith was able to restore the five-point lead, having earlier opted to turn down the points for a kick to the corner, a try by Will Muir from a brilliant kick by Ben Spencer enabled Bath to level the scores.

When Russell landed another penalty to nudge Bath in front, at a time when they were utterly dominating possession and territory, a huge upset looked on the cards with just 13 minutes remaining.

It was the moment that Northampton could have wobbled, but they too had a deep reservoir of resilience to draw on. Mitchell tapped a kickable penalty and although the chance to level the scores was squandered, his courage to keep playing was rewarded when he popped up on the shoulder of a jagging break by Hendy to score the decisive try.

There was a sense of atonement for Hendy too, given that it had been his decision to knock a high ball back into his goal area that had led to Muir’s try.

There was still time for Bath to come hard again. But Northampton held on. Just. What a final. What champions. And for Bath? Well, next season can’t start soon enough.

Match details

Scoring sequence: 0-3 Russell pen, 3-3 Smith drop goal, 8-3 Freeman try, 10-3 Smith con, 15-3 Sleightholme try, 15-8 Du Toit try, 15-10 Russell con, H-T: 15-10, 15-13 Russell pen, 18-13 Smith pen, 18-18 Muir try, 18-21 Russell pen, 23-21 Mitchell try, 25-21 Furbank con

Northampton Saints: George Furbank; Tommy Freeman, Burger Odendaal (Hendy 44), Fraser Dingwall, 11 Ollie Sleightholme; Fin Smith (James 70), Alex Mitchell; Alex Waller (Iyogun 52), Curtis Langdon (Matavesi 57), Trevor Davison (Millar-Mills 57), Alex Moon (Mayanavanua 70), Alex Coles, Courtney Lawes (c), Tom Pearson (Ludlam 60), Juarno Augustus (Graham 66)

Bath: Matt Gallagher; Joe Cokanasiga (Reid 77), Ollie Lawrence, Cameron Redpath (Bailey 78), Will Muir; Finn Russell, Ben Spencer (c); Beno Obano, Tom Dunn (Annett 52), Thomas du Toit, Quinn Roux (Stooke 66), Charlie Ewels, Ted Hill (Bayliss 66), Sam Underhill (Reid 64, Underhill 74), Alfie Barbeary (Schoeman 21, Stuart 52)  
Replacements unused: Louis Schreuder
Red card: Obano 21

Referee: Christophe Ridley

Attendance: 81,699


Premiership final: As it happened


05:31 PM BST

Johann van Graan speaks to the BBC - ‘We’ll stick around Beno’

On Bath’s performance...

“What a game of rugby from our side, we were tough to beat today but congratulations to Saints, I can’t be more proud of my team.”

On the red card...

“To play for 60 minutes with 14 men in a final makes it extremely difficult but we are one group united, we’ll stick around Beno Obano.”

On where for the side now...

“We’ll take time to reflect on the season and get back to our families, after that we’ll be able to look forward to the next season.”


05:27 PM BST

Daniel Schofield’s verdict: Saints found a way to win


05:24 PM BST

Winners are grinners

The departing heroes Courtney Lawes and Lewis Ludlam lift Northampton's first Premiership trophy for 10 years
The departing heroes Courtney Lawes and Lewis Ludlam lift Northampton's first Premiership trophy for 10 years - Getty Images/David Rogers
Saints lift trophy
Saints finished top of the table and navigated the play-offs to become deserving champions - Getty Images/David Rogers

05:18 PM BST

Alex Mitchell speaks to the BBC

On the emotions...

“I’m absolutely buzzing, it’s been a dream of mine to win the Premiership and now we have I’m over the moon.”

On the match-winning score...

“Scoring that try was massive, I was just there to finish it off after George Hendy took on about five other boys, I didn’t have to do much!”

On the performance...

“We were actually a bit off it today but we found a way and now we’re champions so I’m delighted.”


05:16 PM BST

Finn Russell speaks to TNT Sport

On the red card...

“It didn’t change we had to deal with the situation in front of us and adapt. We gave everything out there, we changed a few things but basically played the way we have done since [the start of the season].”

On the final few moments...

“I think the fatigue showed towards the end. We’re in a better place now that at the start of the season.”

On playing for Bath...

“It’s a rugby city club and it’s been amazing playing there. We didn’t achieve what we wanted today but hope the fans are proud of us today.”


05:11 PM BST

Fine fans

The pessimistic Northampton fan behind me exclaimed: “today was supposed to be fun and now I feel sick” when Bath had their final attack. However, within moments of the ball being kicked to touch he was out of his seat saying to his Bath supporter friends: “you boys did so well with 14 men!” English club rugby has endured a difficult few years but the spirit of the fans needs to be capitalised on going forward. It was touching how spectators seated around the press box fans wearing jerseys from across the 10 Premiership sides from small children to gentlemen celebrating their 80th birthdays, as well as plenty of female fans. Without sounding mawkish, this spirit needs to be showcased as well as the competitiveness of this final.


05:08 PM BST

Who shone and who had a game to forget?

Here are Telegraph Sport’s player ratings from an intense final at Twickenham.

READ: Northampton Saints v Bath player ratings from the Premiership final

Courtney Lawes
Lawes had a fine game in his final appearance for Northampton - PA/David Davies

05:05 PM BST

The departing Alex Waller speaks to TNT Sport

On the victory...

“It wasn’t our best match of the season by any stretch of the imagination, but a win is a win and I’ll take that.”

On becoming champions...

“We’ve been without s trophy for some time especially this, the big one. It’s a fairy tale ending for me and thanks to the boys.”

On what next for him...

“I am going to embrace this and enjoy the celebrations. I now don’t have to think about pre-season any more!”


05:02 PM BST

Man of the match George Hendy speaks to TNT Sport

On being a Premiership champion...

“It sounds pretty good, can’t complain at all.”

On how he’s feeling after the win...

“I have no clue, a bit of everything. I don’t really know what to think to be honest.”

On the gameplan after Obano’s red card...

“We try to continue to be us, not to change how we have played all season.”


04:59 PM BST

The try that won it


04:57 PM BST

FULL-TIME: Northampton 25 Bath 21

Saints just about did enough against a brilliant 14-man Bath side. It was a brilliant match, there wasn’t a lot of attacking stuff out there but it was tense from start to finish and was great to watch.


04:56 PM BST

80 mins: Northampton 25 Bath 21

They do indeed kick for the corner. One more twist?

From the line out they go to No.2...the drive looks well set, can they drive forward? Saints are standing firm before Bath spin it wide, they lose it (thanks to a Hendy rip) and Northampton gleefully kick it into the stands and ARE THE CHAMPIONS!


04:53 PM BST

79 mins: Northampton 25 Bath 21

BUT from the line out Bath win possession! Nervous hands and minds out there...

There was a knock-on as well there and Bath have a scrum. This is the last-chance saloon, all or nothing from here, which is 10 yards inside the Northampton half.

They have a scrum penalty, they move the ball to Muir on the left flank, they’re bundled into touch, but it comes back for the penalty.

Kick for touch, surely?


04:51 PM BST

79 mins: Northampton 25 Bath 21

Northampton are 60 seconds away from being the champions.


04:51 PM BST

78 mins: Northampton 25 Bath 21

Bath are in their own half, they somehow have to get in range.They are keeping the ball in hand, as they have to do...but having been patient, moving the ball into the Saints’ half and from flank to flank Redpath passes the ball off the pitch and that could very well be that...


04:49 PM BST

77 mins: Northampton 25 Bath 21

Three minutes left for Northampton to hold on...


04:47 PM BST

TRY FOR NORTHAMPTON!

Northampton 25 Bath 21

They’ve done it (not won the match, yet...but scored a second-half try...). They haven’t looked like crossing the whitewash since the break but a great move, that started with a line out on the left just inside the Bath half, ends with Hendy breaking brilliantly on the right. Mitchell, like all good No.9s, tracks the run in midfield and is there to accept the pass. From there he crosses the line from all of 10 yards. Furbank slots over the extras and the Saints are back in front...


04:44 PM BST

Bath (somehow) dominating

If you had just switched on at half-time, you would have no idea that Bath were playing with 14 men. They have dominated the second half, enjoying 75 per cent possession and 76 per cent possession since the break. They have dominated the breakdown battle with Northampton being continually pinged for not rolling away while every Bath player seems to have a licence to get over the ball. Russell’s penalty gives the lead with 14 minutes remaining but had they will be so frustrated at their lack of accuracy in attack.


04:42 PM BST

71 mins: Northampton 18 Bath 21

Three points in it and with Smith off Saints have lost their primary goalkicker. Could that prove crucial?


04:41 PM BST

69 mins: Northampton 18 Bath 21

From the scrum Bath win a penalty and, as you’d expect, they kick for touch. Ten minutes for 14-man Bath to hang on...

As I type that Fin Smith is off and Furbank moves to 10...


04:40 PM BST

68 mins: Northampton 18 Bath 21

Penalty for Saints but Mitchell decides to tap and go. From there Bath, as they have done all game, defend robustly and Northampton are going sideways UNTIL they knock-on!

There must be some huge doubts creeping into the Saints’ heads...not make matters worse Fin Smith is down...he eventually gets up (phew, if you’re a Saints fan..).


04:36 PM BST

PENALTY FOR BATH!

Northampton 18 Bath 21

YES, THEY CAN GO AHEAD! Russell slots over the penalty from 30 yards and 14-man Bath are up!


04:35 PM BST

65 mins: Northampton 18 Bath 18

Saints don’t roll away and Bath have another penalty (their 11th, seven of which have come from the breakdown)...after a bit of a conflab they decide to go for the points. Can they go ahead?


04:34 PM BST

63 mins: Northampton 18 Bath 18

Saints haven’t created anything this half. They’ve a man extra but great Bath defence and the odd error means they’ve not flirted with the try line. That as much as anything is giving Bath the belief they can win this with 14 men. This time it’s Redpath who proves the nuisance forcing the error on halfway.

As I type that Underhill, who’s been man of the match so far, walks off for what looks like to be a blood replacement...they’ll want him to come back ASAP...


04:30 PM BST

60 mins: Northampton 18 Bath 18

The momentum is all with Bath at the moment and there’s another turnover their way as Du Toit forces the error. From the resulting penalty they kick to the corner and from there they move the ball infield. But Saints defend well and earn a scrum.


04:28 PM BST

58 mins: Northampton 18 Bath 18

From the resulting Bath scrum just inside the Northampton 22 the West Country side ship the ball right, Lawrence offloading well to Cokanasiga who, under pressure from Sleightholme, misses the ball.


04:26 PM BST

No horsing around from Muir

There are die hard Bath fans almost as far from the city as you can in North Yorkshire. This impressive display of support for Bath was created by Will Muir’s family on the farm he grew up on. A player who has made a real impact in the second half with a try to bring his side level . The 28 year-old is also the reason so many Bath fans are sporting equine themed headdresses due to his nickname “Horse”. The moniker comes from his distinctive gait which was on display en route to that try.


04:25 PM BST

56 mins: Northampton 18 Bath 18

From the resulting line out Bath move the ball infield. They are marshalled well by the Northampton defence, but Bath are patient as they move from flank to flank thanks to some decent off-loads. Bath are flirting with the Saints 22 but great defence turns the ball over. However, Langdon, perhaps still feeling the force of that Underhill tackle, knocks-on inside his 22...


04:22 PM BST

54 mins: Northampton 18 Bath 18

Underhill is having a storming match and a big hit on Langdon hurts the Saints man.

From the ensuing play Russell plays a delicious long kick from inside his own half to within five yards of the try line. Bath’s tails are well and truly up. It was a 50-22 and so Bath will have the throw...


04:19 PM BST

TRY FOR BATH!

Northampton 18 Bath 18

Bath, as they have all afternoon, do well at the scrum and win a free-kick. They tap and go and earn a penalty...with the advantage Spencer kicks for the left touchline, Muir rises high claims the ball before touching down for the the try BUT to the naked eye it looks as though he knocks-on in the air...

Hang on...the replay shows that it comes off Hendy’s hand not Muir’s and THE TRY IS GIVEN! Russell misses the extras but 14-man Bath are level!


04:15 PM BST

49 mins: Northampton 18 Bath 13

Bath with a bit of possession in the Saints 22, they’ve done well to get there keeping the ball alive but Northampton induce the error and will have a scrum.


04:13 PM BST

PENALTY FOR NORTHAMPTON!

Northampton 18 Bath 13

Fin Smith indeed puts on scoreboard pressure and the Saints have a five-point lead.


04:12 PM BST

46 mins: Northampton 15 Bath 13

Little by little by Bath are doing what they need to do. They are defending brilliantly and making Saints make the odd error. This time there’s a Northampton knock-on, but alas the Saints win a penalty from the resulting scrum and they decide to go for goal...probably the right decision, put some scoreboard pressure on...


04:09 PM BST

Big role for the replacements

Just before the second half, Johann van Graan gathered his seven remaining replacements for a mini-huddle, which I don’t think I have ever seen before. Clearly they are going to have a huge role to play in the second half with Sam Underhilll, Thomas Du Toit and Ted Hill all putting in huge shifts in the first 40 minutes.


04:08 PM BST

44 mins: Northampton 15 Bath 13

Saint are in the Bath 22 and looking to barge over the whitewash. But yet MORE great work from Underhill means there’s knock-on. Whatever happens the Bath defence (and Underhill’s in particular) has been immense.


04:06 PM BST

PENALTY FOR BATH!

Northampton 15 Bath 13

The answer to the question I posed in the post below is: ‘Yes, they can!’as Russell slots home the three points from 30 yards out. It’s now a two-point game. They couldn’t, could they..?


04:05 PM BST

42 mins: Northampton 15 Bath 10

Early penalty for Bath after some big ball carrying from Cokanasiga.

Bath decide to go for the points...can they get to within two?


04:02 PM BST

40 mins: Northampton 15 Bath 10

They’re back under way in south west London can Bath, somehow, drag themselves back into this? We’re about to find out...


03:53 PM BST

Half-time verdict: Bath still in this (just)...

Bath will be mighty relieved to go into half-time, trailing only by five points after Beno Obano’s red card. Northampton were already building pressure before that point and immediately capitalised with tries by Tommy Freeman, brilliantly created by George Furbank, and Ollie Sleightholme. At that point, you felt a blowout could be on the cards but Bath responded brilliantly through Thomas du Toit’s pushover try. They have been under the pump for long periods but Bath remain in the game, thanks in large part to an extraordinary defensive effort from Sam Underhill


03:50 PM BST

Nerves in Northampton (despite the man advantage...)

One of the most appealing aspects of attending live rugby is how both sets of fans mix. There could not be a better example than the group of friends sitting directly behind the press box – two Saints fans and one Bath supporter who are providing their own colourful commentary including one exclaiming with nerves after Bath scored|: “Oh no, they are going to come back and win – I can feel it.” Somewhat previous but shows how the Northampton faithful don’t wish to jinx a first Premiership win in 28 years!


03:48 PM BST

HALF-TIME: Northampton 15 Bath 10

Bath are up against it but go into the break on the back of some great defence and, at the very least, will have given themselves some glimmer of hope they can somehow pull off a shock with a man down.


03:47 PM BST

39 mins: Northampton 15 Bath 10

Northampton are in the Bath 22 and flirting with the try line. They are yards away but Bath are getting bodies in the way and they earn a penalty - big moment. Psychologically they would have needed to keep Saints out before the break and they do just that thanks to some heroic defence.


03:44 PM BST

36 mins: Northampton 15 Bath 10

Bath need to move from set piece to set piece and in the process sow some doubt in the Saints’ minds. It’s what they’ve done the past few minutes or so...


03:42 PM BST

Obano looking upset

It might just be excess sweat, but there’s a fair bit of liquid around Beno Obano’s eyes on the Bath bench right now. What a shame for him because he has had such a terrific season and this presumably will rule him out of the England tour to Japan and New Zealand. A shame too for the final which had been bubbling along really nice. As I wrote in my guide to the perfect final, an absence of red cards is a crucial ingredient. This exact scenario is why World Rugby are looking to trial the 20 minute red card.


03:38 PM BST

TRY FOR BATH!

Northampton 15 Bath 10

Just what Bath needed. They’re in the Saints’ 22, the driving maul is held up before they splinter to the right and the big man, Du Toit, powers over from close range in the corner...game back on. Russell slots home from the flank and it’s a five-point game.


03:36 PM BST

TRY FOR NORTHAMPTON!

Northampton 15 Bath 3

A great move ends with poor kick and a great try...you’ll understand in a mo...Saints moves the ball down the line, they work the overlap well on the left before Sleightholme tries to chip infield...its a dodgy kick but the bounce of the ball is going his side’s way and it bananas back into his channel and he scores...Bath are very much on the back foot now...Smith misses the conversion but it’s still a 12-point lead.


03:33 PM BST

25 mins: Northampton 10 Bath 3

Just when you thought it was going to get messy for Bath Russell steps up and plays a lovely left-footed kick into the corner that Muir nearly gets on the end of. A warning sign for Saints if they thought it was going to be a cakewalk from here...


03:32 PM BST

TRY FOR NORTHAMPTON!

Northampton 10 Bath 3

The instinct to attack was clear and handling so pure as Saints move the ball along the line before they notice a great line from Furbank, move the ball back inside and the full-back is free before he passes out to Freeman and in the blink of an eye this match has been turned on its head. Smith adds the extras and from three down they’re now seven up.


03:28 PM BST

22 mins: Northampton 3 Bath 3

Bath have to make changes and it’s Barbeary who makes way and Schoeman who comes on...hard to see Bath winning from here now, a big ball carrier is off and they’re down to 14.


03:26 PM BST

RED CARD FOR BATH!

Obano goes in high (ish) and hard on Augustus...at first glace it looks dangerously like a red...and after a conversation with the TMO, Christophe Ridley agrees...

Bath are down to 14 after 21 minutes - HUGE moment...

There can be no complaints about that...


03:24 PM BST

Great Bath defence

As much attention as Northampton’s improved defence under Lee Radford has received, it’s Bath’s D that is exerting the early pressure here. Sam Underhill has put in three huge hits already and their line speed is suffocating Saints’ attacking game


03:23 PM BST

DROP GOAL FOR NORTHAMPTON!

Northampton 3 Bath 3

Smith makes amends almost immediately with a lovely drop goal from all of 35 yards. The Saints pack were going nowhere on the left, they were taking big hits so Smith dropped back in the pocket and stuck a beautiful ball between the uprights.


03:21 PM BST

18 mins: Northampton 0 Bath 3

Ouch, Fin Smith look away now...

The Saints fly-half misses from just to the right of the posts, the ball hitting the left upright...it’s stays 0-3 to Bath when it should be three apiece...


03:19 PM BST

17 mins: Northampton 0 Bath 3

Bath are penalised for not rolling away and Northampton have a great chance (in front of the posts) to go level.


03:19 PM BST

15 mins: Northampton 0 Bath 3

Both sides are keeping the ball in hand and it’s making for a good watch. Saints this time ship the ball wide with Cokanasiga’s tackle on Furbank bringing an end to the move.

Underhill has put in some huge tackles so far, one on Mitchell will live long in the Northampton scrum-half’s memory...


03:15 PM BST

12 mins: Northampton 0 Bath 3

This is a good game so far. Saints are in Bath’s half for the first time since the opening moments, but any hope of them creating something are flattened as their talisman Mitchell is sent backwards by another big hit. Bath then break, moving the ball down the line before Muir is tackled into touch on the left.


03:13 PM BST

10 mins: Northampton 0 Bath 3

Furbank feels the full force of a BIG hit from Ewels. On the replay everyone goes ‘ooooooh’...no foul play, though, and it’s as you were (bar the Saints full-back possibly needing to get some air in his lungs...)...


03:10 PM BST

PENALTY FOR BATH!

Northampton 0 Bath 3

From the line out Bath move the ball in field and they win another penalty and this time Russell makes no mistake from in front of the posts.


03:09 PM BST

7 mins: Northampton 0 Bath 0

Bath win a penalty on halfway and kick for the corner.

Meanwhile, Twickenham breaks out in a round of applause for Rob Burrows who died this week. The Leeds rugby league legend wore the No.7 shirt for the Rhinos. Lovely touch.


03:07 PM BST

5 mins: Northampton 0 Bath 0

Not one of Finn Russell’s better kicks. He sort of scuffs it and the ball goes left of the uprights. So Bath miss a great chance to get an early lead. He won’t let that bother him, however.


03:06 PM BST

4 mins: Northampton 0 Bath 0

Bath get the early upper hand in the scrum as Obano and Du Toit push the Saints back and it’s a penalty. Huge statement from the West Country boys there, and they celebrate as though they’ve scored a try - it’s not hard to see why. Big moment.


03:04 PM BST

3 mins: Northampton 0 Bath 0

Bath line out near half way, but it’s not straight and the Saints will have a scrum. Two big errors, one from both sides, so far.


03:04 PM BST

Empty seats

Looks like we were a little premature in celebrating the fastest sellout for a Premiership final as there are quite a few pockets of empty seats in the upper tier at Twickenham. I feel slightly dirty for believing the spin from Premiership rugby on that one. Atmosphere is still building nicely, however, and it looks like there will be an even split of Bath and Northampton fans in the stands. Will be very interesting to see who the neutrals get behind as the game progresses


03:03 PM BST

1 min: Northampton 0 Bath 0

Fin Smith gets the game under way, he kicks as long as possible, Bath kick back and the Saints have a line out.

Good attacking platform, but the ball is knocked on by Sleightholme and Bath kick on and it looks as though Gallagher is in! BUT a great tackle from Furbank means he knocks on with the whitewash yards away.

Breathless start!


03:00 PM BST

The national anthem has been sung

And kick-off is upon us.


02:57 PM BST

The two teams are out on the hallowed turf

And we’re moments away from kick-off.


02:54 PM BST

When I think of Bath I think of...

...Roman spas, Georgian architecture, and Jeremy Guscott. The Prince of Centres was a mainstay of the side that won six titles in eight years from 1989 to 1996, the last time they won the title.

He’s as excited as anyone to see Bath ‘back where they belong’ (you may not agree with that statement if you’re a Gloucester or Bristol fan...) and cannot wait to see Bath at Twickenham this afternoon.

READ: Jeremy Guscott: I’m on a bus to the final with childhood friends – the Bath buzz is back


02:40 PM BST

So, who’s going to win?

Northampton come into the match on the back of that impressive semi-final win over Saracens which not only got them into today’s final, but was also a pretty impressive statement of intent. They go in as favourites, and all our experts are backing them to lift the trophy later this afternoon.

READ: Why all our experts expect Northampton to beat Bath in Premiership final


02:32 PM BST

Today sees Courtney Lawes’ last match for the Saints

And what a player for both club and country he’s been. The forward, equally at home in the second and back row, is off to Brive after this match and it’s the dictionary definition of ‘stating the bleeding obvious’ to say he’ll be sorely missed.

Here’s how Lawes became an England and Saints legend.

READ: ‘Courtney Lawes had so much talent I had to let my own son go’

Courtney Lawes
Courtney Lawes is saying farewell to Northampton today - Getty Images/David Rogers

02:22 PM BST

Who doesn’t love Finn Russell?

If you don’t then I reckon there’s a part of your soul missing...anyway, how well the Bath No.10 plays today may well dictate which side will be lifting the trophy in a few hours. He has been instrumental in getting the West Country club to today’s final and that’s all thanks to a trip to the Caribbean.

READ: Finn Russell: Secret trip to the Bahamas saved my season

We’d all love a journey to sunnier climes, what we’d like less, I reckon, is having to face the Scottish stand-off and trying to stop him from (i) making you look a bit silly, and, (ii) dominating. Here’s a lovely piece on how it feels to face Russell.

READ: What it is really like to face Finn Russell’s attacking game

Finn Russell
Finn Russell has an attacking game to salivate over - Getty Images/David Rogers

02:13 PM BST

Where do rugby fans stand...

...on the heated half-and-half scarf debate?

A fan with a half-and-half scarf
A fan with a half-and-half scarf (considering he's wearing a Lions top it's not overly obvious who he's supporting...) - Getty Images/Bob Bradford

02:07 PM BST

Here’s the Northampton XI

NORTHAMPTON XI TO FACE BATH: Furbank; Freeman, Odendaal, Dingwall, Sleightholme; Smith, Mitchell; Waller, Langdon, Davison, Moon, Coles, Lawes (c), Pearson, Augustus; Replacements: Matavesi, Iyogun, Mills, Mayanavanua, Graham, Ludlam, James, Hendy.

BATH XI TO FACE NORTHAMPTON: Gallagher; Cokanasiga, Lawrence, Redpath, Muir; Russell, Spencer (c); Obano, Dunn, Du Toit, Roux, Ewels, Hill, Underhill, Barbeary; Replacements: Annett, Schoeman, Stuart, Stooke, Bayliss, Schreuder, Bailey, Reid.

Referee: Christophe Ridley


02:06 PM BST

Saints have marched into Twickenham


02:04 PM BST

Fans get in the mood for a big day at Twickenham

Bath fans horsing around at Twickenham
Bath fans horsing around at Twickenham - PA/Mike Egerton
Saints supporters wearing some interesting hats
Saints supporters wearing some interesting hats - Getty Images/Bob Bradford
Bath fan
Not sure what look this Bath fan is aiming for here... - Getty Images/Bob Bradford

10:49 AM BST

A heavyweight final

Ever since the play-off format was introduced there has always been a sense that you sometimes don’t get the title winners you deserve. Slog it out during the regular season, finish top of the table and your prize? Well, that’s ‘just’ a home semi against the fourth-placed side. Just ask Gloucester players and fans from between 2003 and 2008 when the Cherry and Whites topped the table on three occasions but never actually won the title.

But fear not, as today you feel that the right two teams have made the final. Northampton and Bath finished first and second in the table and were only separated on points difference. On top of that the match promises to be a cracker: two brilliant fly-halves in Finn Russell and Fin Smith going head to head, the Saints scrum that dominated Saracens last week against in-form Beno Obano and Thomas du Toit of Bath, and two back lines that when on song are a joy to watch.

Northampton last won the title in 2014 and you have to go back to 1996 since Bath last basked in title-winning glory. So there is the sense that after the dominance of Saracens over the past decade that this match freshens things up a bit.

Northampton go into the match as marginal favourites and George Furbank says the Saints are ready to do whatever is needed to get their hands on the trophy.

“It’s the last dance. Win this game and you come away with a trophy. If you don’t, you finish runners-up,” the England full-back said.

“It’s definitely the biggest game of the season for us. Playing Leinster away in the semi-finals of the Champions Cup was massive, but we’ve now put ourselves in a position to win a trophy.

“Our game has definitely developed and is in a better place to win these big games than it was 12 months ago.

“We’ve experienced some big games already this season, which has put us in a good place. Even playing Saracens in the semi-final... the pressure was really on.

“We’ve had a few good experiences and we now want to use those lessons in the final.”

Stay here to find out if they can, and for all the pre-match build up with kick-off set for 3pm.

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