Tigers set up Harlequins final

2012-05-12 21:25

London - Leicester booked their place in an eighth successive English Premiership final with a 24-15 semi-final win over champions Saracens at Welford Road on Saturday.

The Tigers will now face Harlequins, who topped the regular season table, in the final at Twickenham on May 26 after the London club's 25-23 victory over Northampton earlier on Saturday.

Teenager George Ford, the current junior world player of the year, ensured the Tigers didn't miss England flyhalf Tony Flood, absent because an ankle injury, with an assured all-round display.

The 19-year-old son of former England defence coach Mike Ford kicked four penalties and a conversion, while it was his passing skill that created Leicester's two tries.

Alesana Tuilagi, making his final appearance at the Tigers' home ground before moving to Japan, crossed midway through the first half with Steve Mafi also penetrating the renowned Saracens' defence.

Saracens, who beat Leicester in last season's final, saw all off their points come courtesy of five penalties from England flyhalf Owen Farrell.

Leicester, hit hard by international calls during last year's World Cup which took place during the early part of the English season, lost five of their first six league games and were, at one stage, in an unusually lowly 11th place.

But 14 subsequent wins and a draw left them just a point adrift of Harlequins come the end of the regular season.

Earlier, Harlequins staged a late rally to beat Northampton and so reach the London club's first Premiership final.

Quins were eight points down with 12 minutes left at their Stoop home ground but sealed victory when prop Joe Marler was driven over for a converted try in the 76th minute.

Marler is in England's squad for next month's tour of South Africa and Harlequins coach Conor O'Shea said: "Joe Marler has been a special talent for a long time.

"He is 21. He will still learn lessons but he learns quickly.

"In the loose, in his carries and in his tackling he is a very unique talent and England are lucky to have him.

"Our scrum was so dominant," added former Ireland full-back O'Shea, who insisted he hadn't given up hope when Quins were eight points behind.

"I thought if we could get any sort of field position (we could win). In the last 10 minutes we started to play the way we can."

Defeat meant a third straight Premiership semi-final loss for Northampton, who were also beaten in last season's European Cup final by Leinster.

"It was always going to be tricky but when you get eight points ahead you think you have a chance," said Northampton coach Jim Mallinder.

"If you watch some of Quins' recent games you will be impressed by their scrum. It has improved enormously. They put us under a lot of pressure."