Sport Rugby

Friday 24 January 2020

Leicester triumph as Moody signs off in fitting finale

Mick Cleary

England captain Lewis Moody checks in today with his team-mates at Heathrow bound for Australia first and then Bath on his return, a Leicester man no more.

He will have got rid of the can of cider he was sipping and which he richly deserved on Saturday night after a lung-bursting Guinness Premiership final. He will never, though, dispense with the traits of the club he is leaving.

That Saracens could have, should have, nipped in to sneak away with the glory is a moot point. Of course, we must pay tribute to their zest, their cleverness, but ultimately they came up that bit short, flunking two key moments in the closing stages.

Richard Cockerill's side had the go-to men in try-scorer Dan Hipkiss and opposition line-out stealer Geoff Parling. The latter rose to pluck the ball from a dangerously positioned Saracens line-out. If he had missed it, Saracens would have caught and driven over for victory. Parling backed himself. "It was his own call, but he had to get it," Cockerill said.

Cockerill tipped his hat to Moody, but no more than that. He's been, he's gone, it's the next one that matters. Moody himself would not have it any other way. "There's no secret as to Leicester's success," Moody said. "It's just about hard work and tenacity, that determination to win games."

It took the phlegmatic Hipkiss to add a light-hearted perspective to the notion that Leicester are hard-wired for victory.

So, when Sarries fly-half Glen Jackson slotted his fifth penalty to edge his side in front, 27-26, with just under four minutes to go, did Leicester, behind their posts as the ball sailed over, simply recite the mantra of never being beaten until the final whistle blows?

"We always say that, mind you, and it doesn't always work out," said Hipkiss. "We were, though, tuned in. It was a bit crazy there at the end."

There was a sense of Saracens falling off the tackle on Hipkiss after referee Dave Pearson had signalled a high tackle by Jackson on the Leicester centre. Hipkiss took full advantage. There was also a feeling Pearson had blocked the Saracens tackler, Steve Borthwick, as the outstanding Ben Youngs jinked through for Leicester's second try in the 28th minute after Matt Smith had opened their try-scoring account 15 minutes earlier.

Saracens rallied after every setback, showing vim in attack, prompted by Alex Goode at the rear as well as the craftiness of Jackson and the impressiveness of Matt Powell in the centre. Leicester did, of course, contribute splendidly to the most rip-roaring Premiership final ever, but again it was their prowess at the set-piece that gave them an edge.

Saracens were never overawed and it's great to see the club re-energised in such a fashion, led splendidly by No 8 Ernst Joubert, a man of stature and a player of real note as he showed when scoring a try in either half.

The finale was heart-stopping. It is a measure of the occasion that it left you wanting more. That is a decent epithet on a nine-month season. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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