Tom Vickers’ Northampton Saints v Leicester Tigers view and player ratings
This was a moment in time. A moment when you looked around and all you saw was elation.
A moment Saints fans had waited almost four years for. A moment when every one of them didn’t care whether they saw another rugby game again, because they had seen this one.
This was a moment when 10 games’ worth of hurt washed away.
A moment when all that was said in the build-up to this fractious east midlands derby, and all the other east midlands derbies, mattered not.
This was a moment to tell the grandchildren about. It was an eternal moment.
Why did this moment matter so much?
This moment mattered because there have been no moments like this since September, 2010.
There have been other moments. There has been Dublin. There has been Belfast. There was Allianz Park. But those moments were nothing compared to this.
This was a moment that lasted a second, but felt like it lasted a lifetime.
What was this moment? This moment was Stephen Myler kicking the ball out to end the match. To set up another chance of glory in two weeks’ time.
Twickenham beckons for a second season in succession. And this time, Leicester will not be there.
Leicester will not be there for the first time in 10 seasons.
At that, you have to take a pause. Should the men in white coats be called for? Should you be carted away for thinking Tigers have not made the grand final?
Did Saints really just beat a Leicester side whose defence was immense for so long? A Leicester side who had a man advantage for the closing stages of this game?
Was controversial official Wayne Barnes not there to ride in and wreck the fairytale story?
He was not.
This time, the man charging in was Tom Wood. All that was lacking was the white horse.
And is there a more deserving Saints hero?
There is not.
Wood, a man who has seen so many bad moments and fronted up to every single one of them, had earned this.
He had earned it for facing the media after last year’s savage Premiership final, taking up the captain’s role from the red-carded Dylan Hartley.
He had earned it for facing the media after the 40-7 home humbling against Leinster back in December.
He had earned it for the lack of a win against Leicester since his Saints debut against the very same side.
But he wasn’t the only one who merited this. Every single person in green, black and gold warranted what happened at the denouement of this game.
The Saints fans definitely deserved this. The noise levels were deafening towards the end. The Burrda Stand sucked two tries in.
This atmosphere was like nothing heard before in this part of Northampton.
The Gardens was rocking. And why?
Because this moment meant so much. And that moment was what everyone of a Saints persuasion had dreamed off during the entirety of their working week.
They would have paid double, treble, quadruple the ticket price to see this moment.
Now they want to see a moment even more special than this one.
They want to see a moment that involves a big trophy lifted in the air.
At Cardiff on Friday night, they want to see that moment.
But the moment that would mean most could come at Twickenham eight days later.
And that moment is still in sight thanks to an unforgettable Friday night at Franklin’s Gardens.
How they rated...
Full of cut and thrust, the full-back drove his team forward with some energetic bursts that had Leicester backpedalling... 8
Came in at the last minute for Ken Pisi and was lively throughout. One chip and catch was so close to providing a magical try... 7
Was keen to get off the line in defence and did his best to push Saints forward in attack before being replaced by James Wilson... 7
Set up Wood’s try with a clever run and pass and was always looking for a way through the Tigers backline... 7
Saints brought him in for games of this magnitude and he didn’t disappoint with a barnstorming display that was capped with a try... 8
The fly-half was missed in the March meeting between the sides and you could see why with another typically assured performance here... 8
Played at a tempo many found it difficult to live with. Was slightly rash with his decision-making at times, but that came from how desperate he was to get Saints moving... 7
This meant a lot to the prop, who has been superb this season and who had another good night here... 7
The young hooker continues to impress and some good ball juggling kept the Saints move alive towards the end, leading to Wood’s try... 8
Will know he let his team-mates down with the punches he landed on Tom Youngs and will now hope to avoid a ban... 5
Not as prominent as in some other big games this season, but still put himself about and provided plenty of power and go-forward... 7
The big lock was desperate to get his team to the final and excelled in open play and in the lineout... 8
Disappointed to be taken off early in the second half, but put a good shift in to that point and is a good influence... 7
TOM WOOD - CHRON STAR MAN
A truly gargantuan performance from the flanker, who grew with every minute, culminating in the biggest of tries... 9
A huge display from the No.8. Made hit after hit, including a couple of bone crunchers on Tigers behemoth Logovi’i Mulipola, and was also key going forward... 8
Replacements (who played more than 20 minutes)
ALEX CORBISIERO (for Waller 51)
A huge player to be able to bring off the bench and he certainly had an impact with some big carries and presence in the scrum... 7
TOM MERCEY (for Collins 55)
Brought on to fill the gap left by Ma’afu and he didn’t let the team down, with a physical performance, especially at the breakdown... 7
CALUM CLARK (for Dowson 55)
Brought so much energy and desire to proceedings, pushing Leicester at the breakdown and helping to steer Saints to a sensational win... 7