Twickenham timeline: Fourteen-man Saints go down fighting
Saints travelled to Twickenham today hoping to claim their first Aviva Premiership title.
East midlands rivals Leicester were the opposition in from of an 80,000-plus crowd at the home of rugby.
Here, we give a blow-by-blow timeline of the action.
2.40pm: The atmosphere beginning to build now as the stadium starts to fill. The Leicester players get a rousing reception from their supporters as they go off on a mini pre-match lap of honour.
2.50pm: The Saints team is read out over the PA, and the Northampton fans can be heard for the first time... biggest cheer for Ben Foden. The Leicester team is read out straight after and, I have to admit, the cheers are louder. The biggest cheer is reserved for Martin Castrogiovanni - and he’s on the bench!
2.52pm: Referee Wayne Barnes’ name is read out - to boos all round. That must make him feel great!
2.59pm: The teams emerge from the tunnel to a booming reception, flames and stirring music... the place is packed. Leicester opt for a huddle. The Saints just get in team shape for the action.
3pm: Tigers’ Toby Flood kicks off... Samu Manoa catches the ball. So far so good!!
4 mins: First blood to Tigers... Penalty awarded. Central, 30 metres out. Flood kicks, scores. 3-0. And the PA plays Tiger Feet by Mud... I wonder what tune a Sainst score will get?
8 mins: TRY! Oh dear. Saints have got off to a shocker here, Niall Morris going over in the corner after good work by Flood. The England fly-half then pots the conversion and it’s 10-0 to Leicester and we’ve not even had 10 minutes.
12 mins: The Saints fans try to get their team going with a rendition of Oh When The Saints.... but it’s a bit half-hearted... although there’s nothing half-hearted about the cheer when referee Barnes awards Saints their first penalty of the match! Just a shame it’s midway inside their own half.
15 mins: TRY!!! Saints are on the board as Stephen Myler goes over in the corner. Great work by Lee Dickson with a quick tap penalty, he passed to Luther Burrell who fed Myler. The fly-half had work to do, but he dotted down. Myler pushes the conversion wide, and it’s 10-5.
15 mins: Annoyingly, I didn’t notice what music they played for that Saints score... will have to wait for the next one!
17 mins: Great break from the orange-booted Ben Foden almost sees Saints go clear again, but it comes to nothing. Saints right back in this game though.
20 mins: PENALTY to Leicester. Courtney Lawes lucky to not be yellow carded for a lte, late tackle on Flood. Referee Barnes decides it’s just a penalty, and then as it is played back on the big screens, the Leicester fans are not happy. And I don’t blame them. Leicester coach Richard Cockerill’s not a happy man either, and he lets Saints fitness coach Nick Johnston know his feelings. That little argument is also played on the big screen... and Cockerill is sent upstairs. After treatment, Flood gets to his feet but won’t get the chance to make Lawes pay by kicking the penalty. Ben Youngs takes it instead and misses horribly. Saints lucky to get away with that incident unpunished.
22 mins: Lawes nails England team-mate Flood again, but at least this time the ball was in the vicinity... this could get a little bit tasty.
24 mins: Flood is substituted and replaced by George Ford. Flood is clearly not able to recover from the hit from Lawes. We haven’t heard the last of this, especially if Saints win.
25 mins: Dickson literally inches away from scoring a try...but he can’t force his way over. ‘Come on you Saints’ rings out, and there’s a bit more conviction about the support now! Saints on top.
31 mins: PENALTY to Leicester. But it could have been worse for Saints after 40-metre break by Mathew Tait. Saints defend well but are penalise five metres out. George Ford belts the ball between the posts from 15 metres and it’s 13-5. Leicester make the most of their first attack for about 10 minutes! Clinical stuff from them.
35 mins: TMO TIME! Ben Foden goes over the try-line, but referee Barnes wants to know if Jamie Elliott was in touch when played the final pass, and whether or not Foden grounded the ball. This is going to be tight. I reckon Foden grounds it, but I also think his foot goes out of play... NO TRY. Foden and director of rugby Jim Mallinder can’t believe the decision... but I think the TMO got it right. Just. The one thing I would say is that Barnes only asked the TMO about the final pass and grounding. He didn’t ask about Foden going out of touch...
38 mins: Saints skipper Dylan Hartley is given a ticking off by referee Barnes. “This is not how a captain behaves, keep your comments to yourself. If you continue to talk to me in that manner, I will have to deal with it.” Naughty Dylan...
39 mins: PENALTY to Leicester. But George Ford misses from 40 metres out. Still 13-5 to Tigers.
40 mins: SAINTS IMPLODING! RED CARD FOR HARTLEY. Chaos reigns here. Time is up on the clock, but Barnes clearly tells Myler he can’t kick the ball out directly. he says it three times. Myler then inexplicably kicks the ball out... Barnes says it’s a scrum on the 22. A penalty is then awarded to Leicester. Hartley, who was warned about his conduct mintes earlier, then loses his head completely and is ordered off the field. Barnes says the Saints captain called him ‘a [email protected]@king cheat’... Ridiculous stuff from Hartley and Saints are down to 14 for the rest of the game. Ford kicks the penalty and it’s 16-5 at half-time. That is probably game over.
44 mins: TRY!!! Amazing stuff from 14-man Saints as Foden flies over to score in the left-hand corner, the move started by some excellent play by Tom Wood on the opposite flank, James Wilson’s pass perfectly timed for Foden. Myler again pushed the conversion wide though. Saints 10 Tigers 16
48 mins: TRY! Leicester increase their lead. Unstoppable surge from Graham Kitchener, who found a gap and ran straight through it. Ford misses the conversion from the right touchline, and it’s 21-10 to Tigers. Long way back for Saints from here.
54 mins: Let-off for Saints as Manu Tuilagi drops the ball with the line at his mercy after a break by Ford, but Barnes immediately gives a penalty for Tom Wood tackling the man without the ball. Ford smacks the penalty off the inside of the left hand post and, luckily for him, it bounces the right way. 24-10 to Tigers. Saints fans give Barnes stick as ‘you don’t know what you’re doing’ rings out from the stands.
55 mins: End of an era as Soane Tonga’uiha leads the field for the final time as a Saints player and gets a great send off from the Saints fans in the crowd.
56 mins: TRY!! There’s life in Saints yet. Another excellent attack set up by a scintillating break from Foden ends with Lee Dickson pouncing on a grounded pass from Luther Burrell and going over. Barnes calls for a decision from the TMO on whether Burrell’s pass was forward, but it wasa never in doubt. Myler lands his first kick of the game, and it’s24-17. This is brilliant stuf from 14-man Saints.
57 mins: That’s the end for Brian Mujati as well...
60 mins: Great noise from the Saints supporters as they try to be the, er, 15th man for their side. Can Saints do it? They are still the better side, even with only 14 players. Hartley must be feeling sick wherever he is...
65 mins: It is still the Saints supporters doing the singing, and their team - with one notable exception - are doing them proud here. Still 24-17 to Tigers.
66 mins: TRY!! And surely that is it for this battling Saints team. Manu Tuilagi broke through Tom Wood’s tackle 50 metres out and had a clear run at the line. There is no stopping him in that situation. Ford misses a simple looking conversion. Tigers 29 Saints 17.
70 mins: This is surely a damage limitation exercise for Saints now. Jim Mallinder has made all of his changes, and they will just want to get through this final 10 minutes with their pride intact.
74 mins: TRY! Salt in the wounds time for Saints as Vereniki Goneva dots down in the left corner after being set up by Steve Mafi. Ford misses again. Tigers home and dry now as they lead 34-17. This is tough on Saints.
80 mins: Boos all round as Leicester opt to kick when awarded a penalty. This will be the last action of the game. Ford slots it and it ends 37-17.
The Leicester players celebrate in the centre of the pitch while the Saints players are crouched in disappointment all over the field.
A tough afternoon for Saints, who did still score three tries, and who battled until the very end.