Table toppers Harlequins deservedly secured their passage to the final with a narrow 25:23 victory over the Northampton Saints in the semi-finals, while Leicester continued their impressive late season surge with a 25:14 win over the reigning champions; Saracens, to book their place in the showpiece. With the top two placed teams in the league standings meeting at Twickenham, the match is befitting of a final.
Last year, we were treated to a thrilling culmination to the season, as Saracens held on in the face of a ferocious Tigers onslaught late on, to become crowned Premiership champions for the first time. For over 30 phases, Leicester had pummeled their way to the line, but ultimately fell agonisingly short after the final hooter had gone.
|Saracens celebrate victory in 2011|
Leicester will undoubtedly be looking to make amends for that painful loss and perhaps inflict some pain themselves. One only need to look at the feisty responses from Leicester coach Richard Cockerill, (surrounding Toby Floods fitness) this week, to see that there is unfinished business. They will be focused, mentally tough and the appetite is their for sure. There may also be a lot of tension behind the scenes too though. Their opponents in the final, Harlequins, may have finished top of the league table but as we all know, that doesn't guarantee ultimate success. Leicester seem to have timed a 'London Wasps like' surge in form just in time for the final.
ROAD TO THE FINAL
Semifinal - Beat Northampton 25-23
Round Robin - Finished 1st
Harlequins have been the most consistent side in this year's Premiership and it would have been a travesty if they had not at least made the final. Some of the stuff they've played this year has been beautiful on the eye, and it's not surprising when you look at the talent in their ranks. The spine of their team (Robshaw, Easter, Care, Evans) is international class and flanker Chris Robshaw was rightly rewarded with the Player of the Season award only a few weeks ago. Thankfully, Quins sneaked past the Saints in their semi-final....even if it was a little too nerve jangling for their fans, setting up the final every neutral was wishing for. A victory in the final over Leicester will bury the embarassment of 'Bloodgate' once and for all.
Semi-Final - Beat Saracens 25-14
Round Robin - Finshed 2nd
Who would have thought Leicester would have been in the final after their horrific start to the season during the World Cup? Missing their International contingent, the back-ups struggled and the English heavyweights were languishing near the bottom of the table early on. Fast forward to the current date though and Leicester have won 13 of their last 14 games (including an exhillarating comeback victory over Quins at the Stoop). With a salivating mix of power, passion and precision, you wouldn't bet against them doing it again.... would you?
Danny Care/ Nick Evans vs Ben Youngs/ Toby Flood
|Zero to Hero for Care?|
|Time for Flood to prove his worth|
PAST MEETINGS THIS SEASON
October 2011 - Quins beat Leicester 27-18 @ Welford Road
January 2012 - Lecister beat Quins 19-9 @ The Stoop
April 2012 - Leicester beat Quins 43-33 @ The Stoop
The heart says England and Harlequins captain Chris Robshaw will be lofting the trophy aloft on Saturday afternoon, but the gut says Leicester. The way they dismantled Quins at the stoop only a few weeks ago was ominous indeed and I have a feeling that although the game will be tight, the men from Welford Road have that extra gear needed. They have an intoxicating mix of power, creativity and crucially....FORM. Quins have the players though, so don't count them out just yet. If anyone can take on Leicester physically, it's them. Will the intensity be too much though? Whatever the result...the game is sure to be a humdinger!
Leicester by 4 points
Who do you think will be crowned Champions of England for 2011/12?
Where will the game be won and lost?
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