Leicester’s matchwinner, Freddie Burns, has admitted he could barely believe the sensational conclusion to the Premiership final which saw him kick the match-winning drop-goal to deny Saracens in the final minute of the game.
Burns was required to play a more prominent role than he expected when George Ford limped off in the first half, having already managed to revive his professional career at Leicester after a stint in Japan. “I’m in disbelief right now. I’m normally not short of words but I can’t believe I’m sitting here. I managed to shin it over – it was like a dead duck – but I don’t care. It went through.
“We’ve been a team of fighters all year and shown that in numerous games. I don’t think people really gave us much of a shot. Everyone was talking about Saracens’ big game players but I wouldn’t have swapped any of our boys for theirs. We just kept fighting and came out at the right end of it. To give the supporters this moment and reward for their support means everything to everyone at Tigers. ”
Head coach Steve Borthwick also saluted the calm way in which his players engineered the chance for Burns to prevent the match spilling over into extra time. “The composure to get themselves into a better position was phenomenal,” said Borthwick. “To think as clearly as they did that far into a very touch game was very impressive. I watched him [Freddie Burns] striking these balls yesterday at the training ground… he’s got nerves of steel, hasn’t he? ”
The recent death of former club captain Tom Youngs’ wife, Tiffany, generated additional emotion for all involved with Leicester’s first title for nine years. “Everybody in the whole club has worked hard to get to this position,” said Borthwick. “I’m just delighted for everyone. Everybody at the club is still hurting for the Youngs family. It was very classy at the end for Tom Youngs and Ellis [Genge] to pick the trophy up together.
“If you are really clear on what you are going to do, sometimes this can happen. You want to win rugby games but you’s got to make your family proud and be proud of yourself, and make your friends proud of you. ”
Saracens’ director of rugby, Mark McCall, admitted that Leicester, who finished top of the regular season table, had deserved their success. “They trapped us in our half for large periods and backed that up with brilliant defense,” said McCall. “It was very frustrating but a lot of that was their making. We were a bit suffocated today. It was tough to break them down. Fair play to them, they did it brilliantly. ”
McCall also declined to blame his players for opting for a late close-range penalty rather than going for a potential match-winning try against 14 men. “It’s hard to know the right thing to do. I do not disagree with the decision at all. I do not think that was the game – they deserved to win. ”