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Category: Premiership 2014-15

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Former Leicester Tigers coach Phil Blake gets a six-month ban for betting

• Australian guilty of two breaches of anti-corruption rules
• The 51-year-old fined £669 and ordered to pay £500 costs

The former Leicester defence coach Phil Blake has been banned for six months by a Rugby Football Union disciplinary panel after he was found guilty of two breaches of anti-corruption and betting rules.

The 51-year-old Australian was found guilty of placing a bet on a European Champions Cup match between Toulon and the Tigers on 13 December last year, and also betting on a Premiership match between Newcastle and Leicester on 8 March.

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The highs and lows of the 2014-15 rugby union season

From all-conquering Saracens to the joys of Wharfedale v Fylde, what we loved and hated from an eventful 10 months on and off the pitch

1 Saracens The club won five titles at all levels: Aviva Premiership, LV Cup, Aviva A league, Under-18 academy league and the Women’s Premiership. They also reached the semi-finals in Europe and possess a rare ability to block out off-field distractions.

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Saracens’ brutalist work of art paints an encouraging picture for England

• Mark McCall’s side become first Premiership winners to not finish in top two
• Bath’s head coach Mike Ford vows they will come back stronger
• Owen Farrell faces citing for tackle on Anthony Watson

And so endeth a season that confounded from start to finish. The title has gone to a side who barely sneaked into the play-offs, at the expense of a team who played like millionaires the previous week only to crumple when it counted. If – and it is still a big if – the salary cap police have not been permanently muzzled, Saturday’s final may also be remembered with all kinds of mixed emotions. Alleged “financial doping” or not – any investigation of certain clubs has been put on hold by the Premiership hierarchy – no one can remotely question the resilience of Saracens’ players and coaches. This time last year they were pipped in extra-time in one of the crueller final denouements, with Owen Farrell among the most chastened participants. This year the England fly-half was both the man of the match and its principal villain. Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde would seriously relate to modern professional rugby union.

Ultimately it was a triumph for organisation, planning and commitment over Bath’s hope, ambition and enthusiasm. Saracens’ defence coach, Paul Gustard, does not hog the limelight but the vice that clamped itself around Bath’s much-vaunted midfield was, in its brutal way, a masterpiece of stark modernist excellence. Around the corner, as always, came the screens of decoy runners with lurking ball-carriers behind; invariably waiting were a steely posse of defenders to snuff out the threat. Jacques Burger, Maro Itoje, George Kruis, Jamie George, Brad Barritt and the Vunipola brothers enhanced their reputations in the process.

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Saracens’ Jamie George seizes chance to write himself into England’s plans

The recipient and beneficiary of Dylan Hartley’s head butt showed the class of an international hooker against Bath in the Premiership final

This past week may yet prove a poignant one for historians of the English hooker. Jamie George started it with the surprise and disappointment of exclusion from England’s World Cup training squad but with the consolation of a place in the Premiership final. He finished it with a try and assist, a champion’s medal and a place in said training squad.

It was Dylan Hartley’s indiscretion too far in that same semi-final – gently butting heads with George himself – that prompted the reversal of the England decision on Friday, before George’s match-winning performance the next day. We may yet see that moment at Franklin’s Gardens the weekend before as the passing on of the mantle, for George has surely been the form hooker of the Premiership this season. Who is to say such form will not propel him at least into England’s match-day squad by the end of the year?

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Saracens’ Farrell given post-match yellow card for tackle on Bath’s Watson

• Fly-half will not face disciplinary panel over challenge in Premiership final
• Bath’s Rob Webber receives warning for tackle at Twickenham

Owen Farrell will not face a disciplinary panel for his high tackle on Anthony Watson in Saturday’s Premiership final between Saracens and Bath at Twickenham that forced the full-back from the field with a head injury.

The Bath head coach, Mike Ford, said that the Saracens fly‑half should have been sent off by the referee, Wayne Barnes, who did not review the incident, which occurred in the second minute. Farrell apologised to Watson after the match, saying there had been no intent to go high.

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Bath’s George Ford loses out in battle with Saracens’ Owen Farrell

England’s World Cup squad fly-half rivals face each other in Premiership play-off final, with Farrell earning most plaudits in Saracens’ 28-16 win

So the debate is back on. It is not one that will prove very popular with the romantics – those who believe that you need more than a defensive game to win a World Cup. In Bath’s highest-stakes match of the season, when those who have pretensions to performing in the highest-stakes internationals need to demonstrate their composure and authority, George Ford was forced to watch his old friend and rival, Owen Farrell, dominate proceedings. Worse than that, Farrell, who has spent this season watching Ford work wonders in an England shirt – his England shirt – emerged from the final with 18 points and the man-of-the-match award.

Related: Bath 16-28 Saracens | Premiership Final match report

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Saracens and Owen Farrell blow away Bath to win Premiership final

Bath 16-28 Saracens

No team that had finished outside the top two in the league table had ever won the Premiership but Saracens have made their reputation by defying convention and striking out on their own. Having lost in the final minute of extra time to Northampton last season, they started with a rush against a side known for its fast scoring and enterprise and had just enough energy to defend the lead.

Bath have been the boldest side in the Premiership this season, prepared to attack from anywhere, but they ran into trouble against a side that prides itself on defence, losing possession in their own half and giving away soft tries. It was Bath’s first appearance in the final since 2004 and the last time they won the league was in the pre-Premiership days.

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Bath v Saracens: Premiership final – live!

3.58pm BST

63 min: And just as I type that, Bath concede a penalty. Farrell punishes them and there is breathing space again for Saracens.

3.56pm BST

60 min: Penalty for Bath between the 10 and 22 – and Ford nails it. The deficit is down to a single digit. Chris Ashton has entered the fray for Saracens, who are under quite a lot of pressure now.

3.53pm BST

58 min: We’re now seeing more of the Bath we’ve become accustomed to watching this season. They gain plenty of ground before Ford sends a testing kick down Goode’s throat, who slices his own kick out.

3.50pm BST

55 min: Suddenly, Saracens look to be struggling. Billy Vunipola is punished for being off his feet. Ford finds touch halfway between the 10m and 22 but Burgess knocks on and Saracens have some time to calm things down.

3.46pm BST

52 min: The Bath attack is really motoring now. Eastmond is held up two metres from the line by Strettle, Stringer feeds it out from a succession of rucks and Joseph makes the decisive break to cross for Bath’s first try. Ford’s kick sails over. Game on!

3.44pm BST

3.44pm BST

49 min: Five phases after the lineout Ford makes a lovely break and gains about 20 metres but the ball ends up in touch. Wigglesworth kicks but Bath are right back at them. Wyles is punished for not rolling away after tackling Devoto.

3.41pm BST

48 min: Bath win a penalty on their own 22 after Saracens collapse a scrum. Ford sends to touch, relieving the pressure.

3.37pm BST

43 min: This is a better start from Bath. They patiently work their way up to the 22 via Hooper, who pulls a Batty lineout from the air. Farrell is penalised for a high tackle on Eastmond and Ford nails his second penalty

3.33pm BST

41 min: We are underway again. What can Bath do? No team has come from 22-points behind at half-time in Premiership history. Not just finals, the entire competition!

3.27pm BST

No side has come from behind at halfway in a Premiership final. The 22-point gap suggests that record will maintain.

3.16pm BST

39 min: Bath build some momentum but Banahan knocks on. They are penalised again for a collapsing scrum. Farrell kicks to touch. And that’s half-time.

3.14pm BST

37 min: Saracens are on the front foot again! Itoje has it in the 22, David Wilson lands an early tackle and Farrell makes no mistake with the simplest of kicks in front of the posts. That’s 4/5 from the tee and no question which No10 is playing the starring role.

3.09pm BST

34 min: Hargreaves picked up a head injury before that and is off for an assessment. Jackson Wray is on in his stead.

3.09pm BST

32 min: We all thought it was going to be Bath playing the exciting, attacking rugby! Strettle makes a wonderful break, avoiding two tackles before being held up a couple of metres from the line. Farrell clears the ruck out and they rapidly work it to the opposite wing. Mako Vunipola almost loses it but manages to offload to George who spots Wyles to his left with nothing in way of defence. Farrell puts on the extras.

3.05pm BST

30 min: Some back and forth kicking ends with Sarries finding touch 5m from the line. Bath win their own lineout and Stringer puts it into touch a little short of halfway.

3.02pm BST

27 min: Bath are on the board. Ford opens his account with a clinical effort.

3.00pm BST

25 min: Ford plays a flat pass to Rokoduguni on his right, the wing chips and chases but Goode appears to barge him out of the way. It’s a penalty for foul play but the referee has referred it to the TMO to see if it’s worthy of a yellow card. Ford will go for goal.

2.57pm BST

23 min: Soon after the restart Bath knock-on in good territory and Wigglesworth, using the advantage, kicks clear.

2.56pm BST

21 min: Saracens drive for the line again but they are penalised. Then Bath are penalised for collapsing the ensuing scrum. Burger delivers a ferocious fist pump as Farrell lines a kick up. Never in doubt and now they have quite the cushion.

2.51pm BST

18 min: They are then punished for a collapsing scrum – David Wilson slipped from behind him, allowing Farrell to send the penalty to touch.

2.50pm BST

16 min: Devoto, still on for Watson, kicks into the Saracens 22 and Strettle returns it to touch. From the lineout, Attwood knocks on. Nothing is going right for Bath at the moment.

2.48pm BST

13 min: But then Eastmond mishandles, Jamie George takes possession and big hooker shows a surprising turn of pace to outrace Eastmond and Ford to cross for the second try. Farrell’s conversion sails slightly wide to the left.

2.46pm BST

13 min: Bath win a free-kick from the scrum, Ford deliberately aims down the middle. Goode returns, Ford sends it back. Goode kicks again before Burgess takes, carries and crosses his own 10m-line.

2.44pm BST

11 min: That breaks down just inside the 22 and after seven phases, Farrell chips crossfield. David Strettle only needs to catch it and he would cross for a second try but he takes his eye off it slightly and knocks on.

2.42pm BST

9 min: Farrell kicks a penalty on halfway to touch, just outside the 22. Hargreaves pulls down the lineout and they get their maul on.

2.40pm BST

7 min: Watson has departed – temporarily – for a HIA after that early hit. Ollie Devoto is on in his place.

2.39pm BST

6 min: Farrell puts Sarries on the board! They move it left, Billy Vunipola shows good hands, Wigglesworth recycles … and Farrell goes in at the corner. He adds a brilliant conversion.

2.37pm BST

5 min: Farrell kicks but is then walloped by Sam Burgess. Peter Stringer cleans up the afters and kicks clear. Then Sarries come right back at them. They are five metres short …

2.36pm BST

4 min: Bath work through the phases but are met by a white wall. And after the ball is recycled nine times, Ford chips, Jonathan Joseph knocks it backwards loosely. Saracens’ Jamie George takes possession, kicks forward and sets the north London team on their way.

2.33pm BST

2 min: Semesa Rokoduguni makes a good break down the right after Goode’s kick. But Saracens turn it over in the 22 and Richard Wigglesworth clears to about halfway. Bath take a quick lineout and Watson drives forward. Billy Vunipola takes him down and Farrell follows through late and high but only a penalty is given, which Ford puts into touch just outside the 22. Watson is shaken but will continue.

2.31pm BST

1 min: Saracens and Owen Farrell get us underway. It’s collected by Anthony Watson and George Ford thumps it away into the hands of Alex Goode.

2.30pm BST

The teams are out. The pop music has been replaced by a dramatic soundtrack, there are pyrotechnics. We are moments away.

2.27pm BST

There is loud pop music (Avicii for those interested), there is a big inflatable advertising sponsors, there will probably be fireworks when the players emerge onto the field! All the ingredients, then, for spoiling any chance of a good atmosphere building in the stands.

2.24pm BST

Let’s hope not.

@alansmith90 Wayne Barnes to throw a spanner into the works of either side depends who annoys him first, a sin binning or a bogey decision!

2.04pm BST

Placing such emphasis on the battle of the 10s, it’s easy to forget about some of the other battles that will develop today. Francois Louw v Jacques Burger – which wrecking ball can cause the most damage? Peter Stringer v Richard Wigglesworth – who can dominate in midfield? Kyle Eastmond v Brad Barritt – can one stake a major claim for England’s No12 shirt?

1.59pm BST

“It’s just another game,” reckons Matt Banahan, the Bath wing but Mark McCall, the Sarries head honcho, says “we’ve slogged 12 months to get back here and it’s all about the next 80 minutes”.

1.42pm BST

We’re such a sociable lot here at the Guardian. Dan is sitting five metres to my right, but tweeting is the desired form of communication.

@alansmith90 A great day for the salary cap and financial propriety

1.30pm BST

Saracens will have stepped off their team bus a short while ago and for several, you can safely bet, memories of last year’s gut-wrenching last-minute of extra-time defeat to Northampton will have flooded back. This is their shot at redemption and Mark McCall’s team will not want to depart Twickenham feeling the same emotions as last year.

There are no such scars for Bath to heal. This is unchartered territory for the Class of 2015. They have not won a league title since 1996 and their only Premiership final before today was in 2004, when they fell to Wasps.

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Bath reinvent golden era with a modern twist as Premiership final awaits

Stuart Hooper and his squad decided ‘to reconnect with what the club are all about’ – now Saracens stand between them and a first league title since 1996

One of the central planks of Bath’s renaissance often goes unnoticed. Even in a Twickenham final week, amid the splendour of the club’s manor house HQ in Farleigh Hungerford, surprisingly few choose to seek him out. “Anyone want to speak to Stuart Hooper?” asks a plucky press officer, sticking her head around the door of the music room: this is Bath, remember. Her audience, their notebooks already full of quotes from Kyle Eastmond and Jonathan Joseph, fall guiltily silent. Their editors will always find space for a “Slammin” Sam Burgess story but good old Stuart not so much.

Too many are missing the bigger picture. Hooper was working towards such days long before Burgess arrived. As the club’s captain since 2011, Hooper has seen such respected coaches as Sir Ian McGeechan and Gary Gold come and go. Even Bruce Craig, whose millions have funded the grandest of rugby designs, and Mike Ford, the head coach, are marginally less qualified to pinpoint why the team are back tilting for a Premiership title.

Related: Salary cap may not fit Bath or Saracens but critics have to wear it – for now

Related: Bath and Saracens final may offer a few clues for England at the World Cup

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Bath reinvent golden era with a modern twist as Premiership final awaits

Stuart Hooper and his squad decided ‘to reconnect with what the club are all about’ – now Saracens stand between them and a first league title since 1996

One of the central planks of Bath’s renaissance often goes unnoticed. Even in a Twickenham final week, amid the splendour of the club’s manor house HQ in Farleigh Hungerford, surprisingly few choose to seek him out. “Anyone want to speak to Stuart Hooper?” asks a plucky press officer, sticking her head around the door of the music room: this is Bath, remember. Her audience, their notebooks already full of quotes from Kyle Eastmond and Jonathan Joseph, fall guiltily silent. Their editors will always find space for a “Slammin” Sam Burgess story but good old Stuart not so much.

Too many are missing the bigger picture. Hooper was working towards such days long before Burgess arrived. As the club’s captain since 2011, Hooper has seen such respected coaches as Sir Ian McGeechan and Gary Gold come and go. Even Bruce Craig, whose millions have funded the grandest of rugby designs, and Mike Ford, the head coach, are marginally less qualified to pinpoint why the team are back tilting for a Premiership title.

Related: Salary cap may not fit Bath or Saracens but critics have to wear it – for now

Related: Bath and Saracens final may offer a few clues for England at the World Cup

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Premiership final win for Saracens can complete 2014 defeat’s learning curve

A Twickenham appointment against Bath is the last act of a Sarries season that could result in the first win for a team that finished outside the top two

When Saracens lost last season’s Premiership final against Northampton to a try in the final minute of extra time, the club’s chief executive, Edward Griffiths, criticised the play-off system, saying it was only in place for financial reasons and that the champions should be determined by the league table.

Related: England set to drop Northampton’s Dylan Hartley from World Cup squad

Related: Worcester’s final win over Bristol adds to injustices of play-off system

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Premiership final win for Saracens can complete 2014 defeat’s learning curve

A Twickenham appointment against Bath is the last act of a Sarries season that could result in the first win for a team that finished outside the top two

When Saracens lost last season’s Premiership final against Northampton to a try in the final minute of extra time, the club’s chief executive, Edward Griffiths, criticised the play-off system, saying it was only in place for financial reasons and that the champions should be determined by the league table.

Related: England set to drop Northampton’s Dylan Hartley from World Cup squad

Related: Worcester’s final win over Bristol adds to injustices of play-off system

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Worcester’s final win over Bristol adds to injustices of play-off system

Winner-takes-all approach offers no consolation to the loser, with teams like Northampton enjoying fine seasons only to end with nothing to show for it. Could such heartaches be lessened with a lesson from Super League?

April the cruellest month? Make it May, the month of the play-offs. Last Saturday Northampton, long‑time leaders and the best team in the Premiership, had their season taken away. On Wednesday, Bristol, leaders of the Championship for probably 75% of the season after beating us on the opening day, were the better side on the night, but over 160 minutes came up short. So Worcester go up and they spend another season dreaming of the Premiership.

Related: Worcester beat Bristol with last kick to secure promotion to Premiership

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Matt Banahan and Bath intend to stick to brilliant basics at Twickenham

• Bath 47-10 Leicester
• Bath reach first Premiership final since 2004

There have been some enticing Premiership finals but few with a greater stylistic contrast than Twickenham will stage this Saturday. In the blue corner will be Bath’s irresistible attack, opposite the immovable object that is Saracens’ illustrious “wolf-pack” defence. On this scintillating evidence it is Sarries who should be the more concerned in the buildup.

It was not only the seven tries Bath scored against a Leicester side who endured a razor-sharp lesson in top-class finishing. Even more ominous was the rising self-belief it has given Mike Ford’s team before their first grand final since 2004. All season they have been granted a licence to thrill and it is not about to be withdrawn for the big occasion.

Related: Northampton 24-29 Saracens | Premiership semi-final match report

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Matt Banahan and Bath intend to stick to brilliant basics at Twickenham

• Bath 47-10 Leicester
• Bath reach first Premiership final since 2004

There have been some enticing Premiership finals but few with a greater stylistic contrast than Twickenham will stage this Saturday. In the blue corner will be Bath’s irresistible attack, opposite the immovable object that is Saracens’ illustrious “wolf-pack” defence. On this scintillating evidence it is Sarries who should be the more concerned in the buildup.

It was not only the seven tries Bath scored against a Leicester side who endured a razor-sharp lesson in top-class finishing. Even more ominous was the rising self-belief it has given Mike Ford’s team before their first grand final since 2004. All season they have been granted a licence to thrill and it is not about to be withdrawn for the big occasion.

Related: Northampton 24-29 Saracens | Premiership semi-final match report

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Jacques Burger on thumping form as Saracens win battle at Northampton

• Northampton 24-29 Saracens

Saracens were hit by a flu bug before the match but it was Northampton who were left feeling sick. The champions, and the team that led the Premiership throughout the season, will not be at Twickenham on Saturday after losing a battle of strength and wits to opponents who made the play-offs on points difference.

Saracens know the feeling having topped the table in the previous two seasons only to miss out on the title after losing to Northampton each time. Already without the injured Ben Foden and George North, the Saints lost three players in a bruising first half, including two full-backs. The tone was set in the buildup to the visitors’ first try when Billy Vunipola, making his presence felt at the breakdown, accidentally struck Ahsee Tuala in the shoulder and he was on the floor when David Strettle and Duncan Taylor chased a kick and took advantage of the lack of a sweeper.

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Bath’s Matt Banahan scores hat-trick as Leicester are crushed

• Bath 47-10 Leicester
• Home side run in seven tries to reach Premiership final
As it happened – how the action at The Rec unfolded

The World Cup squad suggested that Bath are the darlings of the English game at the moment, and here was the confirmation. They cruise into the Premiership final – for the second time – and every one of those squad members played a blinder. Defensively, it was a relentless performance of graft, but – and here’s the rub – it was their deadly finishing that marked them out as a team at the top of their game. They visited the Leicester 22 eight times and came away with seven tries. Their only unproductive raid was with a couple of minutes left, between tries six and seven – which is to say, it did not matter.

Matt Banahan scored a hat-trick, the first in a Premiership semi-final, George Ford kicked six out of seven, and Jonathan Joseph reassured us that in this form Manu Tuilagi’s off-field indiscretions should be of no consequence come the autumn. Leicester did not know where to turn by the end, having spent the majority of the game hammering away at the Bath defence – twice as much as Bath did at theirs. And they came away having suffered a hiding.

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Bath 47-10 Leicester: Premiership play-off semi-final – as it happened!

Bath ran in seven tries, including a hat-trick from Matt Banahan, in a remarkable performance at the Rec to book their place in next weekend’s final against Saracens

6.57pm BST

What a performance from Bath! What a game we have on our hands at Twickenham next weekend. Thanks for reading, I’m off to find a dark room and attempt to catch my breath. Bye!

6.57pm BST

80 min: This is silly. Fearns hammers Salvi, the ball spills kindly into Watson’s pass. He’s almost halted but continues and touched down under the posts. Ford’s kick is good.

6.55pm BST

79 min: Amazingly from the restart Attwood breaks into the 22 but this time there is no try as Ford attempts a chip that runs dead!

6.54pm BST

78 min: That’s six trips to the 22, six tries. Amazing!

6.54pm BST

76 min: We have the first hat-trick in Premiership semi-final history. Matt Banahan crosses for his third after a delightful running move from halfway. It started with Ford, Joseph picked up the pace, evades two tackles. Garvey continues forward and Banahan adds the final touch. Ford’s conversion is good.

6.51pm BST

75 min: Leicester work it to the right, then to the left where Harrison, via Loamanu spilling it backwards, almost reaches the line. But he is repelled again and the move ends with a Leicester penalty. Bath are warned that the next penalty will result in a yellow no matter the offence or player but they are relieved to turn over from the next lineout and Ford ends up clearing deep into the Leicester half.

6.51pm BST

73 min: Leicester are back into the 22 for a 10th time but from the lineout a maul falls apart. Slater and Gonveva can find no way through.

6.48pm BST

72 min: Chris Cook comes on in place of Peter Stringer, whose Bath career will not end here.

6.47pm BST

72 min: Banahan concedes a penalty on Bath’s 10 and Burns goes to the left corner.

6.46pm BST

71 min: Before play restarts, Briggs, Rizzo and Balmain, De Chaves have all entered the fray for Leicester.

6.45pm BST

69 min: “Icing on the cake,” says Lawrence Dallaglio as the player of the season crosses for a try. Goneva tries to intercept, leaving a space for Rokoduguni to burst clear near the right touchline. He sees Ford on his left, plays a simple pass and the fly-half crosses with consummate ease. He misses his first kick of the evening, though, from way out on the right. No matter, game over.

6.42pm BST

67 min: Kyle Eastmond is also off to a big ovation, replaced by Ollie Devoto.

6.42pm BST

67 min: Leicester have made it into the Bath 22 nine times but have only had one try. Another Leicester change sees the promising youngster George Catchpole come in for Tait, who is joining Bayonne next season. This increasingly looks like his last game for Leicester.

6.40pm BST

64 min: Bath break into the Leicester 22 for the fourth time and it’s a fourth try! Fearns offloads to Louw who makes a crucial break and he picks out the 37-year-old scrum-half Stringer who crosses to all but end Leicester’s hopes (unless they can manage an unprecedented comeback). Ford’s conversion moves him past 200 points for the season.

6.38pm BST

61 min: Some respite for Bath but they lose their own lineout and Goneva zooms forward. You know what happens next? He is met by a wall of blue, white and black and more danger is repelled.

6.34pm BST

58 min: Leicester back on the attack but are being contained well. It’s 35%-65% in possession but again the visitors cannot penetrate and Loamanu loses it. Ford, yet again, boots it away before another wave of orange comes.

6.32pm BST

56 min: Fearns is on for Houston. There have been 16 minutes of play since the half started 27 minutes ago.

6.31pm BST

55 min: At last we have some action. Leicester ramping up the pressure. They go through 10 phases before reaching the 22 but Bath finally turn it over and get rid.

6.29pm BST

54 min: Jordan Crane is off for Leicester and Sam Burgess makes way for Bath – the latter does not look pleased with that.

6.27pm BST

53 min: Before it’s reset, Rob Webber comes in for Ross Batty and Bath have a completely changed front row. This scrum is better from the hosts’ point of view and Leicester knock-on.

6.25pm BST

52 min: Another Leicester injury – Jordan Crane down with an ankle problem but he looks likely to continue. Bath’s captain, Stuart Hooper, has been replaced by Dominic Day. His first act will be – yep, you guessed it – a scrum, from which Thomas has a little bit of back and forth with Ayerza.

6.23pm BST

50 min: Nick Auterac is on for Paul James permanently, now, and one of his first acts is in a scrum. Stringer puts in but Leicester turn over, Burns kicks and Goneva almost capitalises on slack play from the hosts before Ford ends up clearing.

6.20pm BST

47 min: Leicester enjoy another prolonged spell of possession and gradually advance towards the Bath 22. after seven phases they finally make it into the red zone but Jordan Crane is punished. David Wilson is replaced by Henry Thomas, while Ford finds touch a couple of metres from halfway.

6.17pm BST

45 min: James concedes a fourth penalty from that scrum having failed to bind correctly. Bell has taken over kicking duties from Burns in a similar position to where Burns missed his last penalty. And this is also sent wide to the left. Houston is back on for Bath, and we’re 15 v 15 again.

6.16pm BST

44 min: Morris is off to a standing ovation from both sets of fans. We restart with a scrum.

6.12pm BST

43 min: Tommy Bell is on for Morris, who is now in tears and about to be stretchered off.

6.11pm BST

43 min: Morris is tackled by Batty but the Leicester player turns on his ankle and this looks very serious. Suspect his evening is finished with, he’s almost in tears such is the pain as the medics treat him.

6.08pm BST

42 min: Watson returns as Bath concede a penalty on halfway which is sent too far left by Burns. A shot to nothing, according to Lawrence Dallaglio, but you’d reckon Burns’s confidence is taking a hammering.

6.06pm BST

Ford gets us going.

5.51pm BST

@guardian_sport @alansmith90 simply have to love Cockerill…don’t like Leicester style but nobody more committed as player (Aggro) or coach

5.50pm BST

40 min: From the penalty, Leicester force more pressure on a creaking Bath and Ben Youngs picks out his brother Tom over his right shoulder. That is indeed a try. Burns eyes up the kick, adds the extras. And we are given a few precious minutes to catch our breath.

5.49pm BST

39 min: Leicester advancing well into the 22 and Tait continues with an advantage. Burns then sweeps the ball to the right and Morris is in at the corner. He is not in touch but looks to have knocked on under Rokoduguni’s challenge. NO TRY! Doyle checks with the TMO and we will go back to the penalty awarded against Attwood, who is given a final warning.

5.45pm BST

38 min: Leicester drive back at Bath. Thompstone chases his own kick but Ford is in place as a covering full-back to collect and clear.

5.44pm BST

37 min: But Ayerza does not hold his weight in the scrum and the pressure has been relieved, allowing Bath to clear without any change on the scoreboard.

5.43pm BST

35 min: Leicester go for the scrum this time with a man-advantage. It collapses, and we have another penalty for Leicester. The count is now 10-3 in terms of penalties conceded. Bath’s support turn up the noise to make up for the deficit on the pitch but Doyle is unhappy with the reset scrum …

5.41pm BST

34 mins: Bath are now down to 13! Burns goes for the corner. From the lineout, Hooper comes in at the side and Burns goes back to the corner. It’s taken by Slater and the maul crumbles just before the line with Leroy Houston sent to the line for 10 minutes for going in at the side again.

5.39pm BST

31 min: Leicester are straight back into the Bath 22 and Salvi makes a crucial break but some supreme defence from Burgess holds Leicester up. Next phase sees Cole head for the line but JP Doyle blows for a penalty and Anthony Watson faces a trip to the sin bin for a high tackle. The away side really need a try with this man advantage. James, bandaged up, is back on.

5.37pm BST

29 min: Banahan collects a Burns kick on the Bath 22. From the ensuing ruck, Stringer kicks towards halfway and Banahan somehow claims it. Then they spread it quickly to the right. Ford just about finds Rokoduguni, who chips past Morris, Eastmond races past him. The ball bounces, he collects and crosses for their third try. Ford’s kick, from 38m, is perfect.

5.34pm BST

27 min: The game so far: Leicester have made it into the Bath 22 on seven ocassions so far and have had more ball in hand, Bath have made it into Leicester’s red zone twice and scored tries both times.

5.32pm BST

25 min: Banahan is over again. Burgess was crucial in the buildup, making a key break, and after the ball works from Stringer via Ford, Joseph and Burgess it reaches Banahan who dashes over. Another difficult kick for Ford on the far left is good.

5.30pm BST

24 min: Auterac is on temporarily while James is treated. James was penalised for leading with his head in a tackle, Burns’ kick lacks certainty but it’s between the posts and that should settle his nerves.

5.28pm BST

22 min: Leicester showing lots of energy and are working hard to make ground but they cannot find a decisive break. Tait goes closest but play is stipped for a head injury sustained by James, who collides with Goneva’s knee as the Leicester player ran towards him. There’s quite a lot of blood but he does not appear dazed so should continue once the flow is stemmed.

5.25pm BST

20 min: The frantic start has been tempered and Leicester have plenty of the ball. Burns finds touch from halfway and Tom Youngs will deliver another lineout inside the Bath 22.

5.23pm BST

18 min: Leicester win a second penalty within kicking distance and this time Burns hits the left-sided post. Only two Leicester players follow it up for and Bath clear to halfway.

5.20pm BST

16 min: From the lineout, Leicester go back on the attack via Tait and Bath concede another penalty before the visitors progress to within 10m of the line. Burns gives it to Goneva who gives it to Tait and he is halted. They spill the ball, Stringer picks it up and swiftly hoofs away.

5.18pm BST

14 min: Bath concede a penalty from a second scrum in the same area. Burns kicks to just outside the 22. The lineout progresses to Loamanu and he drives forward before being smashed by Louw. But Leicester recycle, make a few yards through Slater and Crane but the former wraps himself over the ball and Bath force the turnover. Ford clears to touch near halfway.

5.14pm BST

10 min: Eight phases later, Leicester take possession on their own 10 but they meet some powerful resistance and fail to make ground, moving sideways, before the move breaksdown near halfway and Bath are awarded a scrum. The evergreen Stringer – he’s now 37! – to put in.

5.12pm BST

8 min: Bath have started so, so well. A Burns kick is caught by Watson deep in his 22 but he bursts forward and break past halfway with a stunning turn of pace.

5.11pm BST

7 min: And Burns cannot find the target, shaping his kick too far to the left.

5.10pm BST

4 min: Leicester, orange-clad today, are attacking immediately from the restart and soon make it into the Bath 22. Goneva makes a break before Tait feeds Loamanu before Ford produces a really good tackle. Bath are then penalised for offside, Burns goes to touch, and after the lineout, with an advantage to play, attempts a speculative chip which produces nought. We will go back for the penalty a little bit to the right of the posts.

5.06pm BST

2 min: What a start! There are only 90 seconds on the clock when Ford picks out Joseph on his left. His shimmy buys him a yard of space before picking out Banahan who goes over into the corner. The conversion is a difficult one but Ford finds his range.

5.04pm BST

1 min: Eastmond sends it back, Burns skies it back to Eastmond, who is tackled in the air by Watson and Ford sends the penalty to touch on the Leicester 22.

5.03pm BST

Freddie Burns gets us going.

5.02pm BST

Here come the teams! It looks like a lovely day in Bath – certainly brighter than the charcoal sky outside my office window in London – and the pitch is said to be firm. This should flow a bit more than Saints-Sarries.

4.33pm BST

It has been five years since Bath were last in the play-offs. So much has changed at the Rec since and while it would be easy to list off a series of weak motoring puns about the Fords, much of this season’s success can boil down to the father and son combo.

George has been this season’s standout performer at fly-half, deservedly named player of the year, and his father, Mike, displayed such impressive tactical nous throughout he was named coach of the year. “If you’re not feeling good for these kind of games you’re probably in the wrong business,” George says in the run-up to this one.

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Saracens beat Northampton to reach Aviva Premiership final

• Northampton 24-29 Saracens
• Jacques Burger outstanding as Saracens book place at Twickenham
• As it happened – how the action at Franklin’s Gardens unfolded

Semi-finals are rarely beauty contests and this was as unsightly as they come, but Saracens are sitting pretty and into the final next Saturday after squeezing into the play-offs thanks in no small measure to Northampton fielding a virtual reserve team at Leicester on the final day and losing.

There were four tries, three from driving mauls and one after a kick chase, on an afternoon when the best chance backs had of getting the ball in their hands was to catch a punt, but it was compelling in a gruesome way and the champions ended the defence of their trophy against the team they pipped in last year’s final.

Related: Bath 47-10 Leicester | Premiership semi-final match report

Related: Stuart Lancaster determined England should stand together at World Cup

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Northampton 24-29 Saracens: Premiership play-off semi-final – as it happened!

Owen Farrell was in stunning form in a repeat of last year’s final, knocking the holders out on their own patch in an absorbing, physical encounter

4.01pm BST

80 min: No, they cannot. After almost a dozen phases of impressive defensive play, Greg Garner’s whistle goes. And Saracens are on their way to Twickenham! Revenge for last year’s final is theirs. Thanks for reading, I’ll be back shortly for the second semi-final. Bye!

3.59pm BST

80 min: But from the scrum they concede a penalty, which Myler drives over. Five in it but this is the final play. They can’t, can they?

3.57pm BST

79 min: Farrell now produces another huge hit on Ken Pisi, who spills it and Sarries have a scrum entering the final minute.

3.56pm BST

78 min: That is amazing from Farrell. Nerves of steel. He extends the gap to eight points, or more importantly two scores. And that, you feel, is curtains.

3.54pm BST

77 min: But Northampton cannot continue and they concede a penalty on the 10. Farrell will go for the posts … This could be decisive.

3.54pm BST

75 min: Dickinson on for Clark. And when play restarts Kruis wins the lineout for Saracens. They work it through the phases, trying to draw a penalty in but are eventually turned over and Burrell makes some ground before bouncing off Farrell. Fotuali’i kicks from a ruck near the 10. It’s not great but Elliot somehow manages to retrieve.

3.52pm BST

72 min: Another Saints knock-on near halfway and Sarries have a free-kick after a failed attempt at the scrum. Farrell drives the ball so far into the air that it may have been seen in Allianz Park with a decent set of binoculars and the visitors get possession back. The ball works its way to Taylor, who finds touch on the right, a couple of metres outside the 22 – exactly where Sarries will want it.

3.48pm BST

70 min: Fotuali’i sends a delightful kick into the corner and the pressure is back on Saracens but they take their own lineout and clear the danger as far as the 10 where Ken Pisi will go again. He gives it to Elliot near the 22 but he spills it and we will scrum it on down.

3.45pm BST

69 min: Lawes takes the second lineout down, he feeds Manoa. Hartley takes it from the bottom of the ruck but is halted immediately. Seven phases later Lawes in front of the posts makes some yards but Saints are driven further left. Myler sends it back towards his right right and in the 12th phase Waller is punished for going in off his feet. That could be a big moment as the pressure was building to a level where Sarries may not have been able to handle it much longer.

3.44pm BST

67 min: From the lineout Saints get their maul on again, but Mako Vunipola is penalised for offside and we go back to the corner once more.

3.41pm BST

66 min: Before the lineout can be taken, Itoje replaces Wray.

3.40pm BST

65 min: Penalty count now reads 8-16, the latest from Saracens results in Myler kicking to the corner.

3.38pm BST

62 min: Pressure does not affect Owen Farrell. He sends a long-range kick over and the gap is now five.

3.36pm BST

61 min: Denman, off his feet, concedes a penalty in the scrum near halfway.

3.36pm BST

60 min: Du Plessis is replaced by Figallo for the final quarter.

3.34pm BST

57 min: What a game we have. This has come entirely against the run of play since half-time but – AGAIN – from a lineout Saints get their roll on in the maul. It’s unstoppable and Tom Wood makes it over. The referee spots Hartley and George having some afters and refers to the TMO but concludes that “I don’t see much in this”. With a chance to level proceedings again, Myler’s testing conversion is shanked wide to the right.

3.28pm BST

52 min: Saracens are really beginning to dominate proceedings now. Northampton’s pack look increasingly tired and badly missing the services of Corbisiero. Stephenson is penalised for not rolling away and Farrell uses the advantage to send a hail Mary to his right. It is claimed by Pisi, we go back for the penalty. Farrell does not break sweat, sending it over with ease. Denman comes on for Ma’afu in the Saints’ front row.

3.25pm BST

50 min: Dickson is off to have a head injury assessed, Fotuali’i is on for him. It may well be permanent.

3.23pm BST

49 min: Mako Vunipola kicks the ball away on halfway as Dickson tries to recycle from a ruck. That’s the 12th penalty conceded by Sarries compared to Northampton’s five.

3.22pm BST

47 min: That lead did not last long, though! Saracens are back in front through a Jamie George try but the credit must go to his pals in the pack after a terrific maul from a lineout in similar territory to where Saints earned their penalty try in the first half. A difficult conversion from Farrell is perfectly struck. The home forwards are looking a little jaded.

3.17pm BST

43 min: It’s been a similarly attritional start to the second period but Sarries have conceded a penalty inside their own 22 after a strong maul following a Saints lineout. Myler does not have any problems converting his fourth kick from four.

3.14pm BST

41 min: Farrell gets us going again. Saints change: Stephenson on for Wilson, who had replaced Tuala early on but picked up an injury.

3.08pm BST

It was 18-1 that this would finish level at 80 minutes! It wouldn’t be a bad shout now.

2.56pm BST

40 min +3: The final act of a heavy opening half sees Myler level it up again.

2.54pm BST

2.49pm BST

37 min: We’re enduring a little bit of a lull in the past couple of the minutes with some non-descript kicking back and forth but you’ve got to say the story of the half has been the phenomenal level of ferocity in the tackle.

2.45pm BST

35 min: Taylor is punished for a deliberate knock-on, deliberately slapping away a George Pisi pass, and Myler dispatches the kick to touch near Sarries’ 10.

2.43pm BST

34 min: Alex Corbisiero’s game is over with a shoulder injury – he is being replaced by Alex Waller, who scored the winning try in last year’s final.

2.43pm BST

32 min: Dylan Hartley produces a massive hit on Billy Vunipola. But Greg Garner gives a penalty for not rolling away afterwards. He also refers Hartley’s tackle to the TMO to see if he attempted to bind and after some debate it was judged to be fair. Farrell goes for the posts from 40m and swings it over to put the visitors back in front.

2.38pm BST

30 min: Almost immediately Northampton concede an unnecessary penalty for not rolling away quickly on their own 10 after good play from Itoje and Barritt. It’s a difficult one for Farrell, though, far on the right, and he hooks it too far left. That’s his first miss of the day and we remain tied.

2.35pm BST

27 min: Saracens denying Saints another score when down to 14 was a big psychological boost for the visitors but they cannot lead for long as from the restart they concede a penalty and Myler makes it 10-10.

2.33pm BST

26 min: Saracens rapidly clear their lines from the lineout and are up quickly to stop Saints advancing. Taylor is the fastest one up and forces a knock-on 35 from the posts. Farrell splits the posts.

2.31pm BST

23 min: From the lineout the ball works across to Wilson, who replaced the injured Tuala, and his delayed kick is almost blocked down. Myler, via Corbisiero’s collection, sends a second kick to touch. Itoje has returned with Barrington coming back off now Vunipola has returned.

2.29pm BST

22 min: Saracens concede a penalty and Farrell kicks to touch near halfway. Meanwhile, Mako returns.

2.27pm BST

22 min: Garner doesn’t like the first attempt, so it will be reset.

2.26pm BST

21 min: Saracens deal with it this time and send it to halfway but Saints are soon on their bike and back on the front-foot. Dickson makes the key break and motors into the 22. Corbisiero, Burrell and Wood are denied by big tackles as Saracens get their defensive shape back quickly before the hosts concede a penalty for obstruction. This is an important scrum …

2.22pm BST

18 min: Saints get a move on in the scrum and win a penalty. Myler buries it into the Sarries 22.

2.20pm BST

17 min: Before the scrum and due to Mako Vunipola’s sin binning, Barrington is on temporarily for Itoje.

2.19pm BST

16 min: Sarries go back on the attack but Barritt is judged to have given a forward pass to Taylor after a neat feed from Farrell.

2.18pm BST

14 min: Third time lucky! The maul is interrupted once more and Garner has had enough, awarding a penalty try – Saints’ sixth of the season. The extras are added from under the posts by Myler.

2.16pm BST

12 min: The lineout soon becomes a maul and it has enough behind it to make it over the line but Greg Garner says there’s no try, instead penalising Billy Vunipola for entering at the side. The following lineout turns into another ferocious maul and this time it is Mako who concedes the penalty and trudges off for 10 minutes with a bloodied nose to boot.

2.13pm BST

10 min: Burger produces a massive hit on Elliot and Saracens turn it over briefly before losing it again. Then Myler sends the ball into touch near the left-sided corner with a beautiful kick. From there Saints steal the lineout but Sarries defence repel them for 10 phases before conceding a penalty for not moving away quick enough. Does Myler go for the posts? No – it’s for the corner.

2.11pm BST

8 min: But Mako Vunipola has turned it over after two phases before the ball ends up in the Saints 22, from where it is kicked back again.

2.10pm BST

7 min: A Burger knock-on results in the first scrum of the game but from it the hosts display some more nervy handling. Burrell eventually kicks and wins a lineout on the Sarries 10 which is taken down by Wood.

2.09pm BST

6 min: Northampton have yet to really settle but you get the sense there will be helluva lot of kicking throughout this contest. Ahsee Tuala, the Saints full-back, has left the action for treatment on what appears to be an arm injury.

2.07pm BST

2 min: What a start! Strettle takes a poor pass from Barritt on the right touchline inside his own 10 and chips down the line. The ball bounces kindly, Taylor reaches it first, finds Strettle behind him. Burger tries to stop him advancing but the Sarries wing makes it across the line. Greg Garner checkes with the TMO but it’s never really in doubt. Farrell adds the extras.

2.03pm BST

1 min: Saracens send it back to where it came from and are up quick with a couple of solid early tackles to deny Saints any progress. It goes back and forth for a bit without either troubling.

2.01pm BST

Stephen Myler gets us underway!

2.00pm BST

The teams are emerging from the changing rooms to a lively welcome from a packed Franklin’s Gardens. Almost set!

1.37pm BST

There is one change on the Saracens bench – Jared Saunders steps into the place of Schalk Brits, who is ill – but both will start as announced.

1.15pm BST

Rub you hands together, lick your lips in preparation for what’s to come.

Northampton are the reigning champions and this year finished top of the table. They have a hex over Saracens, having beaten them in last year’s final – thanks to a try from the replacement prop Alex Waller in the final minute of extra-time – but the omens for them to retain their title do not look good. Only four of the past dozen champions finished the season on top of the table and only Leicester and Wasps have successfully defended their titles.

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