Leicester Tigers hold off Northampton Saints to lift LV Cup

Leicester Tigers 26-14 Northampton Saints
Fly-half George Ford kicks 16 points in Tigers triumph
George Ford
George Ford produced a near flawless display for Leicester Tigers in their LV Cup final victory against Northampton Saints. Photograph: Jamie Mcdonald/Getty Images

There are some in the Leicester camp who believe George Ford to be the new Jonny Wilkinson, and the 19-year-old fly-half demonstrated why with a nerveless and almost flawless display with the boot as the Tigers overcame their east Midlands rivals Northampton Saints to secure the first silverware of the rugby season, and with it entry into next season's Heineken Cup.

Ford kicked four penalties and two conversions and was calmness personified in a chaotic, intense game that was decided when, with Leicester 19-9 ahead and defending desperately, the Tigers winger Scott Hamilton intercepted a floated pass by the Saints stand-off Stephen Myler and ran the length of the field to score.

The unfortunate Myler was immediately quietly replaced, while Ford left the field 10 minutes later to a standing ovation. Northampton reacted by redoubling the pressure, but although Christian Day finally forced his way over from close range, it came too late to give the Tigers' celebrating supporters cause for genuine concern.

"For some of the lads it was a first big game, but while we were slightly fortunate with the interception, I thought we were good for the win," said the Leicester director of rugby, Richard Cockerill. "We were under the cosh for virtually the whole of the second half, and it was a fierce game. Regardless of the trophy it was the first time we've met Northampton in a final for 130-odd years, and we didn't want to have hanging around our necks for losing."

Saints must have been confident after a start which saw their pack win two quick penalties for collapsed scrums and Leicester react by bringing on Marcos Ayerza for the tighthead prop Boris Stankevich.

Myler kicked both, but Ford was equally accurate, and shortly before the half-hour Leicester's backs, always the more creative, manufactured a gap for Billy Twelvetrees to make a half-break. The centre popped the ball up to Graham Kitchener to continue the momentum before the ball was spun left, and Steve Mafi burst through two attempted tackles to score.

The introduction of Brian Mujati in the second half gave the Saints more drive, and George Pisi looked certain to score before losing control with the line beckoning.

Hamilton's interception forced them to take risks, but prompted by Ryan Lamb, they camped down in the Tigers 22, winning a series of penalties before the referee, JP Doyle, finally lost patience and when the Leicester captain Geordan Murphy was sent to the sin bin. Day's score followed, but Leicester tackled superbly, none more so than the prop Logovi'i Mulipola in bundling Soane Tonga'uiha into touch just feet from the try-line. "They defended well, stopped us playing, and the interception was crucial," said Cockerill's opposite number, Jim Mallinder. "It was unfortunate, Stephen saw someone coming out of the [defensive] line and tried to float it over him.

"In the first half we didn't really look after the ball enough, but in the second half we did what we wanted to do, and if it hadn't been for a little bit of fortune and some very good defence, we'd have probably scored a couple of times. We're disappointed now, but we have five league games, including Leicester at home and we'll be hoping to take our revenge."

Leicester Murphy; Agulla, Smith (Forsyth 73), Twelvetrees, Hamilton; Ford (Flood 65), Grindal; Stankovich (Ayerza 11), Hawkins (Youngs 21), Mulipola, Skivington, Kitchener, Mafi, Newby (Salvi 50), Waldrom.

Tries Mafi, Hamilton. Pens Ford 4 Cons Ford 2.

Sin-bin Murphy

Northampton Diggin; Artemyev (May 67), Pisi, Downey, Armstrong; Myler (Lamb 51), Roberts (Glynn 69); Tonga'uiha (Waller 67), Long (McMillan 69), Doran-Jones (Mujati 46), Craig (Sorenson 67), Day, Clark, Wood (Nutley 69), Wilson.

Tries Day. Pens Myler 3.

Referee JP Doyle. Attendance 10,923.