NORTHAMPTON stunned Saracens 27-13 at Allianz Park yesterday to reach their first Aviva Premiership final – and set-up a title showdown with east Midlands rivals Leicester.
The Saints had lost all five of their previous Premiership semi-finals but they roared into a 17-0 half-time lead with quick-fire tries from Brian Mujati and Jamie Elliot.
Owen Farrell kicked two penalties to keep alive any faint hopes of a Saracens comeback, but they were quashed when GJ Van Velze scored Northampton’s third try just before the hour.
Saracens did engineer a try from Duncan Taylor when Elliot was in the sin-bin but Northampton’s grip on the game was vice-like and Stephen Myler’s second penalty, on top of his three conversions, wrapped up a famous victory.
Northampton had finished 12 points behind table-topping Saracens in the regular season. They had lacked consistency at times but produced one of their performances of the campaign yesterday.
Perhaps only their victory at Ulster in the group stages of the Heineken Cup could match it.
Northampton’s shuddering physicality dominated the first half and it was only due to two missed penalty kicks from Myler that the match remained scoreless for 20 minutes.
Saracens were out of sorts but, knowing that two years ago Northampton had allowed a 22-6 half-time lead to slip against Leinster in the Heineken Cup final, they began the second period with greater urgency.
But they lacked composure in the face of a high-intensity performance from Northampton personified by Samu Manoa, the American international who was acting as a one-man destroyer from number eight.
Leicester sealed their place in a ninth consecutive final on Saturday with a 33-16 victory over 2012 champions Harlequins.
British and Irish Lions squad member Tom Croft was the standout for Leicester, highlighting an immense performance through a 50-metre solo score and a stunning try-saving tackle on his England colleague Danny Care when Quins led during the first-half.