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Lawes on a high after final triumph

Courtney Lawes says he will head to New Zealand "brimming with confidence" after playing a major part in Northampton's Aviva Premiership title triumph.

Saints were crowned English champions for the first time following a gripping 24-20 victory over Saracens that was clinched through substitute prop Alex Waller's last-gasp try in extra time.

It also meant Saracens ended a season that had promised so much without a trophy as Premiership heartbreak followed their Heineken Cup final loss to Toulon seven days earlier.

And few players proved more pivotal to Northampton's cause that England second-row giant Lawes, who combined a staggering work-rate with several of his trademark destructive tackles, notably one particular bone-crunching effort on Saracens fly-half Charlie Hodgson.

Lawes, though, will have little time to reflect on a memorable campaign for Saints as Premiership silverware joined the Amlin Challenge Cup in the Franklin's Gardens trophy cabinet after Northampton clinched a dramatic extra-time verdict.

He flies to New Zealand on Monday, where appointments with the All Blacks await him in Dunedin and Hamilton later this month.

"Most of our players who are going to New Zealand produced good individual performances. I'm going to go there brimming with confidence, ready to enjoy myself," Lawes said.

"It has been a very long year, but it's just two more games, so you've just got to crack on. You will always be up for a Test match - we will fire into them.

"I am going to go out there looking to enjoy myself, get ball in hand and build on this confidence I've got through the season, from being fit and able to play rugby week in, week out."

Northampton, last year's beaten Premiership finalists, finished nine points behind Saracens over the 22-game regular league season, but late try-scoring exploits against Leicester and Saracens in the competition's knockout phase underlined their resilience.

And it means Saints became the seventh different club to be crowned Premiership champions after Newcastle, Leicester, Wasps, Sale Sharks, Saracens and Harlequins.

"It is pretty crazy, a phenomenal feeling," Lawes added.

"I had a pretty good angle (on Waller's winning try that required a television match official verdict). I saw the ball go down and initially I was saying 'yeah, I am pretty sure that's a try'.

"After (seeing) a couple of angles, I was a bit like, "Ooohh', but then we finally got the decision. I didn't have any energy left, so I was just sitting down, praying that we got the decision.

"I don't think you can describe it - how important it is - not just for the club, but for the town. I think it has been building up to this for some time.

"We've been a very young side, sometimes a bit rash and with all the talent in the world, but not always making the right decisions at the right times.

"It just shows that we are maturing as a squad and we are able to win these games in the last minute or the last 20 minutes. It's phenomenal to be part of it. We've still got a lot more to come.

"We have had a great year and picked up some great wins, and now this is just the cherry on top.

"Going into the game we were saying it is just another game and everything else will just fit into place. You will never not be up for a Premiership Final.

"We've been in the top four for the last few seasons. It (title) has been a long time coming, but we've been building towards it. We are not too old - most of us are 25, 26, 27 - so hopefully we can do this for the next few years."

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