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Wood delight at ending Tigers run

Northampton Saints have exposed the myth of Leicester Tigers' hoodoo over the Franklin's Gardens club, according to Premiership semi-final match-winner Tom Wood.

England flanker Wood claimed the try that sunk Leicester in Northampton's breathless 21-20 victory on Friday night.

Leicester powered into a 17-6 half-time lead, and Saints' outlook became increasingly bleak when prop Salesi Ma'afu was sent off for punching Tom Youngs.

Tries from George North and Wood cancelled out Manu Tuilagi and Ben Youngs' scores, as Saints sneaked to their second successive final.

Last season Dylan Hartley's red card allowed Leicester to swipe the title 37-17 at Twickenham.

One year on and Wood and company have eased those memories somewhat: but also ended Leicester's run of 10 games without defeat over their fierce rivals.

"I've always known we've had it in us," said Wood, already eyeing a first Premiership title.

"It's been frustrating to talk about being nearly men, about this omen, and this hold Leicester have had over us.

"It's a bit of a myth really because it's such tight margins, we've drawn and been very competitive.

"It's been so frustrating, to know you've got that in you.

"And we could have been so much better in this game even.

"So to get over the line finally is a huge positive and something we're really proud of."

Wood surveyed the outpouring of elation and relief that greeted the final whistle and conceded Saints have their work cut out to stay calm in the face of two consecutive finals.

Jim Mallinder's side face Bath in the Amlin Challenge Cup final on Friday, May 23, before heading to Twickenham for the Premiership showpiece a week later.

"It's a pretty big high that: the atmosphere was amazing, a proper East Midlands derby, all sorts to talk about and loads to contend with," said Wood.

"We were our own worst enemy at times, but I'm just glad we stuck to it.

"We tested the likes of their props that they were going to rely heavily on for potentially 80 minutes, and try not to allow Manu Tuilagi and those likes to be fresh and running at full tilt.

"It's difficult to manage now because that's such a high.

"There's so much to celebrate and so many positives, but the job's not finished and somehow we've got to keep our feet on the ground, and regroup.

"It's all about preparing for two massive finals now, and we've worked too hard for too long to come away with nothing.

"There's great pride to be taken for reaching two finals.

"It's far better than most teams will do this year, but we have high expectations of ourselves, and we've got to go that extra step and win something this year, it would be criminal if we don't.

"We've got too much talent, we've worked too hard and we've got to give it everything and believe we can do it.

"We're not entitled to it, but I think we've got the armoury to win it if we get everything right.

"We've got to go up another gear I think."

Dejected Leicester boss Richard Cockerill admitted his side's indiscipline cost them a 10th-straight Premiership final berth.

Dan Bowden, Vereniki Goneva and Tom Youngs all picked up yellow cards, while there was an increasing penalty count in the second half.

"It hurts because it's Northampton, and it hurts because it's a semi-final," said Cockerill.

"They deserved it and we just made far too many errors.

"Ultimately not winning silverware is a big disappointment and effectively a failure for a club of our stature.

"But my players have given everything and I am extremely proud of what they have achieved.

"Northampton are a good club and we are a great club.

"They celebrated like they had won the title out there.

"They will move on to the final and good luck to them, but we will be back stronger next season."


From Belfast Telegraph