So the Premiership final will, for the third time, be a clash between Exeter Chiefs and Saracens. This has been an odds-on possibility for the vast majority of the season. These two have monopolised the top positions and were always likely to have home semi finals. Given their respective excellent home records, any Premiership away semi-final contenders were going to struggle.
But it’s it always a given that the top two will win their semi-final? Last Word on Rugby looks back at the best away winners Premiership semi-finals who have shown it can be done.
Premiership away semi-final winners
Saracens 13 vs 27 Northampton Saints
Perhaps the biggest upset in play-off history. Fourth placed Northampton travelled to the brand new Allianz Park, where Saracens had never lost. Saints stunned their hosts by racing into a 17-0 halftime lead, from which Saracens could never recover. Check out the best of the action here:
It’s hard to recall now but this was the era where Saracens had major struggles in knockout games and were not the ruthless machine they are now. One of the few times they actually topped the Premiership table, they failed to reach the final. How times have changed.
Northampton Saints 24 – 29 Saracens
Following the closest ever final at Twickenham where Northampton won in extra time, these sides met again in 2015. This time, Northampton finished top and Saracens fourth. It was a much closer affair on this occasion, but another away win resulted. Both sides earned their tries through powerful forward play and ultimately it was the boot of Owen Farrell that got Saracens over the line.
Gloucester 25 – 26 Leicester Tigers
2008 saw the first time an away side won a semi final, in dramatic circumstances. This was a rematch of the 2007 final where Leicester comprehensively beat table toppers Gloucester. Holders Tigers scraped into the play-offs on the final day of the season and faced Gloucester who finished first for the second year running.
A tryless first half left Gloucester leading 15-6 until Alesana Tuilagi battered his way past five defenders to score in front of the Shed. James Simpson-Daniel hit back almost immediately to extend the lead to 22-13. A frantic period of play led to Iain Balshaw passing the ball against his own post allowing Aaron Mauger to score and reduce the deficit to two points. Leicester landed another penalty to take the lead, before Willie Walker nicked a drop goal off the post for Gloucester to lead again. However Leicester still had time to go down the other end and Andy Goode slotted a drop goal of his own and silence Kingsholm.
Harlequins 0 – 17 London Irish
Certainly not a classic that is widely remembered, but still a brilliant achievement by London Irish to keep their hosts scoreless in a semi-final. They were certainly helped by some wayward kicking the usually reliable Nick Evans, but also from Mike Brown. Remarkably the score was 0-0 at half time, helped by two bad misses by Peter Hewat for Irish as well.
It took the fourth kicker of the day Delon Armitage to break the deadlock with a penalty. Then the old head of Mike Catt took control. First a wonderful delayed pass sent James Hudson under the sticks, then he intercepted an ambitious pass from Andy Gomarsall to confirm his side’s first Premiership final appearance. They went on to lose agonisingly to Leicester Tigers by a single point at Twickenham.
Looking ahead to Exeter Chiefs and Saracens clash at Twickenham
Gloucester and Northampton fought valiantly, but Saracens and Exeter always looked assured of their final place; a Premiership away semi-final was not expected and so it proved. Saracens will be favourites to complete another double whilst the Chiefs will feel they still need to prove themselves on the biggest stage.
Will the result be the same – let us know what you reckon 🤔 pic.twitter.com/kchPNQAhMX
— Premiership Rugby (@premrugby) May 25, 2019
Saracens play Exeter Chiefs at Twickenham on Saturday 1st June.
Main image credit: Embed from Getty Images