THERE will be no love lost when local rivals Leicester Tigers and Northampton Saints lock horns at Twickenham for an explosive east Midlands derby.
Leicester Tigers are appearing in a ninth consecutive final in search of a 10th Premiership title. The last of those came two years ago after a 33-27 triumph over Saracens, who were beaten by the Saints in the semi-final.
Richard Cockerill’s men have qualified for the previous two finals before falling short against Saracens and Harlequins respectively. Revenge was taken over the English champions in the last round with a resounding 33-16 victory inspired by Matthew Tait and Tom Croft.
Saturday’s showdown is only the second Premiership final not to feature the number one seeds after Gloucester in the 2007-08 campaign, and no club who finished lower than runner-up has ever gone onto secure the trophy. The Saints are clear underdogs and Coral offer 7/4 about Jim Mallinder’s men to cause an upset.
Leicester arrive in top form having accumulated 65 points in their past two games, whereas the Saints have racked up 46 points in the same period. A 27-26 defeat at Bath at the end of April is the only time the Tigers have lost since February.
Although this is the Saints’ first Premiership final at rugby HQ they won’t feel intimidated with this being their sixth trip here. A return of two wins isn’t the strongest record and those only came in the 2000 European Cup final and National Trophy final in 2008. Before the last four victory over Saracens at Allianz Park the Saints had only registered one win from nine games against the top four clubs.
These two have met on 227 occasions, yet only once before at a neutral venue. It finished 26-14 to the Tigers that day and they have had the beating of their neighbours in the past seven meetings. Three years have passed since the Saints got the better of the Tigers in a 27-19 Premiership win at Franklin’s Gardens.
Northampton are playing well though with a lone defeat in four matches. Jamie Elliott has been instrumental during that run and his performances landed him Saints’ Young Player of the Year. One of his 10 tries this campaign came in the semi-final and he will be dangerous in the backs.
Despite Elliott’s efforts, the Tigers outscored the Saints during the season with 538 points compared to 501. That dominance can also be seen in the defensive stakes with Cockerill’s team conceding 88 fewer points in 22 matches.
Both clubs enjoy playing with ball in hand and the sunny outlook forecast for south west London will be favourable for attacking rugby. Leicester were at their clinical best against Quins and weathered a storm when needed to set them up perfectly for a tenth final triumph.
Coral are offering 4/9 for a Tigers win, but I’d rather back them with the -6 handicap at 10/11 with the same firm. Spread bettors are encouraged to buy the Tigers’ supremacy at 8 with Sporting Index.
Leicester Tigers to win with -6 handicap at 10/11 with Coral
Buy Leicester/Northamton match supremacy at 8 with Sporting Index