Dylan Hartley was sent off in the first half as Leicester Tigers were crowned Premiership Champions with a 37-17 victory at Twickenham.
Northampton’s hopes of a win were left in tatters after skipper Hartley was shown a red card just before the break for dissent.
Wayne Barnes had warned the Saints hooker minutes earlier but he went to his pocket when Hartley allegedly called the official a “f****** cheat”.
The game was in the balance at 13-5 but without the Lions hooker Northampton were always going to struggle to stay in the game.
George Ford, on for the injured Toby Flood, kicked the resulting penalty but 14-man Northampton amazingly struck first in the second-half with a try from full-back Ben Foden.
The England international finished off a move involving Stephen Myler and James Wilson to add to first-half scores from Leicester’s Niall Morris and Northampton’s Myler.
But Leicester made their man advantage count and responded with a try and a penalty of their own. Ben Youngs found Graham Kitchener from the foot of the breakdown and the second-row was too quick for Brian Mujati as he picked a hole and powered past Ben Foden and touch down in the corner.
To their credit, Northampton came back once more. Luther Burrell showed his strength in midfield and scrum-half Lee Dicskon sweeped his offload from the deck to slide over and keep the Saints in contention.
The Tigers, though, have lost two finals on the bounce and they did not look like they were going to lose a third.
Manu Tuilagi broke through the tackle of England captain Tom Wood to stretch their lead before Vereniki Goneva took full advantage of Steve Mafi’s interception to charge through and seal the victory.
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