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Proud coach Mallinder hails Saints’ character

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Jim Mallinder hailed Saints’ character after they clinched a stunning late 21-20 victory against Leicester to advance to the Aviva Premiership final.

Tom Wood’s try two minutes from time raised the roof at Franklin’s Gardens as 14-man Saints recovered from 17-6 down to secure a memorable success.

It ended a run of 10 winless clashes with Leicester and ruined the Tigers’ chances of reaching a 10th successive grand final.

And Mallinder couldn’t have been happier with his side, who stayed strong after Salesi Ma’afu saw red for punching England hooker Tom Youngs.

“It was a very good game of rugby,” said the Saints boss.

“A lot of credit to Leicester. They’ve come here, they’re a good team, they’ve been to 10 successive finals and it’s a credit to them.

“Both sides put in good performances, but I think we just deserved it in the end.

“We went in at half-time down, but we said we had to keep playing and moving their front five around.

“To go down to 14 men for the last 10 minutes or so and still get that try was a massive testament to the character of the squad.”

Tries from Manu Tuilagi and Ben Youngs sent Leicester in 11 points up at the break, with Saints needing a monumental second-half performance to get back in the game.

And they produced one, with George North and Wood crossing the whitewash to ensure Ma’afu’s 56th-minute red was rendered meaningless.

“We thought we could still do it,” said Mallinder. “We didn’t want to get into an arm wrestle against Leicester - they’re good at that.

“They want to slow things down and we wanted to keep the tempo high. Kahn (Fotuali’i) started that and Lee Dickson and the rest of the subs kept that going.”

 

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