Premiership semi-final: Northampton 21-20 Leicester
Northampton (6) 21
- North, Wood
- Myler 3
Leicester (17) 20
- Tuilagi, B Youngs
- Flood 2
- Flood, Williams
Tom Wood's dramatic late try put Northampton Saints into the Premiership final with a stunning comeback win over East Midlands rivals Leicester.
Manu Tuilagi crossed first for Tigers and, even though Niki Goneva was sin-binned, Ben Youngs added a second before the break as Leicester led 17-6.
Salesi Ma'afu's red card for punching Tom Youngs meant Saints had to play the final 25 minutes with 14 men.
But George North got them back in it before Wood touched down in the corner.
It was a ferocious late onslaught from Saints that sent Franklin's Gardens into raptures and denied their rivals a 10th consecutive appearance in the final, with Tigers overcoming Jim Mallinder's side in last season's Twickenham showpiece.
Trailing by 11 points at half-time, it looked as if Ma'afu's dismissal would extend Northampton's miserable winless run against Leicester to 10 games, but with less than two minutes on the clock, England flanker Wood was on hand to finish off a belligerent Tigers defensive effort.
Leicester director of rugby Richard Cockerill, a manic figure up in the stands, said in the week that his side raise their game against their local rivals, and the early going validated his statement.
In a breathtakingly quick opening 10 minutes in front of a boisterous crowd, fly-half Toby Flood, in his last game for Tigers before leaving for Toulouse, picked up the only points, knocking over a straightforward penalty.
A period of Saints pressure followed, with scrum-half Kahn Fotuali'i almost going through a gap, only to be stopped by Mathew Tait, and Phil Dowson thought he had secured the first try when crossing after a steal at a Tigers line-out, but it was ruled out for an early jump.
Stephen Myler levelled up with a penalty of his own, but Leicester took control as Tait's superb break was stopped short of the line, allowing the ball to go through Ben Youngs and Flood, before Tuilagi had a simple finish, and Flood converted.
Niki Goneva's timely challenge halted Ben Foden as Saints responded, but the wing infringed at the breakdown and was sent to the sin bin, allowing Myler to land a 35-metre penalty.
Despite the one-man disadvantage, Tigers were over the whitewash again when Jordan Crane palmed a line-out down to Logovi'i Mulipola, whose burst allowed Ben Youngs, impressive all night, to collect the scraps and cross, before Flood picked up the extras.
Shortly after the break Tigers were back down to 14 men, with Dan Bowden seeing yellow for a dangerous tackle on Tom Collins, and Myler put over his third penalty.
But Ma'afu's moment of madness looked to have stymied the response, landing a left hook in a fight with Tom Youngs, that saw the Australian prop red-carded and the England hooker sent to the bin.
It was the cue for tempers to flare all over the pitch and a melee on the touchline ensued moments later without any repercussions for either side.
Saints, pinning back the visitors, found a breakthrough when Wales wing North piledrived over after he picked up the scraps from a catch and drive, and Myler was on target to pull within a point of Leicester.
Replacement Owen Williams's penalty looked to ease Leicester's concerns.
But, with time running out, Myler and Luther Burrell's quick hands found Wood in the corner and the forward crashed over to send Saints to Twickenham and a third final of the season, after losing at the last stage of the LV= Cup and with the Amlin Challenge Cup still to come.
Northampton Saints director of rugby Jim Mallinder:
"I think it was a very good game of rugby. Full credit to Leicester - they're a good team.
"It was two good performances from both sides, but I think we just deserved it.
"We went in down at half-time but said we have to keep playing and moving their front five around.
"To go down to 14 men and still come out of it was testament to the massive character of the side.
"We thought we could still do it. We didn't want to get into an arm wrestle with Leicester. They're good at that and want to slow things down and we want a high tempo."
Leicester Tigers director of rugby Richard Cockerill:
"I'm obviously disappointed. Both sides played very well and everyone threw everything at it.
"There was the usual controversy, as ever. In the end the discipline cost us but we could have won the game, should have won the game.
"It was a great game for the neutral. No excuses. They played well. Sometimes you get beaten."
Northampton Saints: Foden; Collins, G Pisi, Burrell, North; Myler, Fotuali'i; A Waller, Haywood, Ma'afu; Manoa, Lawes; Wood, Dowson (capt), Dickinson.
Replacements: Corbisiero for Waller (51), Clark for Dowson (54), Mercey for Collins (57), Dickson for Fotuali'i (62), Wilson for G Pisi (66), Day for Manoa (68).
Not used: McMillan, Stephenson.
Sent-off: Ma'afu (56).
Leicester Tigers: Tait; Morris, Tuilagi, Bowden, Goneva; Flood, B Youngs; Ayerza, T Youngs, Mulipola; Deacon, Slater (captain); Gibson, Salvi, Crane.
Replacements: Briggs for Gibson (57), Mafi for Tait (61), Williams for Flood (62), Kitchener for Deacon (68), Thompstone for Briggs (68).
Not used: Bristow, Balmain, Mele.
Sin Bin: Goneva (28), Bowden (45). Youngs (56).
Ref: JP Doyle (RFU).