Harlequins crowned champions

Harlequins v Leicester

Chris Robshaw lifts the trophy

First published in National Sport © by

Harlequins were crowned champions of England for the first time - three years after their reputation looked battered beyond repair - by defeating Leicester 30-23 in a thrilling Twickenham final.

Quins came to the party by refusing to abandon their free-flowing style, and such adventure was rewarded as skipper Chris Robshaw lifted the Aviva Premiership trophy.

Tries in each half by wing Tom Williams and Robshaw - accompanied by 20 points from fly-half Nick Evans' trusty right boot - saw Quins become the sixth different club to be crowned Premiership champions after Newcastle, Leicester, Wasps, Sale and Saracens.

This time three years ago Quins were reeling from Bloodgate fall-out, a despicable cheating episode during a Heineken Cup quarter-final against Irish heavyweights Leinster.

Dean Richards, their rugby director at the time, received a three-year worldwide coaching ban for his role in instigating Williams chewing on a fake blood capsule in an attempt to get potential goalkicking matchwinner Evans back on the field after he had departed injured.

It was unquestionably English professional rugby's most unsavoury episode, but Quins - led by their inspirational Irish rugby director Conor O'Shea - have now turned things around spectacularly.

Evans kicked six penalties and a conversion, eclipsing his 19-year-old opposite number George Ford, whose 13-point haul included conversions of both Leicester tries by flanker Steve Mafi and centre Anthony Allen.

Leicester scored 10 unanswered points during the final quarter, but Quins had already done enough to consign the Tigers to their fifth defeat in eight successive Premiership final appearances.

It was the perfect send-off for England captain Robshaw and many of his Quins colleagues, who will depart next week on a three-Test tour to South Africa.

Robshaw deservedly took man-of-the-match honours, and it was hard to question whether there has been a more influential player on the English rugby stage this season.

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