Courtney Lawes delighted to sign off in style as Northampton edge Bath thriller

Lawes won the Gallagher Premiership in his final game for the Saints (Getty Images)
Lawes won the Gallagher Premiership in his final game for the Saints (Getty Images)

Courtney Lawes lifted the Premiership trophy then donned a pair of celebratory ski goggles – because he will leave English rugby at the game’s very summit.

Back-row titan Lawes captained home club Northampton to a 25-21 Premiership final victory over 14-man Bath at Twickenham, in his final game for the Saints.

The 35-year-old signed off in ultimate style, dragging Northampton across the line despite a difficult performance, in part down to Bath’s red card.

Beno Obano was sent off in the 22nd minute, but all that did was galvanise Bath, with the Saints grinding over the line, and only at the last.

Alex Mitchell’s last-ditch try saw the Saints sneak home, with Lawes adding to his 2014 league crown in his final Northampton outing.

The 105-cap England star will move to Brive this summer, and another Lions tour next summer is still a distinct possibility even though his Red Rose career is already one.

Thanks to his second Premiership triumph as a swansong though, Lawes will always be able to look at his 17-year Northampton career through rose-tinted specs.

And that might prove a blessing after the impending night out with those oversized ski goggles providing a tint of a completely different hue.

“I just don’t want to get anything in my eye, you know, alcohol and that, so safety first,” joked the goggle-clad Lawes, who also attended the post-match press conference minus a shirt.

“It’s hard to sum everything up to be honest, because it’s everything you could want, as a player.

“Well, you say that, but I would quite like to do another year.

“But things happen, times change. I’m glad I’m going out on my own terms.

“It’s quite hard to take in to be honest, especially when you’ve been so focused on this goal.

“Especially in that game, because I was so focused thinking ‘what do I actually need to do to get this game over the line’.

“I couldn’t believe we had won because we had tried so hard to lose it.

Lawes will continue his career with French side Brive (Getty Images)
Lawes will continue his career with French side Brive (Getty Images)

“And when we actually ended it, you’re like ‘did we do it? Did we win?’

“And then it takes a while to realise, we did, we’ve got the trophy, I’ve got the medal to show for it.

“But the credit goes to the boys this season, it’s been a hell of a ride, I’m very grateful for this team, and I’m very much looking forward to what they can do in the future.”

Bath’s performance playing almost an hour a man short was masterful, delivering everything but the title.

Rugby director Johann Van Graan hailed his players’ resolve and tenacity, and insisted the Blue, Black and Whites will console the tearful England prop Obano heartily.

Van Graan insisted Obano’s red card represented little more than a rugby incident, accepting the dismissal though clearly not happy with the outcome.

Bath turned a 15-3 deficit into a 21-18 lead heading into the final throes, before Mitchell popped up with the winning try.

“We were alive in this game until the very last play,” said Van Graan.

“We didn’t just hang on, and I couldn’t be prouder of this group.

“The red card is just part of the game, but we were so aligned and we stuck at everything, and came up just short.

“I don’t want to get into the rights and wrongs of decisions that are above my pay grade, but we had a World Cup final with a red card and a yellow card, and now we’ve had a Premiership final with a red card.

“But the referee went through the process, came to the decision and I shook his hand afterwards and thanked him for a good game.

“And I want to congratulate Northampton too, on a fantastic season, they are worthy champions.”