Leicester 33-27 Saracens, Guinness Premiership Final, May 29
Saracens happy to silence their critics
May 30, 2010
Saracens' Glen Jackson reflects on his side's agonising defeat to Leicester © Getty Images
Departing Saracens fly-half Glen Jackson believes his side delivered a "slap in the face" to the Rugby Football Union with a battling display against Leicester in Saturday's Guinness Premiership Final.
Saracens may have come up agonisingly short - losing 33-27 in a pulsating Twickenham encounter - but Jackson believes the team succeeded in silencing those critics have targeted the club since the new South African owners, fronted by outspoken chief executive Edward Griffiths, moved in last season.
Saracens have not been afraid to challenge the establishment - whether over the RFU's decision to ban director of rugby Brendan Venter from Saturday's match or England's failure to select any of their players for the summer tour of Australia and New Zealand. Jackson reminded the critics that not only did Saracens push Leicester right to the limit in a classic Premiership final but, off the field, this season was a roaring success.
"Some people don't like what we have done but we have the best chief executive anyone could have," said Jackson. "It is tough to try and attract spectators with football the main sport in England and three other teams in London. But we have had crowds of over 40,000 at Wembley, 60,000 at Twickenham and a sell-out final.
"Despite what the Rugby Football Union did against Brendan, our achievements this season have been a slap in their face." Venter watched the final at home on television after receiving a 10-week suspension - reduced from 14 weeks on appeal - for an altercation with Leicester supporters during Saracens' victory at Welford Road on the last day of the regular season.
"It is something they (the RFU) didn't need to do and it looks pretty bad for them," said Jackson. "He must have been threatened with something quite bad not to be here because he has led the club into a pretty good place but we didn't see him all day."
Venter missed a pulsating encounter, comfortably the best Premiership Final, as Leicester defended their title in a dramatic finale. Jackson's penalty four minutes from time edged Saracens ahead but Leicester struck back immediately from the restart and Dan Hipkiss scored the decisive try.
"Six years ago we were fighting relegation and it didn't feel like a professional outfit. Now we have a wonderful training base, some good owners, fantastic coaching staff and players," said Jackson. "We should be a team to fight for the top four every year. We are up there with the best teams in England.
"That late kick was one of the most nerve-wracking of my career. There was always a chance we could come back and Leicester showed why they are Premiership champions again."
Jackson returns to New Zealand next week to begin his career as a referee, with the ambition of returning to England for the 2015 as an official. "English rugby is in a really good place," said Jackson. "For the neutral it was a pretty good final. Saracens have been great to me and we have had a family here but I'm coming up to 35 and happy to be leaving the game in the state it is. I have one more week here to have a few beers with the boys and then I head back to New Zealand and pick up the refereeing."