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Owen Farrell leaves shores as one of England’s greats with last starring role
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Owen Farrell leaves shores as one of England’s greats with last starring role

Owen Farrell cut a lone figure as he walked round the perimeter of Franklin’s Gardens applauding fans, most of them for Northampton. And, here’s the thing, they applauded him back.

A cacophony of boos had greeted his every contribution in the Premiership semi-final that had gone before, apart from the stunned silence for a couple of flashes of brilliance from the man that had conjured two tries for Saracens in the second half.

But, with the Saints safely through to the final following their 22-20 victory on Friday night, their faithful felt moved at last to pay tribute to a player who has always divided opinion but will now leave these shores for France as one of England’s greats.

That Farrell was walking at all, let alone had just played his last starring role for Saracens, in the playoff was an achievement in itself. Mark McCall, Sarries’ rugby director, revealed afterwards that Farrell had been “on one leg” all week. He had picked up a small tear in his quad at training on Monday. His participation was in doubt right up to the warmup, in which he did not partake. He handed over kicking duties for the match to Elliot Daly.

“He wasn’t going to kick at all,” said McCall. “He might have kicked with his right foot twice, but he didn’t want to. It’s incredible for him in his last game at Saracens to do that for the team.”

Incredible, too, the lengths to which Saracens would go to get him on the pitch. Incredible that he made 12 tackles, second only in Saracens ranks to the tireless Juan Martín González; incredible the way he dummied and broke and measured a perfect chip, one of those two kicks he made with his right foot all match, for Saracens’ first try by Alex Lewington, another playing for one last time in their colours.

There was the feeling of an end to an era. The Vunipola brothers, Mako and Billy, also bade farewell. Had the result been otherwise, it would have been Northampton’s Courtney Lawes, Alex Waller and Lewis Ludlam among those saying their goodbyes. As it was, they said their farewells to Franklin’s Gardens before marching on Twickenham for one last hurrah next week.

“We all feel very emotional,” said McCall about Saracens’ departing players. “They’ve been incredible for the club. They’ve made friends for lives and had some wonderful, wonderful moments over the years. It’s been a hell of a journey these last 10 to 15 years.

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“If you saw Mako [Vunipola] on his first day at Saracens you wouldn’t have thought he was going to have three Lions tours and 60-odd caps for England. Same with Billy. Everyone always thought Owen was destined for great things, but it took him time as well. To watch them develop as people over the years has been great. I just feel lucky and blessed to have been here when they were.”

Source: theguardian.com