Tears of joy replace tears of despair for Hartley

AFP| Updated: Jun 01, 2014, 06:04 AM IST

London: A year ago England hooker Dylan Hartley left Twickenham in disgrace after being sent off in the Premiership final but one year on he was all smiles as Northampton celebrated their first ever English title.

The Saints won it in the most dramatic of fashions with a try in the last minute of extra-time by Alex Waller -- converted by Stephen Myler -- to secure a 24-20 win over Saracens.

"That was the perfect warm-up for New Zealand," said Hartley referring to the upcoming England tour of his country of birth.

Hartley and the rest of the England players in the final were given a clean bill of health and will be flying out to join up with the rest of Stuart Lancaster`s squad already preparing to take on the world champions.

He immediately set his sights on playing in the Second Test against the All Blacks having huffed and puffed his way through 50 minutes in total here.

"Having not played for so long I was happy to come off the bench," he said.

"The selection was proved right and I managed to get 50 minutes so it was a good work out.

"You can`t replicate Test rugby but in terms of game time and the intensity this was just what I needed before going to New Zealand. It was the perfect warm-up. I`d love to play in the Second Test but that`s not up to me.

"It`s an unbelievable feeling to win this title and for the club to be English champions. We always felt we could do it, and now we have after so many setbacks over the years.

"I was always confident we would do it. Even at the end when things were tight but all credit to Alex Waller. What a try to score. He had to go off with a cut face and come back on again. So he`s a hero.

"We have an unbelievable squad and this certainly makes up for last year when things didn`t go so well! Now we can go and celebrate big time. I`m taking the trophy to bed with me tonight!"

Another England player, flanker and Saints captain Tom Wood is also hoping to make his mark in New Zealand after leading Saints to a remarkable double, having won the European Challenge Cup last weekend.

"This is a special moment for everyone connected to Northampton so far and now I can`t wait to get to New Zealand for the next challenge," said Wood.

"I am tired now after such a such a physical match but I will be fine for England. I will think about that once I am on the plane because we have some celebrating to do."

Lancaster will be delighted those England players who played at Twickenham are fit, including Courtney Lawes, Stephen Myler and Owen Farrell.

Fortunately, it was only cramp that forced Owen Farrell to limp out of the action in the second half and not a recurrence of an ankle injury.

Saracens` Director of Rugby Mark McCall shrugged off the deep despair of losing a second major Final in seven days -- having lost to Toulon in the European Cup final -- and pointed a finger at referee JP Doyle for crucial decisions which he claimed cost his side dear.

"We had a try ruled out for a forward pass after the referee had given it but then they got away with one which also had a forward pass in the build up," he said.

"Even the try at the end was unclear. JP Doyle even admitted it was still unclear so it was one of those days when nothing went our way.

"This defeat is painful for the players and it`s a tough way to end a season. We`ve had an incredible season and the guys will bounce back from this setback and be even stronger next time."