Andre Esterhuizen, Wilco Louw and Tyrone Green starred as Harlequins beat the Exeter Chiefs at Twickenham to claim their first English Premiership title since 2012.
Esterhuizen and Louw each crashed over to score a crucial try, and Green was also influential in Quins’ 40-38 victory, illustrated by his try assist to Louis Lynagh in the 77th minute of a riveting finale. Another South African, Stephan Lewies, captained Harlequins.
For Harlequins, it was a first appearance in the English Premiership championship match since 2012 – when they won the title – and they made sure it was a return with a bang as they became the first team since Saracens six years ago to finish fourth after the regular season and still be crowned champions.
This was another astonishing display by Harlequins, who had been 28-0 down in their semi-final against Bristol Bears before winning 43-36 in extra-time.
And it completed a remarkable season for the capital city side, whose Stoop headquarters are a short walk from Twickenham, after they were thrashed 49-7 by French side Racing 92 in the European Champions Cup in December.
They have also been effectively coached by a committee since parting company with director of rugby Paul Gustard in January.
Lynagh scored two late tries on a ground where his father, Michael Lynagh, helped Australia win the 1991 Rugby World Cup final.
The Quins wing’s late double, allied to two fine conversions by Marcus Smith, enabled them to lead 40-31 against the reigning champions with just seven minutes remaining.
But Exeter, in arguably the most stunning Premiership final of them all, scored from the restart, with Stuart Hogg going over for a converted try.
The Scotland captain’s score helped reduced Quins’ lead to just two points with 60 seconds left.
But Quins held out as the London club won their first Premiership title since 2012.
Exeter have reached the last six Premiership finals but this was a fourth defeat in the showpiece match for the southwest club following losses to Saracens in 2016, 2018 and 2019.
© Agence France-Presse