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Lee Radford wins Premiership Rugby title 15 months after Super League exit

Lee Radford

Former Hull FC and Castleford Tigers boss Lee Radford is the latest rugby league coach to experience huge success in rugby union.

Radford left Castleford in March 2023, taking over as Northampton Saints defence coach four months later. Within just one season, ‘Radders’ has helped the Saints become Premiership Rugby champions – achieved mainly due to the defensive improvements under Radford.

Northampton defeated Bath 25-21 in the showpiece event at Twickenham on Saturday afternoon, with the match played at exactly the same time as the Challenge Cup Final.

It was a deserved title for the Midlands club, who finished top of the regular season table on points difference ahead of Bath.

For Radford it was a day to remember after leaving Castleford under a cloud 15 months ago just three games into the Super League season.

It wasn’t a straightforward afternoon for Radford and Northampton though despite their opponents Bath having a player sent off after 21 minutes.

In similar fashion to the clash at Wembley, there was early controversy, but while Chris Kendall was showing yellow cards, down the road at Twickenham there was a red card shown to prop Beno Obano 21 minutes in.

Northampton struggled despite their man advantage and it took a try from scrum-half Alex Mitchell with seven minutes left to give them the win against a plucky Bath outfit.

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Lee Radford impact guides Northampton to Premiership glory

Lee Radford left Castleford in March 2023. Credit: Imago Images

In the 2023 Rugby Premiership, Northampton, much like this season, were one of the best attacking sides, however, their defence was one of the worst in the competition and prevented them from challenging for silverware.

With that fixed up, Saints were able to go to the next level this season, thanks to Radford’s defensive impact. Speaking to the Sunday Times ahead of the final, he revealed that he told the players they would win the competition if they improved their defence.

“I probably didn’t realise how big a challenge it was, how important the need for change was, until the season started because literally every interview with Phil Dowson [the director of rugby] was, ‘Great attacking side but you can’t defend,’ ” Radford said.

“It was an easy sell. In my opening meeting with the players I said, ‘All I have heard is how good we are with the ball and if we can just fix up our defence then we can win this.’ If someone had told me at the age of 24 that I just needed to fix my defence to win a competition then I would have been all in.

“If you watch the Sarries semi last year, we got it handed to us physically. There was some scarring there. We needed to get bigger and stronger. The players really went after that in pre-season.

“It added to the philosophy that we were going to get more mentally tougher and physically get after teams. The more power you have in your punch, the more chance you have of knocking them out.”

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. John

    June 9, 2024 at 7:24 pm

    Right shaped ball. Wrong code. Didn’t even know it was happening.

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