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'Those last five minutes encapsulated it - the fight, the belief'

By PA
Freddie Steward /PA

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Freddie Steward wants Leicester to use their Gallagher Premiership title triumph as a springboard for future success.

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The Tigers completed one of English rugby’s most memorable revivals by being crowned champions after twice flirting with relegation.

Only Newcastle finished below them in 2019, then two years ago Leicester avoided the drop because Saracens were relegated as punishment for repeated salary cap breaches.

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But they ended a nine-year wait to secure Premiership silverware by toppling Saracens 15-12 at Twickenham courtesy of Freddie Burns’ drop-goal 20 seconds from time.

While Leicester plummeted down the league table, Saracens, Exeter, Northampton and Harlequins all surged past them to land titles that the Tigers used to win on a regular basis.

Under head coach Steve Borthwick, though, they have reached the summit once more after a season when they were top of the table throughout and had an unbeaten Premiership home record.

“The improvement we’ve seen over the last year is really encouraging, and hopefully we can kick on again from here,” Leicester and England full-back Steward said.

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“I know we’ve won the Premiership, but we are always looking to improve and add to our game.

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“I can’t wait to rip in next season and hopefully do it all again.

“It is so surreal. The journey we’ve been on in the last year, and to be stood here now as Premiership champions is beyond belief, really.

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“We have just taken it game by game and given everything for each other.”

The final five minutes of a pulsating final summed up Leicester’s spirit, as they prevailed after centre Matt Scott had been sin-binned and Owen Farrell kicked a penalty to tie things up and seemingly send the final hurtling towards extra-time.

“It was the theme of the season, really, where we are under the pump and we dig in and fight for each other,” Steward added.

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“Those last five minutes encapsulated it – the fight, the belief – and we did it. We came together, and that is testament to the culture we have built at Leicester.

“Freddie is the best drop-kicker in the world! It was like slow motion. I don’t know what he did, but it went over and that’s all that matters.

“He has been such a big part of the club, and the fact he came on and did that shows what a huge squad effort it has been. To be around the boys and be with each other is just special.”

Steward’s spectacular rugby journey over the past 12 months will now continue with him set to be named in Eddie Jones’ England squad on Monday for a three-Test Australia tour next month.

As he headed for an evening of celebration, 21-year-old Steward said: “I am just going to enjoy the moment.

“You never know when it is going to be your last, so I am just going to take it in and enjoy myself. I am really excited for the next month.”

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