'That effort today, from everyone here at Welford Road, was for the Youngs'
A minute’s applause took place before kick-off at Mattioli Woods Welford Road in memory of Tiffany Youngs, who died earlier this week.
Her husband Tom retired in April following a career that saw him captain the Tigers and make more than 200 first-team appearances, while Tom’s brother – England scrum-half Ben Youngs – started the 27-14 win.
Leicester, league table-toppers after the regular season, extended their unbeaten Premiership home record to more than a year and will face Saracens in next Saturday’s final, chasing a ninth title.
Ford scored 22 points from a try, conversion, drop-goal and four penalties, and he created a second-half touchdown for Freddie Steward on his final Leicester home appearance before joining Sale later this summer.
“Some things are bigger than rugby, and what the Youngs family have been through, nobody can ever imagine, to be honest,” Ford told BT Sport.
“That effort today, from everyone here at Welford Road, was for the Youngs family. What a family they are. Tom is up there with (daughter) Maisie. What a person he is. It’s the same with Ben. That, today, was for them.”
Saints replied through a Tommy Freeman touchdown, with Dan Biggar kicking two penalties and James Grayson one, but Wales international Biggar went off early in the second period after appearing to suffer a knock.
Northampton led 14-13 with 17 minutes left, yet it was ultimately Leicester’s day, setting up a pulsating final between England’s two top clubs.
Ford added: “Not too long ago we were at the bottom of the league, fighting relegation. It’s a credit to Steve (Leicester head coach Steve Borthwick), his coaching staff and everyone at the club. We’ve worked hard and got ourselves in a position to do something special next week.
“What a place, what a club, what a set of people. I’ve been here eight years in two stints and loved every second of it – the highs and the lows. You won’t find a more traditional rugby club. I will miss it greatly, but we’ve got a job to do next week.”
Leicester finished 11th in the Premiership two years ago, only avoiding relegation because Saracens were demoted following repeated salary cap breaches.
But they will now chase a first Premiership crown since defeating Northampton 37-17 in the 2013 final.
Borthwick said: “It wasn’t pretty from us, but the guys worked their way through it against a top side, who have been in really good form of late. George (Ford) has been excellent all season, I can’t praise him highly enough. You just see him play a game of 80 minutes, while I am able to see his influence on the squad throughout the week.”
There was no fairytale finish for Northampton rugby director Chris Boyd, who leaves his post this summer, although he will make occasional trips back to Franklin’s Gardens from New Zealand as a consultant.
Boyd said: “There is disappointment that we didn’t advance to Twickenham, and disappointment that we created probably four opportunities in the first 55 minutes. If we had converted two of them, we might have been able to force Tigers to go away from their game-plan.
“They haven’t had to chase a lot of games this season, and we wanted to build a lead. We created plenty, but we didn’t finish off. 27-14 is a little bit cruel, but credit to them – they were mostly relentless.”
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