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On this day in 2005 – Martin Johnson suffers disappointment in career finale

Martin Johnson’s final game ended in defeat to Wasps (David Davies/PA)
Martin Johnson’s final game ended in defeat to Wasps (David Davies/PA)

Martin Johnson suffered disappointment in the final match of his illustrious career on this day in 2005 as Leicester were brushed aside by arch-rivals Wasps in the Premiership final.

Wasps ruined the England World Cup-winning captain’s big day out in front of a 66,000 crowd at Twickenham as Johnson’s final game in a Tigers shirt before retirement – and 500th career start – ended with an emphatic 39-14 defeat.

Johnson said: “I’m very disappointed, not because it’s my last game but because we didn’t do it today. We haven’t played and it’s a nasty feeling.”

Rugby Union – Zurich Premiership Final – Wasps v Leicester – Twickenham
Thirteen unanswered points in the opening eight minutes blew Leicester away (David Davies/PA)

Leicester never recovered from a scintillating Wasps opening that saw them race into a 13-0 lead inside eight minutes, with former England stars Joe Worsley, Josh Lewsey and Simon Shaw producing towering displays to help their side claim a third successive Premiership title.

Wasps skipper Lawrence Dallaglio was not far behind in the work-rate stakes either, as his team underlined their mastery of English rugby’s play-off system to land another championship crown after once again finishing second – behind Leicester -during the regular 22-game league campaign.

Johnson, arguably the greatest English rugby player of all time, was reduced to a mere mortal on an afternoon when Tigers finished a distant second-best.

Neil Back, Johnson’s erstwhile colleague for club and country, also experienced a miserable send-off, as did Leicester coach John Wells.

Rugby Union – Zurich Premiership Final – Wasps v Leicester – Twickenham
Johnson finished his final season without silverware (David Davies/PA)

But Wasps supremo Warren Gatland said goodbye in style before returning home to New Zealand and a coaching job with the Waikato Chiefs.

After such a blistering start, Wasps never looked back, securing the title through 26 points from full-back Mark van Gisbergen, including a try, as well as touchdowns from Tom Voyce and Rob Hoadley, plus an Alex King drop-goal.

Leicester could only manage a Scott Bemand consolation try and three Andy Goode penalties in reply, leaving 35-year-old Johnson and company without silverware.