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Match Report: Saracens 29 Northampton Saints 20

Chris Ashton’s second-half score denied a brave Northampton Saints their second consecutive Allianz Park Victory and sent the Aviva Premiership Rugby league-leaders into the European Rugby Champions Cup semi-finals, where they will face Wasps.

Jim Mallinder’s men played all the rugby in a first-half characterised by unusually sloppy Saracens play and several spurned Northampton chances.

After Owen Farrell’s opening penalty, Stephen Myler first missed two shots at goal and then Jamie Elliott dropped the ball over the line before Ken Pisi eventually crossed.

Mark McCall must have delivered a rocket at half-time. His side looked dangerous from the outset as Farrell turned the screw and both Ashton and Chris Wyles crossed.

Though Courtney Lawes grabbed a late consolation, Saracens will take on Wasps after Dai Young’s side struck in the last minute to beat Exeter Chiefs in Coventry.

Farrell picked up where he left off against Bath Rugby in Saracens' last Aviva Premiership Rugby clash and his penalty on seven minutes put the hosts ahead after after Northampton were penalised for coming in from the side.   

An excellent Courtney Lawes carry earned Myler a shot at goal, but the occasion showed and his attempt was badly hooked.

Myler did not have to wait long for his next shot – as captain Ben Foden attempted to field a clearance kick, Will Fraser mis-timed his challenge and saw yellow – but the Northampton outside-half again miscued from the tee.

Saints were profligate in attack again moments later. Ben Nutley made the initial break before an excellent Mikey Haywood off-load freed Jamie Elliott and the winger looked to be clean through after busting past Richard Wigglesworth, but he spilt the ball as he touched down.

Mallinder’s side though, were playing with the shackles off and they finally broke their duck when Teimana Harrison outstripped opposite man and England Star Billy Vunipola.

The New Zealand born No.8 then fired a perfectly timed pass to Pisi, who went  over for the simplest of finishes. Myler shook off his two misses to convert well.

Farrell pegged back the Saints after 20 minutes with an impeccably struck 50 metre penalty.

Elliott continued to look lively and Saracens were pinged at the breakdown after another impressive burst from the winger – starting instead of George North – which Myler knocked over to extend Saints’ lead.    

Saracens wasted virtually no time asserting themselves after half-time and they looked to have crossed in the second minute of the second-half, but they were pulled back by the TMO for blocking, with Fraser the guilty party.

It was Saracens who scored first after the break though – Farrell nudging over from in front of the sticks, but Myler converted an equally simple chance five minutes later to restore the visitors’ four point lead.

With Farrell distributing well and Vunipola carrying like a bull, McCall’s wolf-pack turned up the intensity and they made their dominance pay in the scrum, putting the Northampton pack into reverse-gear and earning a penalty that Farrell easily converted.

As Nutley departed injured, things got much worse for Northampton as Saracens showed all of their class in attack to score their first try.
Brad Barritt made the initial bust before Farrell’s pull-back pass found Alex Goode, the full-back then fixed two men before Ashton did what he does best and tracked across field to sniff the gap and race over. Farrell converted.  

Another Farrell penalty stretched the lead before Sarries’ relentless defensive pressure eventually told and Wyles latched onto a sloppy Saints pass in the shadow of their own posts to score and Farrell added the extras.

Lawes struck back with a consolation score for the Saints and Myler knocked over his best kick of the afternoon. 

Saracens: Goode; Ashton, Taylor, Barritt, Wyles; Farrell, Wigglesworth; Vunipola M , Brits, Du Plessis, Itoje, Kruis, Wray, Fraser, Vunipola B
Replacements: Saunders, Barrington, Lamositele, Hargreaves, Rhodes, De Kock, Bosch, Ransom
Northampton Saints
Foden; K Pisi, G Pisi, Burrell, Elliott; Myler, Fotuali'i; Waller, Haywood, Hill, Craig, Day, Lawes, Nutley, Harrison
Replacements: Marshall, Ma’afu, Denman, Matfield, Paterson, Kessell, Hanrahan, Mallinder  

Tries: Ashton, Wyles
Conversions: Farrell 2
Penalties: Farrell 5
Northampton Saints:
Tries: Pisi, Lawes
Conversions: Myler 2
Penalties: Myler


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