Saracens sent a huge statement of intent out to their Aviva Premiership Rugby rivals as an almighty comeback at stadium:mk saw Mark McCall’s men edge out Northampton Saints 27-25.
The hosts – chasing a top-six finish in the table – had led for almost the entire contest, with Harry Mallinder’s early try handing them a half-time advantage before Dylan Hartley and Ken Pisi looked to have put them out of sight.
But the reliable boot of Alex Lozowski kept Sarries in touch, before two late tries from replacement Chris Ashton and Marcelo Bosch set up the ice-cool fly-half to kick a superb conversion at the death, and steal a victory that keeps the Londoners’ hopes of a home semi-final alive.
— Premiership Rugby (@premrugby) April 16, 2017
Hosts Northampton got off to a flying start as Louis Picamoles and Luther Burrell combined, before Stephen Myler spotted the space and kicked over the top for Pisi to chase – and the winger’s brilliant collection and offload from the floor sent Mallinder clear to score the game’s opening try.
Myler nailed the conversion and Mallinder was almost in again moments later after the fly-half again kicked into space in behind Saracens, but the Northampton starlet could not gather the awkwardly bouncing ball.
Saints continued their fine start to the game in the 12th minute, as Nathan Earle was caught offside and Myler’s penalty into the corner yielded a driving maul from five metres out, but the TMO ruled Saracens’ Jackson Wray had held the ball up.
Ben Spencer saw a clearing kick charged down, and while Tom Wood and Nic Groom both came close with sniping efforts, Northampton eventually settled for three points from in front of the posts with Sarries’ Duncan Taylor yellow-carded for not rolling away following a try-saving tackle.
Saints were well worth their 10-0 advantage, but after some heroic defending, the visitors’ first meaningful attack saw Bosch look to send Earle over in the corner, but a superb Ben Foden tackle forced him into touch.
Lozowski and Myler exchanged penalties, with Saints off their feet before Sarries were pinged at scrum-time.
Image 📸 | Marcelo Bosch is mobbed by team mates following his game tying score pic.twitter.com/epNJORm2CO
— Saracens Rugby Club (@Saracens) April 16, 2017
But when Jamie Gibson was guilty of not releasing Wray, Lozowski made it 13-6 at the break with another good kick from the tee – Mallinder seeing his 38th-minute penalty come back off the post as he took over kicking duties from the injured Myler.
McCall will have been frustrated with Saracens’ first-half showing, but it was once again the Saints who flew out of the traps after the interval.
Hooker Hartley rumbled over at the back of a driving maul in the 42nd minute, with Mallinder sweeping the conversion through the uprights and the visitors not even touching the ball before they found themselves a further seven points adrift.
Lozowski hit back from the tee almost immediately, with Saints infringing at the breakdown, and he reduced arrears further on 51 minutes to keep his side in touch at 20-12.
McCall rung the changes for defending Aviva Premiership Rugby champions Saracens – unleashing the likes of Schalk Brits, Billy Vunipola, and Ashton – but it was Saints who showed the cutting edge to score again.
The ball came wide for Ahsee Tuala who scampered down the wing and a sublime offload sent Pisi over in the corner, but Mallinder could not add the extras from the touchline.
Saracens are not defending champions for nothing however, and after a Saints scrum deep in their own territory ended with Wood getting caught in possession and pinged, the visitors quickly put the ball through the hands to send lightning-fast Ashton over in the corner in the 69th minute.
Lozowski’s first miss of the afternoon from the tee looked to be crucial with the score at 25-17, but three more points from a scrum penalty with five minutes to go set up a grandstand finale.
— Maro Itoje (@maroitoje) April 16, 2017
And Lozowski set up Bosch’s match-winning score with an overlap opening up out wide with two minutes remaining, before calmly striking the conversion through a posts to steal the win – taking his personal tally to 17 points in the process.
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