Samu Manoa was at his blockbusting best as he bulldozed through Saracens’ defences to grab two second-half tries and secure Northampton Saints a home LV= Cup semi-final.
Saracens led 10-7 at the break after Ben Spencer converted his own try and kicked a penalty to recover from James Wilson’s early converted score for Northampton.
The Sarries scrum-half contributed two further penalties in the second half to keep the visitors’ noses in front after Manoa powered over for his first try.
But after the American lock rumbled over for a second time in 18 minutes, Saracens had no answer with Saints seeing the game out to secure a home semi-final against Sarries.
Saracens threatened the try-line first but Spencer’s grubber kick was just too strong for his pursuing team-mates.
Instead it was the Saints who drew first blood, Kahn Fotuali’i, Jamie Elliott and Manoa all combining to leave James Wilson in space to finish off the move.
Debutant fly-half Will Hooley, who earlier missed a penalty, converted to register his first points for Northampton and put the hosts 7-0 up.
Spencer reduced the gap to four points with a penalty on 26 minutes and Northampton were then reduced to 14 men after Fotuali’i was sin-binned for a deliberate knock on.
Saracens took full advantage and when the ball squirmed out the side of a scrum Spencer was in the right place to dive over the line and the scrum-half converted his own score to send the visitors in 10-7 up at the break.
From looking in complete control Northampton were now struggling to find any fluency but in Manoa they have a man who can create something out of nothing.
The American powerhouse bludgeoned the Saints back into the lead on 51 minutes, collecting the ball after Wilson’s break to run through Saracens full-back Ben Ransom to touch down.
Hooley’s conversion into the wind fell short but when Saracens were penalised at the breakdown the 20-year-old added another three points to his haul to put Saints 15-10 ahead.
Spencer replied with a penalty of his own to leave the game on a knife-edge and with 65 minutes gone the scrum-half slotted his third penalty of the match to put Sarries ahead 16-15.
Yet no sooner had Saracens got their noses in front than Manoa dragged Saints back into the lead, once more powering through the visiting defence to dot down and put the hosts 20-16 up after replacement fly-half Stephen Myler missed the conversion.
Be part of the rugby family at the LV= Cup Final at Sandy Park, Exeter on March 16th. Tickets now available: www.ticketmaster.co.uk