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Northampton Saints 24 Saracens 29

23 May 2015
Northampton Saints 24 Saracens 29

Owen Farrell produced a nerveless kicking display as Saracens avenged last year’s extra-time defeat to Northampton Saints by booking their place in the Aviva Premiership Rugby Final once more.

David Strettle got Sarries off to a flying start but Northampton’s pack responded to win a penalty try, before the two sides traded scores early in the second half through Jamie George and Tom Wood.

But it was the battle between England fly-halves Farrell and Stephen Myler that ultimately settled this semi-final, with the Sarries man besting his counterpart by 19 points to 14 from the tee – including an ice-cool 77th minute penalty to take the game out of the defending champions’ reach.

It will have gone some way to laying last season’s demons to rest, in which Saints clinched their first Aviva Premiership crown at the expense of Saracens after extra-time.

Saints made ten changes following their defeat to Leicester Tigers last weekend, with all the big-hitters back including Courtney Lawes, Dylan Hartley and Luther Burrell.

Brad Barritt also returned to Saracens’ starting line-up after an injury-hit campaign but it was another change in Strettle who got the ball rolling.

His kick ahead arrowed up the right-hand side and Duncan Taylor won the footrace before offloading back to the chasing Strettle, who gleefully accepted the ball before barging over the whitewash.

Farrell converted and it went from bad to worse for Saints as full-back Ahsee Tuala, down injured while Taylor was making his dart, was forced off the pitch.

However, the hosts lifted more Saracens pressure after Calum Clark brilliantly won a turnover in midfield and James Wilson kicked deep into opposition territory.

Wood won the ensuing lineout and after frenzied defending from the visitors, Mako Vunipola was sent to the sin bin due to his indiscretions in the maul.

After one more big push referee Greg Garner signalled for the penalty try – this time Farrell  the culprit – and Myler slotted over the extras to bring the scores level.

It had been a breathless first quarter but Saracens were struggling to come up with a riposte before being sliced open by incisive offloads from Samu Manoa and Burrell.

Nothing came of that move however and Farrell and Myler exchanged penalties as errors crept into each side’s game.

But Sarries were certainly profiting more at the breakdown and Farrell successfully kicked one penalty attempt of the next two to nose his side ahead with 32 minutes gone.

Back came the champions and with the clock deep into red, Jacques Burger failed to roll away after his monstrous hit on Ken Pisi and Myler once again tied the game up to end a mesmerising first half.

Myler started the second half where he left off, kicking Saints ahead for the first time following a lineout drive infringement, but Saracens responded almost immediately from a maul of their own.

George was at the bottom of the pile to touch down and Farrell extended the visitors’ lead to four points.

Worryingly for Saints their error count remained high – Tom Stephenson being caught offside and Farrell doing the business from the tee in the 54th minute.

That wasn’t about to deflate Northampton and, trusting in the catch and drive once again after Farrell was pinged for not releasing, Tom Wood applied the final touch.

Franklin’s Gardens was reduced to a hush however when Myler missed the conversion before Farrell notched another three precious points with his boot.

Saracens then mounted a rearguard effort to deny Northampton several times before engineering Farrell one last shot at goal – and he duly obliged from 40m to send his side into the final, despite a consolatory Myler penalty.

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