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Saracens 24 Northampton Saints 31

23 Nov 2014
Saracens 24 Northampton Saints 31

James Wilson scored twice as Northampton Saints returned to the top of the Aviva Premiership Rugby table, after fending off a second-half Saracens fightback at Allianz Park.

Saracens’ famed ‘wolf pack’ defence struggled to live with the intensity of Northampton and their scrum dominance as the visitors built up an early 22-3 lead, with two tries from Wilson and one from Phil Dowson.

Jackson Wray’s try on the stroke of half-time hinted at a comeback for the home side, but despite Chris Wyles’ two second-half scores Northampton ultimately prevailed and became the first visiting team to score more than 30 points at Allianz Park.

Luther Burrell immediately sent a signal to the England selectors with a powerful burst from midfield, his long pass to the wing putting Wilson over in the corner after just two minutes. Stephen Myler’s touchline conversion made it 7-0.

A frantic counter-attack featuring kicks from Alex Goode and Charlie Hodgson saw Samu Manoa penalised for offside, Hodgson converting to put the home side on the board after eight minutes.

The Saints lead was soon back to seven after Saracens captain Alistair Hargreaves offended at a ruck, giving Myler a simple three points.

Another England absentee Lee Dickson then produced his own moment of magic, a dart to the blindside and perfectly weighted grubber kick giving Wilson a simple finish for his second try, Myler converting for 17-3 after 15 minutes.

Northampton’s scrum had been on top from the start and on 22 minutes they confirmed their dominance, destroying a defensive five-metre Saracens scrum to allow Phil Dowson to crash over. Myler’s first miss of the day left the score at 22-3.

Moments later another scrum penalty for Saints allowed Myler to extend the lead to 25-3 after 31 minutes, though Jim Hamilton’s penalty conceded minutes later was missed by the Northampton fly-half.

A series of penalties, all kicked to the corner, resulted in a mauled try for Saracens, Wray dotting down in the last play of the half. Hodgson missed the conversion and the sides turned round at 25-8.

Hodgson added another penalty after 50 minutes to reduce the deficit to 14, though Myler cancelled it out nine minutes later for 28-11.

Persistent pressure on the Saints line saw Alex Waller sin-binned, and shortly afterwards Saracens crossed for their second, Wyles squeezing over in the left corner after 65 minutes, Hodgson hitting the post to leave the score 28-16.

Wyles added his second minutes later following a jinking run from Goode, closing the gap to seven points with ten minutes to go after Hodgson missed the conversion.

But substitute James Johnston was penalised at a ruck, allowing Stephen Myler to make the game safe with his fourth penalty.

Saracens claimed a losing bonus-point with a last-minute Hodgson penalty, but could do nothing to stop Northampton becoming the first team to notch up two away victories at Allianz Park.

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