Leeds Tykes’ hopes of playing in the GUINNESS PREMIERSHIP next season were left hanging by a thread after they lost to Saracens at Headingley.
The Tykes now lie 10 points behind nearest rivals Bath at the foot of the Guinness Premiership table with three games remaining, and need a miracle if they are to repeat last season’s remarkable escape act.
Saracens, on the other hand, can now look forward to the rest of the season safe in the knowledge they have staved off the threat of relegation for another year.
Leeds took heart from Balshaw’s lead and with Justin Marshall buzzing around at the breakdowns they looked a constant threat, without being able to deliver the final pass.
It was Saracens who took the lead courtesy of a 24th-minute Jackson penalty.
The Tykes hit back with a scintillating score from 21-year-old winger Tom Biggs who took advantage of some sloppy work by Sarries at the restart to collect the ball and sprint 70 metres for the try. Gordon Ross was unable to convert.
The visitors responded almost immediately, and a superb inside pass from Jackson sent full-back Bartholomeusz in under the posts. Jackson’s conversion made it 10-5 to Saracens after 34 minutes.
Saracens should have gone further ahead just before the break but Taine Randell opted to hold onto the ball rather than take advantage of a glaring overlap.
Leeds made Sarries pay when Ross slotted a penalty on the stroke of half-time to make it 10-8 at the break.
Saracens’ forwards became increasingly dominant in the early stages of the second half but Leeds defended stoutly, snubbing out another sharp break by Bartholomeusz in the 55th minute which could have led to a try.
The pressure eventually told as Jackson forced his way over from close range after a series of powerful surges from the Saracens forwards.
The New Zealander converted his own score to make it 17-8 with 22 minutes left to play.
Balshaw made for a grandstand finish when he went over for a well-worked try in the 71st minute.
Ross spotted some space and chipped across field for Andre Snyman who fed inside for the World Cup winner to out-sprint the defence and score.
Ross was unable to convert from wide out as the gap remained at four points and Sarries held on for the win.
Leeds’ only consolation was a bonus point.