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Five-try Saints seal semi-final date

Travis PerkinsSponsored by Travis Perkins

Tries from Chris Ashton, Ben Foden, Paul Diggin, Teimana Harrison and Alex Waller as well as 10 and seven points from the boots of Stephen Myler and Ryan Lamb respectively gave the Saints a well-deserved victory to the delight of the home crowd.


Looking to take no risks of gaining their play-off place, the Saints attacked with drive and power early on and were rewarded with a well-worked score. An excellent break from James Craig gave the hosts the opportunity and good work between Foden and Ashton led to the latter diving over to delight the sell-out Gardens crowd.


Worcester hadn't quite read the script though and hit back with a score of their own just two minutes later. Full-back Tom Arscott made a superb run through the Saints defence and when he offloaded to Josh Drauniniu, the winger had the easiest of run-ins under the posts to level the scores in a pulsating start to the encounter.


Despite being awarded a number of penalties in the opening quarter, Saints continued to kick for the corner in pursuit of the important second try. Worcester managed to hold out though and Ashton's departure from the field due to injury further dampened the home side's start to the game.


The tension amongst the supporters was palpable as the Saints toiled to make the breakthrough and if anyone thought the Warriors would roll over easily then their solidity was proving them wrong. Frustration was becoming evident on the faces of the Saints players as the visitors continued to play the role of the party-spoilers.


Just before the interval and the Saints finally broke through the shackles to head into the dressing rooms with an advantage. Myler's penalty from in front of the posts edged the hosts in front in an incident which also saw Warriors captain Shaun Perry yellow-carded.


The numerical advantage proved crucial as on the stroke of half-time, Foden scythed through the stretched Warriors defence and with plenty still to do, the England full-back dived for the line and touched the ball down as all inside the Gardens breathed a huge sigh of relief.


The opening minutes of the second half saw a change of tactic from the Saints as the Warriors continued to struggle while a man light. Referee Garner awarded the hosts a kickable penalty and, unlike the first half, the decision was to take the three points which Myler did with a solid kick.


In a carbon copy of the first seven minutes of the game, Worcester struck back almost immediately to stun the Gardens crowd. The visitors came away quickest from a scrum and headed for the posts where Kai Horstmann was able to dot down by the finest of margins. Referee Garner confirmed the score with the TMO and suddenly the game was alive.


A well-struck penalty from replacement Lamb stretched the Saints' lead out to two scores but despite the Warriors then being awarded two penalties in very kickable range, the visitors decided not to take points but to kick for the corner, to the disappointment of head coach Richard Hill.


With a superb score on the hour mark, the Saints finally made the game safe and secured their place in the Aviva Premiership play-offs. A powerful run from Roger Wilson followed by quick ball through the hands of Lamb and George Pisi led Diggin to a straight run into the corner for the third try.


Confidence was now high amongst the Saints side and Harrison got in on the act to grab his first ever score in green, black and gold. Saints claimed a Warriors lineout against the head and Craig took the ball on before feeding Harrison in the corner for the bonus point try.


The game was now about building confidence ahead of the semi-final and Waller's try in the latter stages could only help that factor. More superb work from man-of-the-match Craig in the lineout gave Saints the opportunity and despite a mass of bodies on the line, Waller managed to get the ball down and take the Saints past the 40-point mark.


A fairly miserable day for the Warriors was then completed when Ed Shervington was sent to the sin-bin after a dangerous arm round the head of Diggin long after the ball had gone. The afternoon belonged to the Saints though and this five-try victory will send them into the play-off semi-finals with renewed belief and confidence.


AVIVA MAN OF THE MATCH James CRAIG


REFEREE Greg GARNER


TIMELINE

5mins SAINTS Try Ashton Con Myler 7-0

7mins WARRIORS Try Drauniniu Con Gray 7-7

37mins WARRIORS Yellow Card Perry

38mins SAINTS Pen Myler 10-7

40mins SAINTS Try Foden Con Myler 17-7

HALF TIME SAINTS 17 WARRIORS 7

45mins SAINTS Pen Myler 20-7

48mins WARRIORS Try Horstmann Con Gray 20-14

52mins SAINTS Pen Lamb 23-14

58mins SAINTS Try Diggin Con Lamb 30-14

65mins SAINTS Try Harrison 35-14

74mins SAINTS Try Waller Con Lamb 42-14

77mins WARRIORS Yellow Card Shervington

FULL TIME SAINTS 42 WARRIORS 14