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Match Report: Saracens 38 – 15 Northampton Saints

Northampton Saints’ hopes of Gallagher Premiership glory ended at the semi-final stage for a second successive season following a 38-15 defeat to Saracens.

Sean Maitland bagged a brace of tries for the hosts either side of Fin Smith’s successful penalty, before Ivan van Zyl’s try increased Saracens’ half-time lead to 18 points at the StoneX Stadium.

Owen Farrell’s penalty early into the second 40 sparked a response as tries from Alex Mitchell and James Ramm got Saints back in the game, but Saracens booked their place in the Twickenham Stadium final in two weeks’ time after they were awarded a penalty try and Max Malins crossed in the closing minutes.

FIRST HALF

Not even 60 seconds had elapsed when George Furbank required medical assistance after Maitland crashed into the full-back when competing for a high ball.

Maitland received no caution and, soon afterwards, the Scotland international latched onto a fortuitous bounce from Alex Goode’s grubber kick to open the scoring under the posts, presenting Farrell with the simplest of conversions.

Scrum-half Mitchell, who moments prior the score hauled down opposite number Van Zyl following a 90-metre Saracens break, cleverly earned a penalty that Smith put between the posts to cut the deficit to four.

The young fly-half showcased the quality of his all-round game with a try-saving tackle on Malins after the Bristol-bound back found a gap.

But there was no preventing Saracens’ second try after Farrell’s short-range kick located Maitland to gather and ground in the left corner, with the try’s creator adding two points from the touchline.

On the half-hour mark the hosts moved further ahead when Van Zyl quickly tapped a penalty and darted his way over for a try. Farrell once more improved the scoreline from the tee.

Saints ended the half applying pressure, but Saracens twice managed to win the ball back at the breakdown inside their own 22. 

SECOND HALF

Ethan Waller arrived onto the field for the start of the second half in place of brother Alex, and Courtney Lawes, who started for a club-record-breaking 165th Premiership game, poached a line out. However, Saracens swiftly forced a penalty and Farrell added three more points.

Strong carries from Rory Hutchinson and captain Lewis Ludlam featured in a 14-phase attack that threatened to deliver a first Saints try, only for a knock on to stop them in their tracks.

Pressure applied by Paul Hill, on as a replacement for Trevor Davison, forced Mako Vunipola to concede a scrum penalty and Saints secured lineout ball in the attacking 22.

Furbank and Lawes softened the defence with powerful surges before Mitchell drifted from the base of a ruck and dummied, danced and dived his way over for a sublime try, converted by Smith, to give Saints a lifeline entering the final third of the match 14 points behind.

Better was to follow with 15 minutes remaining as Smith teased the defence after linking brilliantly with Hutchinson to free Lawes out wide and put Ramm into the right corner for an unimproved try.

Hopes of a thrilling comeback win were short-lived as referee Karl Dickson awarded a penalty try after a Saracens rolling maul collapsed near the line, with replacement Tom James being shown a yellow card.

With a man advantage, last season’s losing finalists settled the contest when Elliot Daly put Malins in to sprint home with Farrell’s fourth successful conversion proving to be the game’s final points, despite a spirited late Saints attack that forced Maro Itoje into committing a yellow card offence.

LINE-UPS

SARCENS: Goode, Malins, Lozowski, Tompkins, Maitland, Farrell (c), Van Zyl; Vunipola, George, Riccioni, Itoje, Tizard, Isiekwe, Earl, Wray
Replacements: Dan, Mawi, Judge, Hunter-Hill, Knight, De Haas, Taylor, Daly.

NORTHAMPTON SAINTS: Furbank, Ramm, Dingwall, Hutchinson, Freeman, F Smith, Mitchell; A Waller, Cruse, Davison, Ribbans, Moon, Lawes, Ludlam (c), Augustus
Replacements: R Smith, E Waller, Hill, Salakaia-Loto, Scott-Young, Graham, James, Collins.

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