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Match Report: Saracens 45 – 39 Northampton Saints

Northampton Saints were beaten at StoneX Stadium as Saracens produced a remarkable second-half comeback to prevail 45-39 after a pulsating encounter in north London.

The men in Black, Green and Gold led 27-17 following an action-packed first half thanks to Fraser Dingwall’s double and a score from Mike Haywood, although the hosts stayed in touch courtesy of two tries from Sean Maitland.

But despite Dingwall wrapping up his hat-trick and Courtnall Skosan adding a fifth after the break to seemingly put Saints out of sight, Saracens showed why they are top of the Gallagher Premiership standings with 28 unanswered points to turn the match on its head and send Northampton home with just two bonus points to show for their efforts.


Saracens took an early lead in the second minute as the visitors were pinged for an accidental offside with George Furbank put under some pressure from a high ball, and Alex Goode knocked his kick through the posts.

Saints turned down the opportunity to hit straight back, twice kicking to the corner with their hosts penalised in their own half, and that risk paid off as Haywood rumbled over at the back of a lineout drive – with Fin Smith nailing the conversion from out wide to make it 7-3.

The fly-half was at the centre of the action moments later as he burst through a gap, but after Saints won another penalty when Saracens kicked the ball through a ruck, they gave the ball back as they were penalised straight off the resulting lineout.

Northampton were humming though and after the forwards won a scrum penalty, Dingwall cut a lovely line from Rory Hutchinson’s offload to score right of the posts. Again, Smith landed the extras to make it 14-3.

Saracens hit back in the 20th minute, as they got quick ball off the back of a messy scrum, and spread the ball wide for Maitland to go over in the left corner, and Goode converted from the touchline.

The hosts’ No.10 missed the target shortly after as Northampton were penalised at a lineout on the 40-metre line, and Saracens then saw a try chalked off when Ben Earl crossed the whitewash with Lukhan Salakaia-Loto taken out off the ball which created the space.

A late tackle on Smith allowed the young fly-half to take another three points from the tee with 30 minutes played to steady the ship for Northampton, and after a massive carry from Juarno Augustus to start off a move, Smith shot through a gap and offloaded for Dingwall to grab his second try of the half.

The conversion and then another penalty (as Saracens were penalised at a breakdown) allowed Smith to take his personal tally to 12 points, but the match went to uncontested scrums as the hosts lost both Robin Hislop and James Flynn to injuries.

But while Saints now had a 17-point lead, there was still time before the interval for Theo Dan to release Maitland for his second try in the same corner – with Goode again converting from out wide to send the sides into the sheds at 27-17 after an action-packed first 40.


Dingwall wrapped up his hat-trick six minutes into the second half, as Salakaia-Loto pulled the ball back and created some room for Smith to send the centre through a gap – although Smith’s kicking streak ended at 18 as his conversion from the right just shaved the left post.

Northampton extended their lead on 53 minutes when Paul Hill’s superb clear-out on Ivan van Zyl created the gap for Angus Scott-Young to burst through and find Skosan on his shoulder.

Salakaia-Loto was shown a yellow card however with 24 minutes remaining for a high shot on Dan, but as Saracens started to build the phases, Northampton’s defence remained resolute and eventually Sam Graham came up with a key turnover.

However, just after the hour mark, Hugh Tizard released Maitland again down the left and Gareth Simpson was on his shoulder to score and reduce the deficit.

And Earl scampered through a gap at the back of a ruck to send Saracens away four minutes later, with Josh Hallett running the support line to score left of the posts – Salakaia-Loto returned to the field, but the lead was now just eight points at 39-31.

The task got even harder when replacement scrum-half Tom James saw yellow with eight minutes remaining, and Earl scythed through a gap from Goode’s pass a few phases later to set-up a nail-biting finish.

With just two minutes remaining, it was Earl yet again who made the break, and this time Sarries’ skipper had Elliot Daly alongside him to send under the sticks and complete the comeback.

Saints now take a two-week break from league action as they first head to Newcastle Falcons in the Premiership Rugby Cup, before welcoming Barbarian F.C. to cinch Stadium at Franklin’s Gardens for an exhibition match.


SARACENS: Malins, Lewington, Daly, Lozowski, Maitland, Goode, Van Zyl; Hislop, Dan, Riccioni, Hunter-Hill, Kitchener, Christie, Earl, Wray.
Replacements: Lewis, Flynn, Clarey, Stonham, Tizard, Simpson, Hallett, Howe.

SAINTS: Furbank, Freeman, Dingwall, Hutchinson, Skosan, Smith, Mitchell; Waller, Haywood, Hill, Salakaia-Loto, Moon, Scott-Young, Graham, Augustus.
Replacements: Smith, Iyogun, Painter, Nansen, Sylvester, James, Proctor, Ramm.

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