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Northampton Saints 27-38 Saracens: Gutsy Saints denied at the death

Northampton Saints were denied a losing bonus point at the death despite a closely fought encounter at Franklin’s Gardens, with two late quick-fire tries sealing the win for Saracens.

Saints led for much of the game, with the sides going in level at 10-10 at the break, but a frantic second half saw five tries and 45 points scored.

Dylan Hartley, Piers Francis and Ben Franks all crossed the whitewash for Saints, but the defending Gallagher Premiership champions showed their worth with winger David Strettle scoring two late tries to pull the visitors clear.

It was an evenly contested affair in the opening stages, with Saints enjoying the majority of the possession; Dan Biggar gifted the home side a five-metre lineout with a superb kick for the corner, only for the rolling maul to be turned over by Saracens.

An opportunity to break the deadlock came calling soon after, with debutant Taqele Naiyaravoro charging past Liam Williams with a thunderous carry and offload, but Saracens were able to stop the onslaught and defend their try line.

Saints’ efforts paid off as continued pressure in Sarries’ 22 wore the away side down; Jamie George was sent to the sin bin and shortly after Piers Francis broke through a gap to score behind the sticks, Biggar’s conversion giving his side a 7-0 lead after 20 minutes.

Saracens retaliated instantly, trying desperately to find a way across the line, but Northampton defended well and worked their way back up the field, earning themselves a kick at goal with Billy Vunipola pinged at the breakdown which was converted by Biggar.

But Alex Lewington claimed the first points for Saracens and his fourth try in three games this season by chasing a monstrous kick from Alex Goode from behind the halfway line, closing the gap to just five points.

Lightning struck twice for Lewington, who executed another score following a good run by Williams, to bring the game level at 10-10 with half-time approaching.

Ben Spencer opened the second half with seven points for Saracens inside the first three minutes, with numerous phases and incisive carrying earning the visitors field position for the scrum-half to tip-toe through and take his side ahead for the first time in the match.

Northampton responded well to the setback however, and after numerous resets and lineouts in the corner their patience paid off. Billy Vunipola saw yellow before co-captain Dylan Hartley crossed for the second Saints try of the afternoon from the rolling maul in the corner, doubling his tally for the season after last week’s score against Harlequins.

Goode slotted a second penalty for Saracens, but Franks replied moments later with this first try in Saints colours by heaving past the defence to regain the lead for Northampton; Biggar’s flawless conversion meant the home side held a one-point lead with a quarter of an hour to go.

Both sides then exchanged penalty kicks with the Gardens crowd on the edge of their seats, but Strettle stuck a hammer blow as he crossed twice in two minutes for Sarries, which left Saints with too much to do.

Northampton made one last push for the line with a scrum five metres out, but the ball was turned over and Saracens worked their way out of trouble to deny Saints both try and losing bonus points.