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SAINTS 24 SARACENS 29 No back-to-back dreams for Saints

Travis PerkinsSponsored by Travis Perkins

Just as had happened when the teams met in Milton Keynes a month earlier, Saracens struck early. What was frustrating was that it came from play in which the visitors had appeared to be going nowhere in the face of some aggressive home defence.


But with Ahsee Tuala down receiving treatment David Strettle’s kick ahead bounced into space, and when Duncan Taylor recovered it he found Strettle in support and the winger was over for a try converted superbly by Owen Farrell.


The blow was compounded by Tuala’s enforced withdrawal, but for the next 15 minutes it was all Saints as they set up camp in the visitors’ 22.


Back row duo Calum Clark and Tom Wood were instrumental in creating the position, the former with a great turnover on halfway and the latter by winning the ball against the visitors’ throw.


A couple of phases later Saints had a penalty, and it showed their intent even this early that Stephen Myler sent the ball to the corner. The first time the ball was grounded just short of the whitewash, thanks in part to Billy Vunipola having come in from the side, and when a similar maul was set up next time it was elder brother Mako who infringed this time, seeing a yellow card for his sins.


For a third time Saints went to touch, and this time they got their reward, Farrell coming in from the side to bring down the drive to force referee Greg Garner to head to the sticks to award a penalty try.


To their credit Saracens held out for the rest of the sin bin period, scrambling in defence to de-fuse a potent Saints attack featuring some typical off-loads from Samu Manoa and Luther Burrell, and then winning a penalty at a scrum to end a period of massive pressure from the hosts.


Their kick-chase was just as good, with Brad Barritt and Duncan Taylor combining to win a penalty from which Farrell re-took the lead. But this lasted only a minute, Saints winning a penalty straight from the kick off to allow Myler to tie things up, which he duly did.


Four minutes later Farrell had another chance, which was hooked left from wide on the right, but there was no mistake from the fly half’s next attempt two minutes after that.


As well as the conceding of points there was the adjustment to make in the front row, too, Alex Corbisiero being replaced by Alex Waller, and the intensity and physicality was leaving bodies scattered all over the field, with James Wilson and Jacques Burger just two to be seen by the respective medical teams.


The latter was also catching the eye with some ferocious defence, especially one monumental hit on Ken Pisi. However the Namibian failed to roll away, and with Myler maintaining his own accuracy things were all square at the end of the first half.


Saints came out with another change in their ranks, Tom Stephenson on for Wilson, but it was the hosts who got the first points, Saracens conceding three penalties in quick succession to eventually hand Myler the chance to get his team in front for the first time.


However this game’s hallmark had become end-to-end action, and quickly Saracens had not just set up camp on the home line but were over, too, for a try scored by Jamie George. Farrell’s conversion took Saracens four points clear, which became seven as Stephenson was penalised - somewhat harshly - just outside his own 22.


As the hour mark approached momentum seemed to have swung well and truly Saracens’ way, with the visitors playing some controlled rugby to take the game by the scruff of the neck.


But then all of a sudden Saints struck. Billy Vunipola dropped Kahn Fotuali’i’s box kick under no pressure, Saints recovered to go through the phases, and when Myler sent a penalty to the corner the pack did the rest, driving Wood over for the try.


Myler’s conversion attempt slid agonisingly right of the uprights, compounded by Farrell adding three more to his tally in the passage of play which followed the kick off.


Then it became Saracens’ turn to concede the penalties, giving Saints the opportunity to push play deep into the visitors’ territory. This time the defence held, as it did when Ken Pisi threatened with a break that wriggled out of two attempted tackles.


Time was now beginning to rapidly run out for the Saints, not helped by a pair of free kicks at scrum time going Saracens’ way and a lineout lost by the hosts on their own 22. And when Billy Vunipola won a penalty at a breakdown Farrell stepped up and did the rest from the tee.


TEAMS

SAINTS Tuala; K Pisi, G Pisi, Burrell, Elliott; Myler, L Dickson; Corbisiero, Hartley (capt), Ma’afu, Lawes, C Day, Wood, Clark, Manoa


Reps - Haywood, A Waller, Denman, Dickinson, Fisher, Fotuali’i, Stephenson, Wilson


SARACENS Goode; Strettle, Taylor, Barritt, Wyles; Farrell, Wigglesworth; M Vunipola, George, Du Plessis, Kruis, Hargreaves, Itoje, Burger, B Vunipola


Reps - Saunders, Barrington, Figallo, Hamilton, Wray, De Kock, Hodgson, Ashton


TIMELINE

2mins SAR Try Strettle Con Farrell 0-7

12mins SAR Yellow card M Vunipola

13mins SAINTS Try Penalty Con Myler 7-7

25mins SAR Pen Farrell 7-10

26mins SAINTS Pen Myler 10-10

30mins SAR Miss pen Farrell

32mins SAR Pen Farrell 10-13

40+4mins SAINTS Pen Myler 13-13

HALF-TIME SAINTS 13 SARACENS 13

44mins SAINTS Pen Myler 16-13

47mins SAR Try George Con Farrell 16-20

53mins SAR Pen Farrell 16-23

57mins SAINTS Try Wood 21-23

61mins SAR Pen Farrell 21-26

77mins SAR Pen Farrell 21-29

79mins SAINTS Pen Myler 24-29

FULL-TIME SAINTS 24 SARACENS 29