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Lozowski the star as Saracens hold off Northampton

By PA
Alex Lozowski (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

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Alex Lozowski inspired Saracens to a 30-6 victory that cemented second place in the Gallagher Premiership as Northampton failed to capitalise on a dominant first-half.

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Lozowski crossed in the 45th minute to land a decisive blow at Franklin’s Gardens and the former England centre also landed three penalties and three conversions, lifting his individual total to 20 points.

Until Lozowski’s injection of pace and sharp line propelled him over, Saints had pounded away at a resilient defence without reflecting their control on the scoreboard.

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An interval scoreline of 6-6 was a poor return for all the time spent camped in the opposition 22 and sure enough it proved their undoing when Saracens found a new gear in the third quarter.

Late tries by Tom Woolstencroft and Maro Itoje distorted the result but Saints had appeared to run out of steam, their all-action style draining them of energy.

And there was more good news for the five-time champions as England hooker Jamie George made a successful comeback from a knee injury ahead of schedule as Eddie Jones plans for the Six Nations opener against Scotland on February 5.

Saints fans began streaming out long before the end, but the afternoon started brightly while signposting the wastefulness to come.

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Just as Northampton were building a head of steam with Dan Biggar at the heart, a wonky line-out throw cost them a promising opening and shortly after number eight Juarno Augustus knocked on in the tackle from a similar position.

Saracens continued to defend furiously as driving rain failed to dent home ambition and when Rory Hutchinson sent Ollie Sleightholme through a well-worked gap the wing picked the wrong route, isolating himself from support.

To compound the error, Sleightholme absorbed a blow in the tackle that forced him to depart for an HIA and almost immediately on his return to the pitch he was the target of another heavy tackle.

Lozowski’s kicking nudged Saracens 6-3 ahead but Northampton were playing all the rugby as they lingered in the visiting half, boldly opting for scrums under the posts as Saracens infringed three times in a row.

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The 14,734 crowd wanted Adam Leal to show a yellow card but instead the referee warned George as captain and on the next scrum Saints were penalised, dashing another opportunity.

Biggar finally opted for the posts to level the score but the home scrum continued to be a powerful option and as half-time approached Saracens came under renewed pressure.

It was against the run of play when Saracens crossed three minutes into the second-half as Alex Goode took the ball forward and then found Lozowksi, who hit the line at speed to sweep him through the defence and over the whitewash.

With the rain relenting, the conditions were better but a passage of scrappy play followed with neither side able to hang on to the ball, although the try had clearly given the visitors a lift.

Lozowski’s third penalty also supplied the next points and when replacement prop Conor Carey was sent to the sin-bin with 10 minutes to go, Saracens struck again through a forward drive finished by Woolstencroft.

It was a carbon copy for Itoje’s try that wrapped up the afternoon at Franklin’s Gardens.

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