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Saracens book home semi-final with victory over Northampton

By PA
Saracens v Northampton Saints – Gallagher Premiership – StoneX Stadium

A clinical second-half performance from Saracens saw them secure a home semi-final in the Premiership play-offs after a 42-38 win over Northampton.

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At half-time an obdurate Northampton had led 10-9 but they were blown away by a 19-point burst in the first nine minutes of the second half before rallying in the final 15 minutes to secure two valuable points.

Despite their defeat, Saints still have a favourites’ chance of securing fourth place and with it the last play-off spot, as a win from next week’s final fixture at home to struggling Newcastle would see them there.

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Theo McFarland scored two tries for Saracens, Nick Tompkins, Alex Lewington and Alex Goode the others, with Owen Farrell kicking three penalties and four conversions.

Tom James scored two of Northampton’s tries with Tommy Freeman, Rory Hutchinson and Matt Proctor also on the try-scoring sheet. Dan Biggar added a penalty and five conversions.

Farrell‘s second-minute penalty gave Saracens an early lead and that was the precursor for the hosts to dominate the opening passages of play.

They built up a long period of sustained pressure with some excellent ball-retention and forced Saints into conceding a number of penalties, one of which was knocked over by Farrell.

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Farrell soon declined two further kicks at goal in favour of attacking line-outs but the visitors’ defence held firm to leave Northampton trailing 6-0 at the end of a one-sided first quarter.

Saints then suffered two setbacks in quick succession. First lock Alex Coles was yellow-carded for preventing Goode dashing away from a mark before his skipper Lewis Ludlam followed him into the bin for a high challenge.

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Despite playing with 13, it was Saints who came closest to scoring in the next 10 minutes as the home side were uncharacteristically careless with their handling.

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Coles and Ludlam still had not returned when Biggar put his side on the scoreboard with a penalty from near half-way but they were back on the field when Northampton stunned the home crowd with the first try of the game.

Freeman ran an excellent line to collect Mike Haywood’s well-timed pass before racing through a static defence. Biggar converted before Farrell kicked his third penalty to leave Saracens 10-9 behind at the interval.

It took Saracens only a minute of the second half to regain the lead when Tompkins split the defence with a clean break and when the ball was recycled the centre was on hand to break the line for the second time to score.

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The home side now had the bit between the teeth and soon added a second. The dangerous Rotimi Segun burst away on a thrilling 40-metre run and when he was hauled down, a long pass from Farrell enabled Goode to provide Lewington with an easy run-in.

Northampton conceded their third try in less than 10 minutes when McFarland charged down a clearance from Alex Mitchell before collecting the rebound to score.

Saints were shell-shocked but regrouped to score their second try from Hutchinson before McFarland scored the try of the game when he intercepted Mitchell’s pass to outpace the cover on a 50-metre run to the line.

The game became increasingly open with Goode a try-scorer for Saracens before Saints staged a tremendous rally to score three converted tries in quick succession. Replacement, James, scored two of them with Proctor their final scorer.

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RUGBYPASS+ Saracens big-guns look to assert themselves in the post-Eddie Jones era Saracens big-guns look to assert themselves in the post-Eddie Jones era
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