Saracens were narrowly beaten by the Northampton Saints 20-16 in round four of the LV=Cup at Franklin’s Gardens.
Ben Spencer scored all of his sides points with a try, conversion and three penalties. Saracens now have to play an away semi-final in the LV=Cup.
Saracens were dealt a blow in the build-up to the game, with British & Irish Lion prop Matt Stevens having to withdraw due to illness, in came academy prop Titi Lamositele who took his place on the Sarries bench.
Early on, Saints missed a great chance to take the lead, after openside flanker Matt Hankin was penalised for being offside at the ruck, but Northampton debutant Will Hooley missed his kick from bang in front the uprights after seven minutes – the scores remained 0-0.
With the Saracens set-piece under some initial pressure in the opening exchanges it was from a scrum penalty where Saints scored the games first try.
The resulting penalty Saints kicked for touch, and a smart back-row move orchestrated by Kahn Fotuali’l from the lineout put Sarries on the back foot. The home side recycled well and the ball found its way out to full-back James Wilson who finished over on the right hand side. Hooley converted to give the home side a seven nil lead.
Saracens enjoyed the majority of possession in the aftermath of Saints opening try, with Ransom, Wilson and Tagicakibau all making half-breaks and reminding the home side of Saracens ability to get beyond the gain-line.
Sarries reduced Northampton’s lead to four points, when Saracens now enjoying a strong showing in the scrum forced the Saints front-row to stand up, referee JP Doyle blew for the penalty and Ben Spencer made no mistake from the kicking-tee.
The away side now had their tails up, and after Nils Mordt sent Tim Streather through with a grubber kick, Saints’ Samoan international scrum-half Kahn Fotuali’i was yellow carded for cynically knocking the ball from his opposite numbers Ben Spencer’s hands at the breakdown. With Fatuali’i off the pitch Saracens scored their first try of the game, with Ben Spencer diving on a loose ball that burst out of a Saints scrum to give his side the lead. Spencer converted an Saracens went into the dressing rooms at half-time with a 7-10 lead.
Saints didn’t take too much time to hit their straps in the second half as they scored eleven minutes after the break to retake the lead. Samu Manoa bulldozed his way over in 51st minute, after Saracens were exposed on the short side, Hooley couldn’t add the extras meaning the home side held a two point advantage.
Saracens responded by sending on experienced duo Mouritz Botha and Jacques Burger, along with talented youngster Scott Spurling.
Saints added to their lead with another penalty in the 57th minute, to give them a five point lead, but Saracens immediately hit back with a penalty of their own via Ben Spencer.
Saints ill-discipline was beginning to hurt them as they conceded another penalty right in front of the posts. Spencer made no mistake to edge his side into the lead.
Saints introduced fly-half Stephen Myler as they pressed for the win, and just before the 70th minute they crossed for their third try of the day, lock forward Samu Monoa again proving too powerful down the left hand edge – Myler couldn’t add the extras though, as the Saints held on in the final few minutes to secure the win and a home semi-final in the process.
Tries – Spencer
Conversions – Spencer
Penalties – Spencer (x3)
15. Ben Ransom; 14. Jack Wilson, 13. Tim Streather, 12. Marcelo Bosch, 11. Michael Tagicakibau; 10. Nils Mordt (capt), 9. Ben Spencer; 1.Rhys Gill, 2. Jared Saunders, 3. Petrus Du Plessis, 4. Hayden Smith, 5. Eoin Sheriff, 6. Nick de Jager, 7. Matt Hankin, 8. Justin Melck.
Replacements used; 16. Scott Spurling , 17. Richard Barrington, , 19. Mouritz Botha, 20. Jacques Burger, 22. Sam Stanley, 23. Tom Jubb.
Not used; 18. Titi Lamositele, 21. Jack Maplesden.