Apr 09, 2016
Saracens Overcome Saints Challenge To Secure Semi Final Spot
Saracens overcame a slow first half performance to progress to the Champions Cup semi-finals in two weeks’ time with a 29-13 win over visitors Northampton Saints.
It was a tight opening 40 minutes at Allianz Park and while Sarries were first on the score board, Saints looked to have been first to cross the white wash early in the half only for winger Jamie Elliott to knock the ball on over the line. Saints looked dangerous in attack and it wasn’t long before Ken Pisi dived over after a break from Saints number 8 Teimana Harrison. A long range penalty effort from Owen Farrell brought Sarries within a point of the visitors but Saints pulled ahead to lead 10-6 with ten minutes to go in the half thanks to a Stephen Myler effort from the tee.
It seems as though Saracens would bounce back immediately after the break when Duncan Taylor crossed over in the corner, however the try was disallowed by referee Jerome Garces for an obstruction. An Owen Farrell penalty once again brought the difference to a point and Saracens were looking livelier in attack. Still though Northampton found a way to pull back ahead with a penalty on 55 minutes. Saracens continued to push forward in attack and looked to be nearly in with a chance for a try but the pass flew agonisingly out of Alex Goode’s reach. A penalty from the scrum followed and once again Saracens were within a point of the visitors.
Saracens went on the attack again and after a breathless passage of play which had the Allianz Park faithful on the edge of their seats, Chris Ashton dived over to score. Points from the boot of Owen Farrell pulled the home side ahead before a try from Chris Wyles looked to have secured the win with four minutes left on the clock. With the clock on 80 minutes Northampton broke through for a consolation try from Courtney Lawes but it was not enough for the visitors and Saracens progressed to the semi-finals with a 29-20 victory.
Saracens could count themselves lucky that they only returned to their changing room at the break only four points behind Northampton, who were superb in the opening 40 minutes.
The hosts were sparingly off colour in the first half, with Will Fraser’s yellow card symbolising the home side’s frustration. If Saracens were left frustrated by their first half of rugby, then Jim Mallinder’s visiting Saints must have been elated with their performance as a Ken Pisi try and five points from Stephen Myler edged them in front.
In truth, it could have been more for the visitors. Jamie Elliott dropped the ball over the line bombing a certain try, openside Ben Nutley fluffed his lines with a two-on-one and Stephen Myler missed two penalty opportunities.
Sarries were first on the scoreboard as Owen Farrell slotted a sixth minute penalty after Saints were penalised for being in at the side.
Saints were looking dangerous. Wing Elliot and the impressive forward pair of Teimana Harrison and Mikey Hayward made inroads for the visitors. Their cause was helped when Will Fraser was yellow carded for a late hit on Ben Foden.
Myler missed two penalty attempts at goal and then Elliott would race away down the left wing only to drop the ball over the try line. Saints would score a try that underlined their first half dominance when Teimana Harrison won the ball and found Ken Pisi in acres of space on the Western touchline to score. Myler converted.
Sarries hit-back with a superb 50m penalty from Owen Farrell, but Myler would have the last word of the first half with a penalty to give his side a 10-6 lead.
Saracens wasted virtually no time asserting themselves after half-time and they looked to have crossed in the second minute of the second-half, but they were pulled back by the TMO for blocking, with Fraser the guilty party.
It was Saracens who scored first after the break though - Farrell nudging over from in front of the sticks, but Myler converted an equally simple chance five minutes later to restore the visitors' four point lead.
With Farrell distributing well and he prominent back rower Billy Vunipola carrying aggressively, McCall's side began to up the tempo and they made their dominance pay in the scrum, putting the Northampton pack into reverse-gear and earning a penalty that Farrell easily converted.
Then the levee broke for Saints, as Saracens showed all of their class in attack to score their first try. Brad Barritt made the initial bust before Farrell's pass found Alex Goode chiming into the line with typical grace, the full-back then fixed two men before Ashton sniffed out the try scoring opportunity to race over and score. Farrell converted.
Another Farrell penalty stretched the lead before Sarries' relentless defensive pressure eventually told and Wyles latched onto a sloppy Saints pass after some fine defensive work from Duncan Taylor posts to score and Farrell added the extras.
Lawes struck back with a consolation score for the Saints but it is Saracens who will progress into their fourth successive Champions Cup semi-final.
Saracens: Alex Goode; Chris Ashton, Duncan Taylor, Brad Barritt (c), Chris Wyles; Owen Farrell, Richard Wigglesworth; Mako Vunipola, Schalk Brits, Petrus du Plessis, Maro Itoje, George Kruis, Jackson Wray, Will Fraser, Billy Vunipola.
Replacements: Jared Saunders, Richard Barrington, Titi Lamositele, Alistair Hargreaves, Michael Rhodes, Neil de Kock, Marcelo Bosch, Ben Ransom.
Replacements used Barrington for M.Vunipola (78); Lamositele for Du Plessis (78); Hargreaves for Fraser (78); Rhodes for Wray (52); De Kock for Wigglesworth(41); Bosch for Barritt(78); Saunders for Brits (78); Ransom for Goode (78):
Tries Ashton; Wyles:
Cons Farrell x 2:
Penalties Farrell x 5
Yellow card Fraser 11 mins.
Northampton Saints: Ben Foden (c); Ken Pisi, George Pisi, Luther Burrell, Jamie Elliott; Steve Myler, Kahn Fotuali'i; Alex Waller, Mikey Haywood, Paul Hill, James Craig, Christian Day, Courtney Lawes, Ben Nutley, Teimana Harrison
Replacements: Reece Marshall, Campese Ma'afu, Gareth Denman, Victor Matfield, Michael Paterson, Tom Kessell, JJ Hanrahan, Harry Mallinder:
Replacements used: Ma'afu for A.Waller (63); Denman for Hill (70); Matfield for Day (62); Patterson for Nutley (67-71); Kessell for Fotuali'I (70); Hanrahan for G.Pisi (71); Mallinder for Foden; Patterson for Craig (75).
Tries K.Pisi; Lawes:
Cons Myler x 2:
Penalties Myler x 2: