Mar 08, 2014
Saracens bow out in LV=Cup semi
Saracens were beaten 26-7 at Franklin's Gardens in the semi-final of the LV=Cup.
In what was high class contest between the Premiership's top two sides, a Saracens side that had made fourteen changes from their last outing away to Bath performed well but were outscored four tries to one by their hosts.
The home side certainly enjoyed the better start, with Northampton Saints outside half Will Hooley slotting over two penalties in the first ten minutes to give his side a 6 - 0 lead.
The Saints were their rumbustious selves from the off - always looking to offload in the tackle but the Saracens scrabbling defence was equal to east Midlanders in the opening exchanges.
After absorbing a full blooded ten minutes Saracens began to grow into the game, with Tim Streather causing havoc in the Saints midfield with a series of breaks that could have seen both Tagicakibau and Wilson score but for resolute Northampton defence.
Saracens though were enjoying more possession and after winning a penalty from a Saints scrum deep in the home sides 22 they fashioned their first try of the game. After Jackson Wray broke from the scrum the ball was recycled to Mordt who passed inside to full-back Ransom who powered over to score a well taken try. Spencer converted to give his side a one point lead after twenty minutes.
Saints, now with Stephen Myler on the field after inside centre Tom Stephenson had to leave the field with an injury were struggling to exit their own half. A combination of intelligent Saracens attacking play and poor Northampton kicking meant that the away side were camped out in the Saints half for the remainder of the half.
Saracens thought they had crossed for their second try of the afternoon when Argentine centre Marcelo Bosh exhibited his international class by dancing through the Northampton defence to score only for the match TMO to disallow the try for a forward pass in the build-up.
Ben Spencer then missed a difficult attempt from the kicking tee after Northampton were adjudged to have been holding on in the tackle as the sides went into their respective dressing rooms with one point the difference.
After the break Saracens continued where they left off in the second half, with Tim Streather again reminding the Saints defence of his capabilities, as the ex-Nottingham man went close to releasing his centre partner Marcelo Bosch after only three minutes of the second forty.
But it was the Saints who would hit back. George Pisi careering onto a Fotuali'i pass to score just right of the posts. Hooley missed a pretty routine conversion, but moments later Saints replacement Stephen Myler sent over a well taken drop goal to extend the hosts lead to seven points.
On came the Saracens bench, first front row duo Gill and Johnston replaced Barrington and Du Plessis, the a quadruple substitution by Mark McCall saw Hayden Smith, Nick de Jager, Neil de Kock and Charlie Hodgson all enter the fray as Saracens looked to chase the game.
Saracens task was made all that tougher when Northampton's Samoan centre George Pisi crossed for his second of the afternoon as Jim Mallinder's men looked to close out the game.
Saracens went close as Charlie Hodgson nearly went the length of the field after an intercept but was hauled down close the line. Saracens refused to give up, with young openside Matt Hankin trying his up-most to influence the game with a series of carries and crunching tackles.
Experience half-back duo of De Kock and Hodgson looked to stamp their authority on the game as the minutes ebbed away, but Saracens execution in key areas of the field was unfortunately found wanting as Saints saw out the game to book their place at Sandy Park next Sunday with centre George Pisi sealing his hat-trick try with minutes to go.