Saracens stun table toppers Northampton Saints

Simon Foster 08:28 24/05/2015
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Billy Vunipola celebrates Saracens impressive victory at Franklin’s Gardens.

Saracens gained revenge for their defeat by Northampton in last season’s Premiership final with a 29-24 semi-final victory away to the Saints.

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A compelling first half at Franklin’s Gardens ended all square at 13-13 and an increasingly bruising battle up front led to the match being decided by goalkickers on both sides.

Ultimately, England international Owen Farrell’s 19-point haul, comprising five penalties and two conversions, swung the match Saracens’ way.

The north London club – who sneaked into the play-offs on points difference – also saw hooker Jamie George score a second-half try, with Northampton flanker Tom Wood crossing for the home side.

Victory saw Saracens become only the fifth away side in 21 playoff semi-finals to come out on top and they will now play Bath in the final after the Westcountry side thrashed Leicester 47-10.

Saracens went ahead when David Strettle punted the ball behind Northampton’s defence, with team-mate Duncan Taylor the first to the kick before passing to the England wing for a try.

But Northampton, who topped the regular season table, equalised with a penalty try that saw Saracens prop Mako Vunipola sin-binned for collapsing a scrum.

Farrell kicked a penalty before exchanging threepointers with Northampton flyhalf Stephen Myler.

An attritional second half saw Farrell convert George’s try and, although Myler landed a late penalty, Saracens’ defence held firm.

Sarries’ director of rugby, Mark McCall, paid tribute to Farrell, saying: “Owen showed he is a worldclass fly-half out there and showed he has a big match mentality. He was magnificent in how he controlled the team. His place kicking was magnificent as well.”

In the other semi-final it was one way traffic as Bath crushed Leicester. A brace from Matt Banahan and a Kyle Eastmond try put the home side in control, despite ending the first half with 13 men when Tom Youngs replied.

Second-half tries from Peter Stringer, George Ford and Anthony Watson sealed Bath’s passage to Twickenham as Banahan completed his hat-trick late on.

Coach Mike Ford said: “We scored a couple at the end there which probably skewed the score a little bit. I thought our defence was outstanding.

“But they didn’t really have a bench like ours, and we knew that. Once we got that fourth try we settled down and ran away with it a little bit.”

Fly-half George Ford added: “I think in these play-off games, when you get opportunities in the red zone you have to take them. To get seven tries is pleasing, but I’m not sure it’ll be like that next week.”

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