Saracens book Premiership final with Northampton

Saracens booked a place in the Aviva Premiership final at Twickenham when they beat Harlequins 31-17 in the Premiership Semi-final at Allianz Park.

Saracens gradually saw off Harlequins to keep their dreams of winning the double
alive.

The lead was evenly shared up until the 60-minute mark, with the league’s
best side stretching away in the late May sunshine as Harlequins faded in a
bruising encounter. Saracens scored 20 unanswered points in the second half.

A total of 14 possible points went begging as kickers Owen Farrell and Marcelo
Bosch toiled with the conditions and their accuracy, but they were not made
to pay in the end.

Saracens’ domestic dominance has been unrivalled – their only loss at home
all season, to London Irish, was freakish – but they took some time to get going.

In the end they scored three tries, England winger Chris Ashton making sure
of the result and that there would be no repeat of last season’s shock loss
to Northampton on home soil.

They will have to raise the performance displayed in the first 60 minutes by
many levels compared to this to compete with Toulon in next week’s Heineken
Cup Final.

Harlequins had more or less been written off by all parties before kickoff,
having snuck into the 4th spot. Conor O’Shea pre-match inspiration speech therefore
had already been written and his team came out with a fire in their belly.

Tension was omnipresent throughout the opening exchanges as Owen Farrell and
Nick Evans traded penalties, with the England fly-half’s touchline break bringing
the game to life only for it to end with no reward.

Friday’s semi-final was dominated by the TMO and an early call to action was
required after Kyle Sinckler was sent into a forward flip following a tackle
from Schalk Brits. The outcome to not award a penalty or card may have irked
some Harlequins fans, but felt like the right call.

Farrell put his team into the lead for the first time with a second penalty
on his third attempt, after his second effort had clattered back off the post.

Tempo was difficult to create. Harlequins thrive off playing quicker than their
opponents and making them work to fill spaces, but their forwards couldn’t build
the momentum.

It’s something they’ve done so well this season, spearheaded by Nick Easter
on his record appearance for the club, but early on they were stalling.

Brits may not have been penalised for a tip tackle but Marcelo Bosch was, yellow
carded for lifting Evans and driving him into the ground. Evans recovered to
try and land his second penalty but sent it wide down the right.

Physicality was overcoming skill as the game pondered through to the half hour
mark, but when Saracens went down to 13 after a careless slap of the ball down
from Matt Stevens the home side were truly tested.

Step forward Ugo Monye, initially bouncing off tacklers down the left to put
Harlequins behind the defensive line, before the former England winger gathered
Evans’ looped pass and raced over untouched.

Saracens would inevitably respond, and they did in style. Kelly Brown had the
presence of mind to outpace Charlie Matthews on the outside and fend him off
to score. It was intelligent play from the Scotland captain to put his team
back into the lead after the power runners had sucked in the defence.

Perhaps Harlequins had missed their chance to win this one, ending their two-man
advantage with Saracens in the lead.

Good defensive pressure handed them a gift as the blitz on Alastair Hargreaves
forced the ball loose, Harlequins hacking on into space for Mike Brown – the
best player in England – to dot down. Evans converted to give the underdogs
a 17-11 lead at half

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