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Saracens knocked fellow Premiership side Northampton Saints out of the European Rugby Champions Cup with a 29-20 victory at Allianz Park.
Saracens and Northampton both scored two tries each but Owen Farrell kicked five penalties to Stephen Myler’s two in the match.
Top seeds Saracens were second best for much of the contest but showed their class in the final quarter to make it seven wins from seven matches in this season’s competition.
England international Chris Ashton scored the decisive try just over 10 minutes left on the clock after outside-half Owen Farrell had kept the English Premiership leaders in touch with a faultless display with the boot.
A first-half score from Ken Pisi had given the Saints a deserved but slender 10-6 lead at the break but they were left to rue a couple of missed penalties from Stephen Myler and a failed touchdown from Jamie Elliot that would have given them a commanding half-time advantage.
The errors came back to haunt the visitors late in the second period as the opportunity of another semi-final appearance slipped through their fingers.
Chris Wyles went over for a second try for Saracens in the final few minutes before Courtney Lawes crossed for a consolation try for the Saints with the last play of the game.
Saracens started well with Farrell giving them an early lead with a long-range penalty but opposite number Stephen Myler was no such luck with the boot, as he missed two penalties.
The second penalty came after Saracens flanker Will Fraser saw yellow for a late hit on Saints full-back Ben Foden as he cleared the ball down field.
Saints should have taken advantage straight away but first flanker Ben Nutley failed to find Kahn Fotuali’I on his shoulder when a simple pass would have put the scrum-half under the posts.
But Saints managed to keep the ball and shift it wide, only for Elliot to lose the ball as he attempted to touch down in the corner.
They finally made their advantage count thanks to a superb break down the right by number eight Teimana Harrison, who found Pisi out wide to race over for the game’s first try.
Myler kicked the conversion and a further penalty before the interval but a second penalty from Farrell kept the home side just four points behind at the break.
Saracens thought they’d taken the lead shortly after half-time when Duncan Taylor was sent over in the corner but Fraser was adjudged to have blocked Luther Burrell in the build-up and the try was disallowed.
Farrell’s third penalty brought the home side back to within one point but another indiscretion from Fraser, this time killing ball with Saints in the Saracens 22, allowed Myler to restore their four-point lead with little over a quarter of the game left.
The home side were relying on the boot of Farrell to keep them in touch and he slotted his fourth penalty with 18 minutes to go to set-up a grandstand finish.
The deciding moment came when captain Brad Barritt went on a charge up the field with 12 minutes to play, the ball was swept out wide and Ashton produced his familiar swan dive to go over.
Fellow wing Wyles then put some gloss on the victory when he crossed three minutes from time after Saracens had turned the ball over in midfield before Lawes’ late score for the visitors.
Final Score Saracens 29 (6) Northampton Saints 20 (10)
Tries – Ashton, Wyles
Pen – Farrell (5)
Con – Farrell
Tries – K Pisi, Lawes
Pen – Myler (2)
Con – Myler (2)
Referee: Jerome Garces (France),
Assistant ref: Mathieu Raynal (France),
Assistant ref: Pierre Brousset (France),
TMO: Eric Gauzins (France),
Citing Commissioner: Peter Ferguson (Ireland)
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
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
With thanks to EPCRugby
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