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Wednesday, 17 May, 2000, 22:09 GMT 23:09 UK
Saracens closer to Europe
Richard Hill
Hill helped Saracens' qualifying hopes
Saracens 29 - 24 Northampton

Northampton still have it all to do to qualify for Europe next season and tonight's defeat at Saracens saw injuries to key backs Matt Dawson and Nick Beal.

While Sarries were taking another step towards European qualification via a tense and hard-fought win, Beal saw his hopes of Heineken Cup glory disappear as he went off with a broken leg after clattering into advertising hoarding.

Early running

Saints took an early three-point lead when Dawson converted a penalty, but it was the home side who made most of the early running - although it took them 18 minutes to find their scoring touch after they took the lead.

Kyran Bracken set Darragh O'Mahony away down the right flank, and he cleverly chipped the ball forward to Rob Thirlby who touched down in the corner.

Ben Johnston then extended Sarries' lead with a sensational score when Thierry Lacroix and Bracken combined well in midfield. The Frenchman then added a simple conversion.

Lacroix further extended Saracens' lead with a 40-yard penalty.


But they then had Paul Wallace sin-binned three minutes before half-time, and Saints took full advantage, deep into first-half injury time, when Budge Pountney reduced the home side's lead to 15-10.

Into the second half Saints levelled the game when Tim Rodber took a fine catch from a line-out. The drive for the line led to Gary Pagel touching down to level the scores.

Back in front

Lacroix put Sarries back in front, kicking a penalty from behind the 22-yard line. But the lead lasted just four minutes when Ali Hepher restored equity with a simple penalty in front of the posts.

Lacroix increased Sarries' lead with another penalty, but Paul Grayson pulled the visitors back to within one score.

Lacroix duly converted another penalty deep into injury time and once again give his team breathing space.

Grayson kicked a late penalty to once again bring Saints to within a score - but it proved too little too late.

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