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Page last updated at 14:25 GMT, Sunday, 24 April 2011 15:25 UK

Saracens 35-12 Gloucester

Saracens (15) 35
Tries: Brits, Joubert, Stevens, Strettle
Goode 3 Penalties: Goode 3
Gloucester (5) 12
Tries: Simpson-Daniel, Trinder Conversions: Mills

Saracens celebrate David Strettle's try
Strettle's pace proved too much for Gloucester's defence

Saracens made it nine straight wins to move within a point of Leicester at the top of the Premiership table.

Steve Borthwick's side ensured a top two finish, clocking up four tries at Vicarage Road to book home advantage in the Premiership play-off semi-finals.

South African duo Schalk Brits and Ernst Joubert ran in first-half tries, prop Matthew Stevens and winger David Strettle crossing after the break.

Gloucester's tries came from James Simpson-Daniel and Henry Trinder.

Sarries' emphatic victory came against the side most likely to be their opponents on 15 May.

Yet Gloucester came within a whisker of taking the lead on 20 minutes.

Freddie Burns' penalty from just inside the Saracens half struck the left-hand upright. And, within 60 seconds, the home side were ahead.

Winger James Short exchanged passes with Brits, who galloped clear for his sixth try of the season, converted by Goode.

Saracens struck again on the half-hour when Jacques Burger peeled off the back of a left-wing line-out close to the Gloucester line and fed Joubert, who was driven over by the pack despite desperate efforts on the Cherry and Whites' line.

Referee David Pearson consulted the video referee before raising his arm, but Goode's conversion attempt, from the same area as his earlier missed penalty, was also off target.

Gloucester struck back in style six minutes from the interval when Charlie Sharples and Tom Voyce linked to send Simpson-Daniel in by the flag, Burns missing the conversion.

After a Goode penalty in front of the posts to end the half 15-5 up, Saracens scored their third try four minutes into the second half.

Mouritz Botha smashed into the heart of the defence, Richard Wigglesworth dummied to pass and darted for the line before delivering a clever reverse pass for Stevens to score from close range, Goode adding the conversion.

After two more Goode penalties, Gloucester raised their game heading into the final quarter and scored a try.

Brett Deacon rescued the ball off the ground, Trinder raced away up the right, swerving round the outside of the prone figure of Hugh Vyvyan, being treated by three medics while play continued.

Ryan Mills added the conversion but any hopes of a late comeback were ended when Luke Narraway was sin-binned for ball killing.

And Gloucester cracked for the final time in the 79th minute when Strettle was sent hurtling home on the right for the fourth, bonus-point winning try, Goode's conversion completing the scoring.

Saracens rugby director Mark McCall:

"If we do face Gloucester in the semi-final, we know a different team will turn up, not a side who must have been affected by playing three games in eight days.

"We were very disappointed last weekend despite winning at Exeter. And we were much better this week, more like the Saracens we want to be.

"The team performance was good. A number of individuals played well - Alex Goode, Brad Barritt, Andy Soull when he came on, and Richard Wigglesworth. But it's almost unfair to single people out after a fine all-round display."

Gloucester coach Bryan Redpath:

"We did not play well and Saracens deserved their win. We may well have run out of steam, given what we've had to handle in the past eight days. But we are definitely better than that performance.

"Now we need to achieve a five-point victory over Sale in two weeks to guarantee that we're back at Saracens in the semi-final.

"We never claimed to be the best team in England - we are still a notch down from the very best - but it's about learning and developing. And the players have not had a week off since August 14."

Saracens: Goode; Strettle, Wyles, Barritt, Short; Farrell, De Kock; Stevens, Brits, Nieto; Borthwick, Botha; Brown, Burger, Joubert.

Replacements: George, Gill, du Plessis, Vyvyan, Saull, Wigglesworth, Penney, Cato.

Gloucester: Voyce; Sharples, Trinder, Fuimaono-Sapolu, Simpson-Daniel; Burns, Lewis; Dickinson, S Lawson, Harden; James, Hamilton; Strokosch, Hazell, Deacon.

Replacements: Azam, Wood, Doran-Jones, Brown, Narraway, R Lawson, Mills, Molenaar.

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see also
Guscott's predictions
25 Apr 11 |  English
Azam gets four-week head-butt ban
27 Apr 11 |  Gloucester
Voyce expects hard Sarries battle
20 Apr 11 |  Gloucester
Exeter 12-33 Saracens
16 Apr 11 |  Rugby Union
Gloucester 27-15 Northampton
19 Apr 11 |  English

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