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Page last updated at 15:53 GMT, Saturday, 24 April 2010 16:53 UK

Northampton 27-28 Saracens

Northampton (16) 27
Tries: penalty, Foden Cons: Myler Pens: Myler 5
Saracens (10) 28
Tries: Joubert, Powell, Penney Cons: Jackson 2 Pens: Jackson 3


Adam Powell celebrates his try
Powell's try set Sarries on their way to victory at Franklin's Gardens

Saracens maintained hopes of a home Premiership semi-final as they won a thriller at Northampton to move within two points of the second-placed Saints.

An Ernst Joubert try and five points from Glen Jackson, to three Stephen Myler penalties, saw Sarries lead 10-9.

A penalty try gave Saints a half-time lead but tries from Adam Powell and Rodd Penney put Sarries back in front.

Ben Foden crossed late on but Shane Geraghty missed the conversion to end Saints' 100% home record this season.

Victory would have ensured Northampton a home game in the play-off semi-final but they still remain in the box seat ahead of Saracens.

The Saints face a difficult trip to London Irish on the final day of the season, but Saracens have to visit Leicester, whose big win against Harlequins means they are certain to end the regular season on top of the Premiership table.

Saints took a fifth-minute lead when Myler, making his 100th appearance for Northampton, curled in a fine kick from wide on the left.

But Saracens hit back within a minute, Penney's pass sending captain Joubert over in the corner, with Jackson converting from the touchline.

Two further Myler penalties saw Northampton take a 9-7 lead and although Jackson edged Sarries back in front with his first penalty after 23 minutes, it was the hosts who went in to the break in front after the game erupted in the 33rd minute.

Mouritz Botha was sin-binned for tackling Chris Ashton just before Bruce Reihana's pass reached the prolific winger and Northampton were awarded a penalty try, duly converted by Myler.

Saracens reduced the arrears straight from the re-start through a Jackson penalty and although Myler soon restored the hosts' six-point advantage, Saracens went in front with a tremendous try two minutes later.

Centre Powell crossed on the left following a multi-phased passage of play in which Jacques Burger and Jackson played key roles.

It was Jackson's pass which sent Powell in for the score and the fly-half added the conversion to put Sarries ahead.

Some of Saracens' attacking play was breathtaking, even in the eyes of the home die-hards, but that crucial second score would not come and it was Saints who struck next, a Myler penalty giving them a 22-20 lead on the hour.

However, the lead rapidly changed for the seventh time as Jackson landed a penalty and the visitors' adventure was finally rewarded after 70 minutes when, after battering Saints on their line, the ball was whipped wide to Penney to squeeze over in the left corner.

Jackson could not convert from the touchline and Northampton came hammering back in a desperate attempt to maintain their unbeaten home record.

They finally scored in the 78th minute after a succession of attacks when Foden raced over but Geraghty, on for Myler, missed the conversion.


Northampton director of rugby Jim Mallinder:

"We didn't play particularly well, which is why the game ended up so close.

"We've had a few games here this season where we haven't hit top form but we've scraped through to earn narrow wins. This time it didn't happen.

"Shane is a tremendous talent [but] he has work to do in terms of kicking."

Saracens director of rugby Brendan Venter:
"You saw out there how top games are about small margins. But we were courageous, we defended strongly and we played some tremendous rugby.

"You will not see a much better game of Premiership rugby than this.

"Chris White had a brilliant game in keeping the breakdown working. Penalties are saving the game."


Northampton: Foden, Ashton, Clarke, Downey, Reihana, Myler, Dickson, Tonga'uiha, Hartley, Murray, Fernandez Lobbe, Kruger, Lawes, Dowson, Wilson.

Replacements: Ansbro for Clarke (73), Geraghty for Myler (71), Mujati for Murray (66), Best for Fernandez Lobbe (52), Easter for Wilson (70).

Not Used: Sharman, Dreyer, Dickens.

Saracens: Goode, Tagicakibau, Powell, Barrett, Penney, Jackson, De Kock, Aguero, Brits, Du Plessis, Vyvyan, Botha, Burger, Saull, Joubert.

Replacements: Ratuvou for Powell (67), Hougaard for Barrett (76), Gill for Aguero (67), Ryder for Botha (55), Melck for Burger (70), Reynecke for Joubert (76).

Not Used: Skuse, Marshall.

Sin Bin: Botha (33).

Att: 13,541

Ref: Chris White (RFU).



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see also
Guscott's predictions
23 Apr 10 |  English
Bath 21-20 Northampton
20 Apr 10 |  English
Northampton 38-23 Gloucester
17 Apr 10 |  English
Sarries can go all the way - Hill
22 Apr 10 |  Saracens
Saracens 37-18 Harlequins
17 Apr 10 |  English


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