Northampton edge out Saracens 22-20 to reach Premiership final

Northampton Saints are heading back to Twickenham
©Ketan Shah Photography

Northampton Saints 22-20 Saracens, cinch Stadium @ Franklin's Gardens

Northampton Saints managed to successfully hold off Saracens with a 22-20 win at cinch Stadium @ Franklin's Gardens as they moved into the final of the Gallagher Premiership.

They will now face the winner of Bath and Sale Sharks in the other semi-final on Saturday but for the Saints, this will be their first visit to the big dance in 10 years.

As for Saracens, this compelling contest marked the last game for Owen Farrell and the Vunipola brothers, with the fly-half putting in another talismanic shift despite being a fitness doubt due to a quad injury.

And it was Farrell's side who started the stronger with Elliot Daly pinging over two penalties. It could have been even better for Saracens had Juan Martin Gonzalez collected Farrell's cross-field kick with the try-line at his mercy.

But Saints then burst into life. George Furbank offloaded superbly to Burger Odendaal to cross over for their only try in the game. Fin Smith kicked the conversion to make it 7-6.

Saracens thought they had wrestled back the lead with Jamie George diving over, but the TMO ruled it out because the England captain was offside. Smith then kicked three successive penalties to ensure Northampton finished the opening half with a 16-6 advantage.

Mark McCall's men once again looked threatening but Northampton's defence denied Alex Lozowski. However, they were able to haul themselves back into this absorbing semi-final when Farrell sent a perfectly weighted kick through to Alex Lewington to dot down in the 54th minute and Daly's conversion meant the gap between the two teams came down to three points.

Smith had a chance to extend Northampton's lead but his penalty drifted wide but he was presented with another opportunity in the 62nd minute which he kicked to perfection making it 19-13.

As the game entered the final 10 minutes, Northampton earned another scrum penalty which Smith converted to make it 22-13 which proved enough despite Lucio Cinti going over in the 78th minute.

“Character is something that’s really hard to define and measure but you saw it in spades throughout, particularly under pressure,” Phil Dowson, the Northampton director of rugby, said. “The players were so hungry for it in defence and Lee Radford [the defence coach] has been unbelievable.”

Team line-ups:

Northampton: Furbank; Freeman, Odendaal, Dingwall, Sleightholme; F Smith Mitchell; A Waller, Langdon, Davison; Moon, Coles; Lawes C, Pearson, Augustus

Replacements: S Matavesi, Iyogun, Millar Mills, Mayanavanua, Graham, Ludlam, James, Hendy

Saracens: Daly; Lewington, Cinti, Tompkins, Parton; Farrell C, Van Zyl; M Vunipola, George, Riccioni; Itoje, Isiekwe; Gonzalez, Earl, B Vunipola

Replacements: Dan, Mawi, Hoskins, Tizard, McFarland, Willis, Davies, Lozowski

Widely regarded as the most competitive rugby union league in the can only be the Gallagher Premiership.

The division is becoming more and more exciting as each year passes by so who will be lifting silverware at Twickenham in May?

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