Aviva PremiershipNorthampton (13) 25Tries: Mallinder, Hartley, K Pisi Cons: Myler, Mallinder Pens: Myler 2Saracens (6) 27Tries: Ashton, Bosch Cons: Lozowski Pens: Lozowski 5
Marcelo Bosch’s late try gave Saracens a comeback win over Northampton at Stadium:MK to keep alive their hopes of a home Premiership semi-final.
Saints had gone into the break 13-6 ahead after Harry Mallinder’s early try off the back of great work by Ken Pisi.
A first try this term by British & Irish Lions hopeful Dylan Hartley and Pisi’s try put Saints in control, but Chris Ashton’s score gave Sarries hope.
Bosch finished the turnaround with minutes to go for third-placed Sarries.
The boot of Alex Lozowski was also crucial in the victory, finding the target with five penalties and one conversion, which moves the visitors to within two points of Exeter with two matches left to play.
Saints move up to sixth, into an automatic qualification spot for the European Champions Cup, but it could have been so much more having got on the scoreboard early on through Mallinder’s effort, following a superb catch off a Stephen Myler kick forward.
And despite losing number eight Louis Picamoles the hosts, who will not play any “regular season” games in Milton Keynes next season, continued on in good form in the second half, with Hartley adding the second try off the back of a lineout.
Lozowski’s two penalties made it 20-12, but Pisi finished in the corner after being superbly laid off by Ahsee Tuala, however with regular Stephen Myler off injured, Mallinder missed the conversion.
It proved to be crucial as Ashton finished against his former club, before Bosch cross after a fine Lozowski break in the dying moments to win the match for the reigning champions, for whom England second-row George Kruis played the whole 80 minutes on his comeback from injury.
Northampton director of rugby Jim Mallinder:
“It’s really disappointing to lose but we needed a little bit of luck and more composure. We will need to keep looking at ourselves but it didn’t help that we had our two key decision makers off the field.
“Louis has a bad neck while Stephen has a knee injury. Fingers crossed they will be okay for the Exeter trip as we now have a fortnight off.
“It will be tough down there so European qualification may come down to a winner-takes-all game against Harlequins in the final match of the season.”
Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall:
“Our game wasn’t up to the required level for the first 60 minutes as our set piece wasn’t dominant.
“We had a decent bench and we got a bit cross after we conceded a soft third try and got up a head of steam in the final quarter as we carried a lot harder.
“It was a lesson for us as the big things have to be right and they’ll need to be at Munster (in the European Champions Cup semi-final) next Saturday if we are to win there.
“We knew we had to put them under pressure as they’ve lost a few games of late in the final minutes and Alex Lozowski helped by having a superb second half and should be picked for the England tour to Argentina.”
Northampton: Tuala; Pisi, Burrell, Mallinder, Foden; Myler, Groom; Waller, Hartley, Brookes, Lawes, Ribbans, Gibson, Wood (capt.), Picamoles.
Replacements: Haywood, Waller, Hill, Ratuniyarawa, Harrison, Dickson, Hutchinson, Estelles.
Saracens: Goode; Earle, Bosch, D. Taylor, Maitland; Lozowski, Spencer; Lamositele, George (capt.), Koch, Isiekwe, Kruis, Conlon, Burger, Wray.
Replacements: Brits, Thompson-Stringer, Du Plessis, Rhodes, B. Vunipola, H. Taylor, Tompkins, Ashton.