Planet Rugby

Late score sends Saracens to HQ

16th May 2010 12:18

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Soane Tonga uiha scores against Saracens

On his way: Soane Tonga'uiha

The script writers almost enjoyed a dream day on Sunday as a final twist between Northampton and Saracens saw the latter prevail 21-19 in a game that made 2010 well worth the read.

It had everything. Plenty of pre-game needle that was soccer-esque at times, newspaper talk, wild accusations and to top it off, it was the star cast who came so close to having the last word as Soane Tonga'uiha and Brian Mujati each crossed for a try in a memorable game at the Gardens.

Since that April 24 defeat in the East Midlands, the plethora of off-the-field subplots had added further coals to the fire heading towards kick-off.

Jim Mallinder stated this week that Saracens had done all manner of things not associated with rugby etiquette over the Guinness Premiership season. And with the Rugby Football Union having charged Brendan Venter for ensuing events that occurred against Leicester at Welford Road, the game at the Gardens felt very much like the situation was coming to a crescendo.

And so it proved as on a fine surface and under the sunshine, it was a game full in intensity, spice and more importantly running rugby.

Both sides pleasingly bought into the occasion but it was Saints who started the brighter, enjoying an impressive 83% of possession in the opening ten minutes.

In that frantic period, the hosts turned down three kickable points but when hooker Schalk Brits over-threw a lineout to his number two jumper, number eight Roger Wilson was certainly the catalyst for the first points. His 35-metre break right into the heart of the visitors' 22 led to Jacques Burger slowing down the ball and gifted fly-half Stephen Myler the game's first points, whilst earning the South African a yellow card.

But the fourteen men of Saracens regrouped and once they had soaked up that early barrage, they struck with a super seven points that silenced the home crowd. It came via a rather aimless kick downfield from Saints to winger Michael Tagicakibau, who raced over halfway before being felled. The damage was already done though as quickly recycled ball found the hosts lacking in numbers on the left and Glen Jackson did well to remain calm before sending promising full-back Alex Goode over for a 3-7 lead on fifteen minutes.

While the scoreboard remained untouched right up until the stroke of half-time, it did not mean there was a lull in tempo at Franklin's Gardens. Far from it as the Guinness Premiership's early-season boring tag was forgotten and how. England wing Chris Ashton was beginning to grow into matters before the script writers had their first moment on 40 minutes. Saints were back on the front foot and after good work from lock Juandre Kruger and then Dylan Hartley joined in with a slick offload, which led to Tonga'uiha racing to the line from 45 metres, brushing off Goode in the process. How the journos typed!

But the story-line was far from over as Saracens were doing more than enough to suggest they could recover from that setback, despite Myler adding another three points on 43 minutes. And so the visitors did as, when Goode slotted in at fly-half off second-phase ball, the youngster broke the line and offloaded to replacement Kameli Ratuvou before Hugh Vyvyan sent USA finisher Chris Wyles over. Saracens were back in front and looking good.

It was turning into classic knockout rugby and when the impressive Ernst Joubert held onto possession after making a good break into opposition territory, Myler's penalty to bring the scores back to 14-14 gave more than a hint that extra-time could be forthcoming.

That was until the man who Mallinder suggested had been 'tapped up' by Saracens, Mujati, crossed over from a driving maul to send the Gardens into delirium. But the extras were missed and the 'Fez Heads' sensed their opportunity with a similar score for Brits leading to Jackson knocking over the winning two points, despite Saints pushing for a late drop-goal.

Man-of-the-match: In his final season at the club, this award has to go to Glen Jackson for a measured performance from fly-half. That winning kick also helped his cause a little.

The scorers:

For Northampton:
Tries: Tonga'uiha, Mujati
Pen: Myler 3

For Saracens:
Tries: Goode, Wyles, Brits
Con: Jackson 3

Northampton: 15 Ben Foden, 14 Chris Ashton 13 Jon Clarke, 12 James Downey, 11 Bruce Reihana, 10 Stephen Myler, 9 Lee Dickson, 8 Roger Wilson, 7 Neil Best, 6 Phil Dowson, 5 Juandre Kruger, 4 Ignacio Fernandez Lobbe, 3 Brian Mujati, 2 Dylan Hartley (capt), 1 Soane Tonga'uiha.
Replacements: 16 Brett Sharman, 17 Regardt Dreyer, 18 Darren Morris, 19 Courtney Lawes, 20 Mark Easter, 21 Alan Dickens, 22 Shane Geraghty, 23 Joe Ansbro.

Saracens: 15 Alex Goode, 14 Michael Tagicakibau, 13 Adam Powell, 12 Brad Barritt, 11 Chris Wyles, 10 Glen Jackson, 9 Neil de Kock, 8 Ernst Joubert (capt), 7 Andy Saull, 6 Jacques Burger, 5 Mouritz Botha, 4 Hugh Vyvyan, 3 Petrus du Plessis, 2 Schalk Brits, 1 Matias Aguero.
Replacements: 16 Fabio Ongaro, 17 Rhys Gill, 18 Richard Skuse, 19 Tom Ryder, 20 Justin Melck, 21 Justin Marshall, 22 Derick Hougaard, 23 Kameli Ratuvou.

Referee: Wayne Barnes

By Adam Kyriacou

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