Saracens bounce back in fine style
PREMIERSHIP WRAP: Saracens sent a huge statement of intent out to their Premiership rivals as an almighty comeback saw Mark McCall’s men edge out Northampton Saints 27-25.
The hosts - chasing a top-six finish in the table - had led for almost the entire contest, with Harry Mallinder’s early try handing them a half-time advantage before Dylan Hartley and Ken Pisi looked to have put them out of sight.
But the reliable boot of Alex Lozowski kept Sarries in touch, before two late tries from replacement Chris Ashton and Marcelo Bosch set up the ice-cool flyhalf to kick a superb conversion at the death, and steal a victory that keeps the Londoners’ hopes of a home semi-final alive.
* In the other Sunday match Christian Wade scored on his 100th Premiership appearance as Wasps moved one step closer to a home semi-final with victory over Bristol at Ashton Gate.
We look at the Sunday matchesd!
Northampton Saints 25 Saracens 27
Marcelo Bosch's late try helped Saracens complete a remarkable recovery as the reigning English and European champions beat Northampton 27-25 in the Premiership at Milton Keynes on Sunday.
Saracens seemed destined for defeat when Northampton were 25-12 up with 10 minutes left to play.
But two tries in the closing stages, from former England wing Chris Ashton and Argentina international Bosch, plus a penalty and a conversion from rising English star Alex Lozowski, saw Saracens snatch victory.
The win was a testament to both Saracens' never-say-die attitude and the depth of the London club's squad.
Lozowski, the son of former England centre Rob, kicked five penalties in all in a match haul of 17 points.
Saracens were already safely ensconced within the top four who will contest the Premiership's title-deciding play-offs.
But this agonising defeat left Northampton in sixth place with two regular season games remaining and in danger of missing out on a place in next term's elite European Champions Cup.
Saracens rested several key players ahead of this coming Saturday's Champions Cup semi-final against Munster at Dublin's Lansdowne Road.
Club captain Brad Barritt and several members of Six Nations champions England's squad, including Owen Farrell, Maro Itoje and Mako Vunipola, were all spared Sunday's match against the Saints.
Northampton too were not at full strength, with France back-row Louis Picamoles missing through injury.
Nevertheless they looked to have done enough to secure victory thanks to tries from Harry Mallinder, Ken Pisi and England captain Dylan Hartley.
Stephen Myler kicked two penalties and a conversion, with Mallinder - the son of Northampton director of rugby Jim - also landing a conversion.
But with 25 minutes left, Saracens brought on England back row forward Billy Vunipola and Michael Rhodes, with the pair helping them turn the tide.
Ashton just found enough room to go over in the corner and Lozowski kicked another penalty before the fly-half's decisive break set up the equalising try for Bosch.
Lozowski made no mistake with the conversion and, with just over a minute left, Saracens ran down the clock.
Sunday's other English top-flight match saw leaders Wasps beat Bristol 36-21 to effectively relegate the west country side.
Bristol are now doomed to finish bottom of the table - the lone relegation place - and their only hope of staying in the top flight is if the second-tier Championship title-winners fail to meet Premiership ground criteria.
But that looks a forlorn hope for Bristol fans, given the likelihood that either London Irish or Yorkshire Carnegie, both Premiership compliant clubs, will win the Championship title.
For Northampton Saints:
Tries: Mallinder, Hartley, K Pisi
Cons: Myler, Mallinder
Pens: Myler 2
Tries: Ashton, Bosch
Pens: Lowzoski 5
Yellow card: Duncan Taylor (Saracensd, 16)
Northampton: 15 Ahsee Tuala, 14 Ken Pisi, 13 Luther Burrell, 12 Harry Mallinder, 11 Ben Foden, 10 Stephen Myler, 9 Nic Groom, 8 Louis Picamoles, 7 Tom Wood (captain), 6 Jamie Gibson, 5 David Ribbans, 4 Courtney Lawes, 3 Kieran Brookes, 2 Dylan Hartley, 1 Alex Waller.
Replacements: 16 Mikey Haywood, 17 Ethan Waller, 18 Paul Hill, 19 Api Ratuniyarawa, 20 Teimana Harrison, 21 Lee Dickson, 22 Rory Hutchinson, 23 Juan Pablo Estelles.
Saracens: 15 Alex Goode, 14 Nathan Earle, 13 Marcelo Bosch, 12 Duncan Taylor, 11 Sean Maitland, 10 Alex Lozowski, 9 Ben Spencer, 8 Jackson Wray, 7 Schalk Burger, 6 Joel Conlon, 5 George Kruis, 4 Nick Isiekwe, 3 Vincent Koch, 2 Jamie George (captain), 1 Titi Lamositele.
Replacements: 16 Schalk Brits, 17 Hayden Thompson-Stringer, 18 Petrus Du Plessis, 19 Michael Rhodes, 20 Billy Vunipola, 21 Henry Taylor, 22 Nick Tompkins, 23 Chris Ashton.
Referee: Matthew Carley
Assistant Referees: Wayne Falla, Gareth Copsey
TMO: Graham Hughes
Bristol 21 Wasps 36
Christian Wade scored on his 100th Premiership appearance as Wasps moved one step closer to a home semi-final with victory over Bristol at Ashton Gate.
Jason Woodward had given the hosts the lead, but four successive tries from the visitors means Bristol have been confirmed as finishing 12th in the Premiership campaign.
Josh Bassett and Tommy Taylor scored while Joe Simpson added another before half-time to give his side a 14-point lead.
Wade then scored his 16th try of the campaign while Guy Thompson added a fifth try for Wasps, needing just a handful more points to secure their place in the top two, though Jack O’Connell and Nick Fenton-Wells crossed for late consolations.
It didn’t always look as though that would be the case however, as Woodward profited from an interception to run in from 50 metres as Bristol had the lead with just three minutes on the clock.
The home side didn’t let up either as they kept pushing forward, though Wasps levelled up at 7-7 after good work from Kurtley Beale and Phil Swainston, though Bassett still had to muscle his way over the line.
They got a second just a few minutes later as Taylor rode on the back of a maul to be in the right place at the right time, profiting from a loose ball to dot down his side’s second of the afternoon.
Bristol showed their try-scoring ambitions as they elected to go for the corner from numerous attacks, with the game just not falling in their direction.
The visitors made the most of that as the half came to an end, with Jimmy Gopperth delaying the pass before he found a motoring Beale.
The centre still had lots to do though, beating two defenders prior to finding Simpson to show his nimble feet and touch down.
But with Woodward in the Bristol ranks they continued to look a threat, almost getting his second of the game before frantic Wasps defending maintained their 21-7 half-time advantage.
That was added to by Wade however, capitalising over on an overlap to sprint into the corner, securing the all-important bonus point for his side.
Still Bristol were not done attacking, but that proved costly as an opportunistic counter attack saw Matt Symons pick up a loose ball for Thompson to score.
Bassett was to get a deserved second of the afternoon too, as good work from replacement Alapati Leiua drew another two-on-one to leave the wing with a simple task to touch down.
But then the hosts’ attacking endeavour finally drew its reward as some superb work in the offload from Tusi Pisi fed Searle, who in turn helped O’Connell maraud through the Wasps defence for their second try of the afternoon, the score 14-36 heading into the closing ten minutes.
And there was still time for Bristol to end in a flourish, as a break from deep from Ryan Edwards saw him find Searle before Fenton-Wells went flying under the post for their third score.
Tries:Woodward, O'Connell, Fenton-Wells
Cons: Henson, Searle 2
Tries: Bassett 2, Taylor, Simpson, Wade, Thompson
Cons: Gopperth 3
Bristol: 15 Jason Woodward 14 Ryan Edwards, 13 Will Hurrell, 12 Gavin Henson, 11 Jack Tovey, 10 Billy Searle, 9 Alby Mathewson, 8 Mitch Eadie, 7 Nick Fenton-Wells, 6 Sam Jeffries, 5 Mark Sorenson, 4 James Phillips, 3 Gaston Cortes, 2 Marc Jones (captain), 1 Ryan Bevington.
Replacements: 16 Max Crumpton, 17 Jack O’Connell, 18 Jamal Ford-Robinson, 19 Ben Glynn, 20 Olly Robinson, 21 Rhodri Williams, 22 Tusi Pisi, 23 Charlie Amesbury.
Wasps: 15 Willie Le Roux, 14 Christian Wade, 13 Elliot Daly, 12 Kurtley Beale, 11 Josh Bassett, 10 Jimmy Gopperth, 9 Joe Simpson, 8 Nathan Hughes, 7 Guy Thompson, 6 James Haskell, 5 Matt Symons, 4 Joe Launchbury (captain), 3 Phil Swainston, 2 Tommy Taylor, 1 Matt Mullan.
Replacements: 16 Tom Cruse 17 Tom Bristow 18 Jake Cooper-Woolley, 19, Kearnan Myall, 20 Thomas Young, 21 Dan Robson 22 Danny Cipriani, 23 Alapati Leiua.
Referee: Greg Garner
Assistant Referees: Anthony Woodthorpe, Roger Baileff
TMO: Stuart Terheege