Bok stars as Saracens reach Final
MATCH REPORT: Saracens surged into the Premiership Final, but their 38-15 victory over Northampton was tinged with controversy after Sean Maitland plundered two tries having escaped an early card.
Last season’s runners-up were irresistible for long spells of a one-sided play-off as they set up a Twickenham showdown with either champions Leicester or Sale, who meet on Sunday.
But Northampton will feel aggrieved that Maitland was not at least sin-binned for clattering into George Furbank with his elbows during an aerial collision that left the England back needing lengthy treatment.
Referee Karl Dickson issued only a penalty and in making a quick decision declined to consult the TMO with the game just 25 seconds old.
To rub salt into the wound, Maitland scored Saracens’ opening two tries as part of an unstoppable first half that produced a 21-3 lead which was only briefly threatened when Northampton fought back in the third quarter.
A penalty try and Max Malins’ touchdown shut the door on the possibility of an upset and Saints, who barely fired a shot before the break, was well beaten by opponents seeking a sixth Premiership title.
Scrumhalf Ivan van Zyl was named man of the match but Alex Goode could easily have been chosen given his influence in the opening stages.
When Northampton attacked and was turned over, Goode launched a stunning counter-attack given pace by Maitland but Alex Lozowski lacked the speed to finish the move.
Goode’s vision was on display again in the seventh minute when he chipped through for Maitland to score, but it was a good afternoon to be pulling the strings with Saracens dominating the gainline.
Maitland was over again in the 23rd minute after sustained pressure ended with Farrell producing a precision grubber for the Scotland wing to touch down.
Any time Northampton got the ball they were hammered backwards in the tackle but they could only blame themselves for the next try as having conceded a penalty, they switched off to allow the quick-thinking Van Zyl to tap and go for an easy run-in.
Saracens led 21-3 on the half-hour mark and when faced with a rare assault on their line they rolled up their sleeves and sent Saints packing.
Nick Tompkins’ turnover shortly after the interval typified their resolve in defence and the third quarter was harder work, with Northampton showing the fire that had been missing in the first half.
Alex Mitchell skipped over in the 56th minute and Saints engineered a superb try soon after when stylish play ended with Courtney Lawes sending James Ramm over.
But the comeback was over when Saracens’ maul forced a penalty try that also saw Tom James sent to the sin-bin, before Malins completed the rout. Sarries’ Maro Itoje was yellow-carded late on.
Tries: Maitland 2, van Zyl, Malins, Penalty try
Cons: Farrell 4, a penalty try does not require a conversion
For Northampton Saints
Tries: Mitchell, Ramm
Yellow cards: Tom James (Northampton Saints, Yellow card at 70), Maro Itoje (Saracens, 78)
Saracens: 15 Alex Goode, 14 Max Malins, 13 Alex Lozowski, 12 Nick Tompkins, 11 Sean Maitland, 10 Owen Farrell (captain), 9 Ivan Van Zyl, 8 Jackson Wray, 7 Ben Earl, 6 Nick Isiekwe, 5 Hugh Tizard, 4 Maro Itoje, 3 Marco Riccioni, 2 Jamie George, 1 Mako Vunipola.
Replacements: 16 Theo Dan, 17 Eroni Mawi, 18 Christian Judge, 19 Callum Hunter-Hill, 20 Toby Knight, 21 Ruben de Haas, 22 Duncan Taylor, 23 Elliot Daly.
Northampton: 15 George Furbank, 14 James Ramm, 13 Fraser Dingwall, 12 Rory Hutchinson, 11 Tommy Freeman, 10 Fin Smith, 9 Alex Mitchell, 8 Juarno Augustus, 7 Lewis Ludlam (captain), 6 Courtney Lawes, 5 Alex Moon, 4 David Ribbans, 3 Trevor Davison, 2 Tom Cruse, 1 Alex Waller.
Replacements: 16 Robbie Smith, 17 Ethan Waller, 18 Paul Hill, 19 Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, 20 Angus Scott-Young, 21 Sam Graham, 22 Tom James, 23 Tom Collins.
Referee: Karl Dickson
Assistant referees: Ian Tempest, Sara Cox
TMO: Stuart Terheege