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Odendaal scores as Saints edge Sarries in Premiership semifinal

PREMIERSHIP REPORT: Owen Farrell’s career at reigning champions Saracens ended with a 20-22 Premiership semifinal defeat by Northampton on Friday that kept Saints skipper Courtney Lawes in English club rugby for one last week.

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Both former England captains are leaving to join French teams at the end of the season, with the way now clear for 32-year-old flyhalf Farrell – who has been at Saracens since 2008 – to join Paris-based Racing 92.

Northampton, who finished the regular season top of the table to Saracens’ fourth, will now play the winners of Saturday’s match between Bath and Sale in a Twickenham Final on June 8.

In a gruelling contest, Northampton dominated at the scrum, with Fin Smith capitalising on Saracens’ indiscipline to kick five penalties as the Saints reached the Final for the first time since winning the title 10 years ago.

By contrast, defeat also signalled the end of the Saracens careers of two of Farrell’s England colleagues in Billy and Mako Vunipola.

Farrell was only kicking off his left foot in the warm-up, with England international Elliot Daly landing a couple of early penalties.

But Northampton hit back with their first sustained attack of the match, a series of passes and drives taking them into Saracens’ 22 before England fullback George Furbank sent in the hard-charging Burger Odendaal.

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Smith kicked three more penalties as Northampton moved clear but Saracens responded in style in the 54th minute when Farrell’s superb grubber-kick was athletically colleted by Alex Lewington for a fine try.

Smith then missed a penalty before Northampton and England scrumhalf Alex Mitchell was somehow denied by an extraordinary try-saving tackle from Juan Martin Gonzalez after the flank raced across field.

But Smith was back on target with a penalty to extend Northampton’s lead to 19-13 on the hour and then another success from the kicking tee left the Saints nine points ahead in the closing minutes.

There was still time, however, for Lucio Cinti to run in a converted as Saracens closed to within two points.

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But with time almost up and Saracens pressing for another score it was local hero Lawes who sealed victory when the powerhouse forward wrapped up a tackle to create a maul that stopped the visitors’ progress.

And when the maul went to ground, the ball was deemed to be unplayable, with the referee whistling for the end of the game to the delight of the Northampton faithful.

The scorers:

For Northampton:
Try: Odendaal
Con: Smith
Pens: Smith 5

For Saracens:
Tries: Lewington, Cinti
Cons: Daly 2
Pens: Daly 2

Teams:

Northampton Saints: 15 George Furbank, 14 Tommy Freeman, 13 Burger Odendaal, 12 Fraser Dingwall, 11 Ollie Sleightholme, 10 Fin Smith, 9 Alex Mitchell, 8 Juarno Augustus, 7 Tom Pearson, 6 Courtney Lawes (captain), 5 Alex Coles, 4 Alex Moon, 3 Trevor Davison, 2 Curtis Langdon, 1 Alex Waller.
Replacements: 16 Sam Matavesi, 17 Emmanuel Iyogun, 18 Elliot Millar Mills, 19 Temo Mayanavanua, 20 Sam Graham, 21 Lewis Ludlam, 22 Tom James, 23 George Hendy.

Saracens: 15 Elliot Daly, 14 Alex Lewington, 13 Lucio Cinti, 12 Nick Tompkins, 11 Tom Parton, 10 Owen Farrell (captain), 9 Ivan van Zyl, 8 Billy Vunipola, 7 Ben Earl, 6 Juan Martin Gonzalez, 5 Nick Isiekwe, 4 Maro Itoje, 3 Marco Riccioni, 2 Jamie George, 1 Mako Vunipola.
Replacements: 16 Theo Dan, 17 Eroni Mawi, 18 Ollie Hoskins, 19 Hugh Tizard, 20 Theo McFarland, 21 Tom Willis, 22 Aled Davies, 23 Alex Lozowski.

Referee: Christophe Ridley
Assistant referees: Anthony Woodthorpe, Andrew Jackson
TMO: Ian Tempest

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