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Saracens sunk by Samu show as defeat sets up Saints semi away day re-run

Ben Spencer, who score all of Saracens points, runs into Will Hooley of Northampton Saints. Photo by Tony Marshall/Getty Images Ben Spencer, who score all of Saracens points, runs into Will Hooley of Northampton Saints. Photo by Tony Marshall/Getty Images

Saturday, February 1, 2014
6:14 PM

LV= Cup: Northampton Saints 20 Saracens 16

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Michael Tagicakibau of Saracens tackles Northampton Saints try-scorer James Wilson. Photo by Tony Marshall/Getty ImagesMichael Tagicakibau of Saracens tackles Northampton Saints try-scorer James Wilson. Photo by Tony Marshall/Getty Images

Saracens were steamrollered by Northampton Saints lock Samu Manoa as the American scored two second half tries to maintain their hoodoo over the Premiership leaders.

It was a performance that Sarries will have to face again as their first defeat in the LV= Cup this season means they conceded the chance of a home semi-final and must return to Franklin’s Gardens to try to beat Jim Mallinder’s men at the third time of asking this season – fourth in total when you consider the play-off semi-final heartbreak the Saints dished out at Allianz Park last term.

The Londoners, who rarely taste defeat, looked on course at half time to halt their miserable run against the east midlanders, ending the first half 10-7 in front after Ben Spencer had scored all their points including a try.

At that point Sarries seemed to have found the answer to Northampton’s forward power but not even the introductions of Jacques Burger of Mouritz Botha after the break could stem the tide of green, black and gold.

Manoa made it his one-man mission to wrestle control back and he scored his first by running through Ben Ransom in a David versus Goliath match-up that went the way of the giant before repeating the trick, through more flailing Saracens bodies. That put the visitors in a position they couldn’t recover from, having rarely threatened to decamp from their own half, while the margin of defeat could have been extended by seven points had a fierce wind not dramatically held up three Saints goal kicks.

It saw Sarries finish how they started the match. Early scrums went the way of Saints but they got on the scoreboard from an effective rolling maul which saw the ball eventually spun out wide to where James Wilson provided the finish, via Manoa. Debutant Will Hooley slotted the conversion, having sliced wide his first shot.

In the ascendancy, Saints pushed again and were creating plenty of space on the flanks, but couldn’t it count. That was no more evident than when the Pisi brothers combined for what looked a certain second score only for Ken to let the ball slip from his grip as he stretched for the chalk. It would prove a turning point in the half as Saracens went up the other end and first forced Kahn Fotuali’i into the sin-bin for halting their march illegally.

Their chance looked to have gone begging when Hayden Smith spilled the ball in contact to turnover possession five metres out, but with prop Richard Barrington on for the injured Rhys Gill, Sarries’ scrum started to find its feet. So much so that the ball spat out from a Saints put-in and Spencer, who’d earlier notched a penalty, was quickest to react, dotting down despite a desperate foot slide by Jamie Elliott. Spencer fired the conversion to hand his side a 10-7 half time lead and that, bar two more penalties from the scum-half to edge Sarries in the lead with 15 minutes to go, was as good as it got before the Samu show produced its final act.

For Saracens, it will require some serious thinking on just how they can reverse the current trend against Saints and prevent more heartbreak in the last four of a competition when the rivals do it all over again in April.

Saracens: Ransom, Wilson, Streather (Stanley), Bosch, Tagicakibau, Mordt (c), Spencer, Gill (Barrington), Saunders (Spurling), Du Plessis, Smith (Botha), Sheriff, De Jager (Burger), Hankin, Melck (Jubb)

Replacements: Lamositele, Maplesden,

Scorers: Tries – Wilson, Manoa 2; Cons - Hooley; Pens - Hooley;

Scorers: Tries - Spencer; Cons - Spencer; Pens – Spencer 3;

Referee: JP Doyle

Attendance: 13, 256

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