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Saracens vs Northampton Saints LIVE rugby: Result and reaction from Premiership semi-final

 (PA)
(PA)

Follow live coverage as Saracens host Northampton Saints in the first of the Gallagher Premiership semi-final play-offs today.

It’s crunch time at the end of a season that has been largely overshadowed by dismal financial projections, with both Worcester and Wasps going into administration and London Irsh also contending with business concerns.

Saracens finished top of the table with 74 points and having lost just five matches, while Northampton finished fourth, with four wins fewer than their opponents. While there are ongoing debates about the future of Rugby, the focus shifts to the conclusion of the season, with Saracens playing in their 14th Premiership semi-final, and hoping to go one better than their defeat to Leicester last season.

We will bring you all the action and updates from today’s game in the live blog below:

Saracens vs Northampton Saints LIVE

  • Saracens XV - Goode, Malins, Lozowski, Tompkins, Maitland, Farrell (capt), Van Zyl; Vunipola, George, Riccioni, Itoje, Tizard, Isieswe, Earl, Wray.

  • Northampton Saints XV - Furbank, Ramm, Dingwall, Hutchinson, Freeman, F. Smith, Mitchell; A. Waller, Cruse, Davison, Ribbans, Moon, Lawes, Ludlam (capt), Augustus.

  • 6’ Try! Saracens 7-0 Northampton Saints

  • 22’ Try! Saracens 14-3 Northampton Saints

  • 30’ Try! Saracens 21-3 Northampton Saints

  • 56’ Try! Saracens 24-10 Northampton Saints

  • 65’ Try! Saracens 24-15 Northampton Saints

  • 71’ Penalty Try! Saracens 31-15 Northampton Saints

  • 75’ Try! Saracens 38-15 Northampton Saints

FT: Saracens 38-15 Northampton Saints

17:35 , Sonia Twigg

Northampton Saints’ Lewis Ludlam told BT Sport: “I think what’s important moving forward is we build on that.

“It’s never easy two years on the bounce missing out in the semi-finals but next year we can do better.

“it’s frustrating because we felt like we gave them a little bit. but what I’m proud of is that we fought out way back into it.

“I think that’s the story of the last year really, we’ve allowed teams back in. We always felt like we were in it, we’re Saints we’re good at scoring points, but what we need to work on now is keeping other teams out of it.”

Saracens 38-15 Northampton Saints

17:30 , Sonia Twigg

Speaking after being awarded the man of the match award, Saracens’ Ivan Van Zyl told BT Sport: “There’s a lot to be proud of today especialyl the way we defended. To go a whole season at home unbeaten is incredible.

“I think the big thing about this is the leadership group, guys who have been there and know what we need to do, make sure we do the small stuff well.

“At the end of the game we just went back to the basics and did things well.”

Saracens 38-15 Northampton Saints

17:22 , Sonia Twigg

Full Time: Saracens 38-15 Saints. The whistle blows and it’s Saracens who have claimed victory.

After taking an early lead, the outcome of the game never looked in doubt for the team who want to make up for a late defeat in the final last year.

Northampton Saints briefly threatened to cause problems in the second half, but a try put an end to that spell of play and Saracens remained dominant.

Owen Farrell had a captain’s performance, playing a perfect kicking game and making few errors as Saracens wait for the outcome of the second play-off between Sale and the Leicester Tigers on Sunday.

17:18 , Sonia Twigg

78’ Maro Itoje receives a sin bin for a deliberate knock-on and both teams have 14 players.

Saracens 38-15 Northampton Saints

17:13 , Sonia Twigg

75’ Try! Saracens have scored again. It has been a masterful display from the home side.

Elliot Daly’s injection of pace from the bench just opened up the space against a tired Northampton Saints with a man down after James’ yellow card for the penalty try.

Daly picked out Max Malins down the wing and he had no challengers as he ran to score the try.

Farrell maintained his flawless kicking game with a conversion to put the outcome of the game beyond any doubt.

Saracens 31-15 Northampton Saints

17:09 , Sonia Twigg

71’ Penalty Try! Saracens have all but put the game to bed with a penalty try to give them a 14-point lead.

The on-field decision was no try, but the telivised review reversed the decision.

It was a moment of desperation from Tom James who came in to tackle Jamie George from the side just as the Saracens hooker was carrying the ball over the line

Farrell converts and makes it 31-15.

Saracens 24-15

16:57 , Sonia Twigg

65’ Try! Northampton. Can they find a way back into this?

It was a clever piece of work from Smith to pick out Courtney Lawes down the wing, before passing to James Ramm.

Having looked all but out of the tie at half time, the game has been completely turned on its head by Northampton who have started to show the form that saw them reach the play-offs.

The ball was put down quite wide to make a difficult conversion for Smith, and his attempt just skimmed wide of the posts.

Saints will be hoping that doesn’t turn into a costly miss as they stay nine points behind their opponents.

Saracens 24-10 Northampton Saints

16:49 , Sonia Twigg

56’ Try! Northampton have finally scored.

A glimmer of hope remains for the Saints after Alex Mitchell capitalised on an inche of space before weaving his way over the line with a clever feint.

It was a clever piece of individual work from the scrum half to hold off a challenge from Jackson Wray to create the space.

Mitchell then faked a pass which slightly threw the Saracens defence before weaving and dodging his way to the line just next to the posts.

Smith calmly put away the fairly straightforward conversion ot reduce his side’s deficit to 14 with just under 25 minutes remaining in the match.

Saracens 21-3

16:48 , Sonia Twigg

54’ Changes for both sides. Northampton will play the last 25 minutes or so of the match with a completely changed front row.

Robbie Smith and Paul Hill were brought on in place of Tom Cruise and Trevor Davison.

There was a brief moment of concern for Saracens, as Nick Isiekwe failed his head injury assessment and was not able to continue.

His temporary replacement Callum Hunter-Hill will play the remaining minutes.

Saracens 24-3 Northampton Saints

16:46 , Sonia Twigg

54’ Saracens have just been utterly relentless, capitalising on every small mistake made by Saints and successfully shutting down every opportunity to attack.

In a break in the 53rd minute, Alex Lozowski was able to drive forward just pushing away defenders to gain 10 yards and it’s been far from an isolated incident.

Saracens’ defensive organisation has been almost complete and Northampton Saints have not been able to come close to scoring their first try of the match.

Saracens 24-3

16:38 , Sonia Twigg

47’ Saracens extend their advantage as Northampton Saints were unable to come out and turn the tide at the start of the second half.

Saracens win a penalty with Farrell maintaining his flawless kicking game to extend his side’s lead to more than 20 points.

Any chance of a Northampton Saints comeback feels far away here as Saracens have almsot been flawless.

Saracens 21-3 Northampton Saints

16:31 , Sonia Twigg

40’ The second half is underway at the StoneX Stadium

Saracens 21-3 Northampton Saints

16:14 , Sonia Twigg

40’ Half time and it’s Saracens who are firmly in the driving seat.

Northampton Saints have struggled to build attacks throughout the half, while Saracens have been utterly clinical, and Farrell has been outstanding in the centre of the pitch.

Three tries ahead and it’s already looking like it could be too much to come back from for Saints. The visitors have also been missing opportunities.

Maitland has two tries and Van Zyl the third, with Farrell not missing a single conversion and kicking the ball twice for the try-scorers to capitalise.

Saracens 21-3

16:03 , Sonia Twigg

30’ Saracens have a third try in less than half an hour.

Although there’s 50 minutes left that could already be an unassailable lead for Saracens.

It was only a moment of indecision, but that was enough for the home side to break through Saints’ lines.

Ivan Van Zyl was played through with a quick tap, and the scrum half broke to put the ball between the posts.

Farrell added the second two points from straight in front of the posts to extend his side’s lead even further.

Saracens 14-3 Northampton Saints

15:56 , Sonia Twigg

22’ Saracens and Maitland strike again!

Saracens capitalised from a maul, driving across from the line out. It was a perfect kick through to Maitland who just had to put the ball down over the line.

Owen Farrell had to be at his best to make the conversion from the kick which was almost at the touchline, but the England international dutifuly kicked the ball between the posts to extend his side’s advantage to 11 points.

Saracens 7-3 Northampton Saints

15:55 , Sonia Twigg

20’ Saints have struggled to contain Saracens’ kicking game throughout the match so far.

In the same way as they scored the first try, the home side have looked to kick over the top for players such as Maitland to run on to.

Saracens 7-3 Northampton Saints

15:52 , Sonia Twigg

17’ Both sides have continued testing each other without finding the key breakthroughs.

Northampton Saints will want to capitalise on their penalty kicks however, at least once they have failed to find touch and instead found themselves on the back foot rather than gaining an advantage.

Saracens have been largely in control, but there have been errors from both sides.

Saracens 7-3 Northampton Saints

15:46 , Sonia Twigg

8’ Almost immediately after Saracens scored the first try, Saints reduced the deficit with a penalty.

Fin Smith calmy kicked the ball between the posts to put the first points on the board for the visitors.

Saracens 7-0 Northampton Saints

15:39 , Sonia Twigg

6’ After a frantic start, Saracens drew first blood with the first try of the match.

Maitland capitalised after Northampton Saints were caught on their heels slightly.

It was a clever move from the home side, who kicked the ball over the top for Maitland to pounce and run through the remaining defender to put the ball straight under the posts.

Owen Farrell made no mistakes with the conversion to give his side a 7-0 lead inside the first seven minutes.

Saracens vs Northampton

15:37 , Karl Matchett

3’ Northampton Saints had an early penalty following a collision.

There was an in-air collision between Sean Maitland and George Furbank, and while the incident was discussed, only a penalty was given.

Saints were unable to capitalise and Saracens almost scored from receiving the ball behind their own dead-ball line, but were unable to finish off the move in what started as an end-to-end contest.

Saracens vs Northampton

15:32 , Karl Matchett

The game has been kicked off by Northampton Saints.

15:25 , Sonia Twigg

Northampton director of rugby insisted his side are well-rested and prepared for the semi-final having had an extended break between recent fixtures.

Phil Dowson told BT Sport: “(We are) looking forward to it, we’re excited about the challenge. We’ve had three weeks without a Premiership game so we’ve been managing the players and getting ready for today.

“We know what we need to do today, we know how good the opposition are and what their record is here and everything.”

15:20 , Sonia Twigg

The semi-final will be played in front of a sell-out home Saracens crowd as they bid to reach the final on 27 May.

They have also dominated in the league this season, and have arrived at the StoneX stadium ahead of kick off.

Mark McCall said to BT Sport: “We hope we’ve been building for the last nine months to play our best rugby in games like this.

“Today is really important that we can get control of the game, there’s fundamentals that we need to do really well.

“And also take the game to them.”

15:10 , Sonia Twigg

With less than half an hour from kick, the players have begun warming up, but England international Jamie George has taken some time away from the occasion.

The hooker told BT Sport: “There’s different energy going on in the training room but I just like being relaxed. 10 minutes time we’ll go out onto the field and things will heat up a little bit.”

Ben Earl remained confident alongside his teammate however, telling the broadcaster: “We’ve used a lot of the squad this year, it’s got a lot more experience than it has previously.”

15:00 , Sonia Twigg

Saracens have already played nine times in English rugby’s domestic showcase, with this year’s match taking place on May 27.

They have also dominated in the league this season, and have arrived at the StoneX stadium ahead of kick off.

14:50 , Sonia Twigg

Northampton Saints’ have won just three times away from home all season in the Premiership, and boast an unenviable record of two wins in 11 semi-finals.

However, Saints will be encouraged by their victory, and even Saracens rugby director Mark McCall admitted they are dangerous.

McCall told the media: “They (Northampton) are a very good team, an unbelievably dangerous team, full of talented players in their squad. And this is their second semi-final in a row, so they have shown some really good consistency as well.”

14:40 , Sonia Twigg

Last season, Saracens were beaten in the final by a dramatic late drop-goal from Freddie Burns that saw Leicester win 15-12 and be crowned champions.

Speaking ahead of the clash and reflecting on their fortunes last year, Owen Farrell told the media: “We’ve been consistent enough over the past two years, without winning last year, to validate us being back in the Premiership.

“Do we want to win the Premiership? Yes, of course we do. We’ve got some big personalities maybe playing in their last games for the club and we want to make sure we do them proud.

“To come back and do it (win the title) within a year, we talked about it being special, and we didn’t do it.

14:30 , Sonia Twigg

Perhaps the simplest representation of Premiership Rugby’s plight this season comes in pure numbers. We began this campaign back in September with 13 teams in England’s top flight; as we arrive at the semi-final stage, the last quartet have been whittled down from the 11 that remain.

Premiership bids to forget sad season as play-offs begin

14:25 , Sonia Twigg

Both sides have named their starting XV’s ahead of the match, with Farrell due to captain Saracens, and Lewis Ludlam to take charge for Maurice Hartery’s Northampton Saints.

Saracens:  Goode, Malins, Lozowski, Tompkins, Maitland, Farrell (capt), Van Zyl; Vunipola, George, Riccioni, Itoje, Tizard, Isieswe, Earl, Wray.

Replacements: Dan, Mawi, Judge, Hunter-Hill, Knight, De Haa, Taylor, Daly.

Northampton: Furbank, Ramm, Dingwall, Hutchinson, Freeman, F. Smith, Mitchell; A. Waller, Cruse, Davison, Ribbans, Moon, Lawes, Ludlam (capt), Augustus.

Replacements: R. Smith, E. Waller, Hill, Salakaia-Loto, Scott-Young, Graham, James, Collins.

Northampton Saints

14:20 , Sonia Twigg

Northampton Saints made just one change, with Tom Cruise lining up on the front row after James Ramm recovered from a shoulder issue to start.

While they undoubtedly go into the game as the underdogs compared to the high-flying Saracens, they are the highest point scorers this season, and got the better of their opponents as recently as last month when they won 38-29.

However, the last time Northampton won the title was back in 2014, when they came up against Saracens.

14:16 , Sonia Twigg

Team news

14:10 , Sonia Twigg

Saracens have bolstered their squad with six England internationals including Owen Farrell in their starting line-up for the match.

Jamie George, Maro Itoje, Mako Vunipola, Ben Earl and Max Malins were the others to return.

Having not played for his club since the beginning of April, George will be looking to make an impact, but Jackson Wray will be hoping for a fitting farewell after deciding to hang up his boots at the end of the season.

Wray has made over 300 appearances for Saracens, and will be making his final appearance alongside Duncan Taylor, who will leave at the end of the campaign after 12 years.

Saracens vs Northampton Saints

12:40 , Sonia Twigg

Good afternoon and welcome to The Independent’s coverage of the Premiership Rugby play-off semi-final between Saracens and Northampton Saints. The season has been largely overshadowed by finances, with Wasps and Worcester going into administration.

Saracens go into the game boasting an incredible home form, and are unbeaten at the StoneX Stadium since January 2022. They have also bolstered their line-up, having recalled six England internationals including Owen Farrell for the semi-final. Saracens have won the competition five times and will be searching to add to their impressive trophy cabinet with a first title since 2018-19.

Northampton Saints will have to undo history, only six times in league history has a semi-final been won by the away team, but it is set up to be an entertaining contest and who will gain a first-leg advantage?

We’ll have all the build up, team news and updates throughout the afternoon so stick with us.