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European Rugby Champions Cup: Saracens 62-14 Northampton Saints

Saracens full-back Alex Goode scored a try on his 250th appearance for the club
European Champions Cup Pool Two
Saracens (36) 62
Tries: M Vunipola, Goode, Bosch, Wigglesworth, Koch, Maitland, Vailanu Cons: Farrell 6 Pens: Farrell 5
Northampton (14) 14
Tries: Reinach, Tuitavake Cons: Mallinder 2

Saracens remained in contention to qualify for the quarter-finals of the Champions Cup with a bonus-point victory over Northampton.

The defending champions scored five tries in a blistering first half to lead 36-14 at the break.

Sean Maitland continued the rout after half-time and Tonga international Sione Vailanu added a seventh on his debut.

With Clermont beating Ospreys to top Pool Two, Saracens sit second in their group on 18 points.

The Premiership team are currently the second best of the second-placed teams, with only the three best progressing to the quarter-finals.

That means the back-to-back title winners go into Sunday’s matches facing an anxious wait to learn their fate.

Saints led twice in the opening exchanges as Cobus Reinach and Nafi Tuitavake scored either side of Mako Vunipola’s try for the hosts.

But from 20 minutes, and the introduction of winger Nathan Earle for the injured Chris Wyles, the European champions were rampant.

Earle made metres down the middle for Alex Goode’s score, before Owen Farrell’s side-step put in Marcelo Bosch.

Earle, who will join Harlequins at the end of the season, was then involved again as he broke down the left to set up Richard Wigglesworth.

Saracens added their fifth score of the half as Vincent Koch drove over for a soft try with Jamie Gibson in the sin-bin.

Maitland and Vailanu added second-half tries, while Saints failed to add to their tally.

Champions Cup Pool Two
Team Played Won Drawn Lost For Against Bonus Pts Points
Clermont 6 5 0 1 165 104 2 22
Saracens 6 3 1 2 205 146 4 18
Ospreys 6 2 1 3 152 148 4 15
Northampton 6 1 0 5 115 239 2 6

Saracens leave it late

Prop Mako Vunipola made 13 carries in his side’s victory over Northampton on Saturday

Saracens began their European campaign hoping to match Toulon and clinch a hat-trick of European titles.

The defending champions started with two good victories, but back-to-back defeats by Clermont, the team they beat to retain the trophy in Edinburgh last May, left them in a precarious position.

There was a touch of bad luck about the first defeat, with the game rearranged because of bad weather, but the hosts were comprehensively outplayed, falling to a record home European defeat.

A second loss, albeit a much narrower one, followed a week later in the return fixture in France as their chance of qualifying for the knockout stage began to slip away.

But, after a nervous draw against Ospreys last week, Sarries looked back to their best as they thumped their Premiership rivals.

Sarries an unhappy opponent for Saints

Northampton have lost to Saracens three times this season

Out of Europe, but having secured their first European victory of the season against Clermont last week, Northampton had built some momentum after a forgettable first half of the season.

Under the guidance of coaching consultant Alan Gaffney, they came into Saturday’s match with two wins from two since the sacking of Jim Mallinder.

But this was a familiar outcome against familiar foes.

Sarries have now beaten Northampton three times this season – and have built up a +123 points difference against them.

With his side sitting 10th in the Premiership, Gaffney’s task will now be to secure Northampton’s place in the Champions Cup next season.

Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall: “If we don’t qualify, we don’t qualify but we’ll have a million regrets because we’re good enough to be in that company.

“That performance was the culmination of a brilliant six weeks. Six weeks ago on that Monday we played against Clermont, we were in a bit of a difficult and tough situation.”

Northampton interim director of rugby Alan Gaffney: “I’m incredibly proud of the players and staff for the positive six weeks that we’ve had.

“We were very, very passive in defence and allowed their forwards to dominate that contact area.

“They got off the line and put pressure on us. We just didn’t handle it at all.”

Saracens: Goode; Maitland, Bosch, Barritt, Wyles; Farrell, Wigglesworth; Vunipola, George, Koch, Isiekwe, Kruis, Itoje, Clark, Burger.

Replacements: Tolofua, Thompson-Stringer, Longbottom, Skelton, Vailanu, Spencer, Lozowski, Earle.

Northampton: Foden; Pisi, Horne, Stephenson, Tuitavake; Mallinder, Reinach; Ma’afu, Hartley, Brookes, Paterson, Day, Ribbans, Gibson, Eadie.

Replacements: Marshall, Van Wyk, Hill, Craig, Ludlam, Mitchell, Myler, North.

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