Aviva Premiership: Saracens beat Northampton to increase lead
Last Updated: 13/04/14 4:57pm
Marcelo Bosch: Scored the third of Saracens' two tries
Saracens all but secured top spot in the Aviva Premiership and a home semi-final after a 28-24 victory over second-placed Northampton at Allianz Park.
David Strettle, Kelly Brown and Marcelo Bosch all scored tries in a win which sees Saracens move 10 points clear of the Saints with just three games remaining in the regular season.
Northampton only had a penalty try and a Stephen Myler penalty to show for their efforts for most of the contest, but late scores from Luther Burrell and George North earned them a losing bonus point and ensured it was a nervy finish for the hosts.
Sarries captain Steve Borthwick could not have hoped for a better way to celebrate his record-breaking 263rd Premiership appearance on a sun-drenched day in London.
Northampton spent last week at a warm-weather training camp in Lanzarote and were badly off the pace until the closing stages.
Strettle's rich scoring form continued in the ninth minute when he collected a brilliant chip through by Owen Farrell and touched down in the left corner for his 15th try of the season.
But the promising start unravelled as Myler landed a penalty and a conversion after referee Matthew Carley awarded a penalty try.
The home pack were driven back by a Northampton driving maul which started on the 22 and with defenders entering illegally from the side, Carley awarded the score under the posts.
Stung into action by the 10-5 deficit, Saracens crossed through Brown in the right corner after Schalk Brits' burst up the middle once again caused chaos in Saints' defence.
Brits' outstanding afternoon continued with brilliant successive offloads from the floor before Northampton forward Courtney Lawes flattened England team-mate Farrell.
Bosch took over the kicking duties and justified the decision by landing two penalties in quick succession, while North showed lightning reflexes to prevent former Saint Chris Ashton from going over for a try.
The first half ended with a Farrell penalty, but the fly-half's afternoon was soon over as he failed to emerge from the break due to a foot injury.
Saracens led 21-10 and apart from an early burst by the towering North, continued their dominance despite making a flurry of substitutions.
Richard Wigglesworth had weaved a path upfield before Ashton was stopped inches short, with Argentina centre Bosch taking up the baton and finishing the move.
The home side looked to be cruising towards the win but in the 73rd minute an outstretched arm from Burrell delivered Northampton's second try following a defensive lapse from Strettle.
Burrell then forced his way to the line and offloaded to North via a Saracens hand, and amid a melee of bodies the Wales star forced his way over with four minutes still on the clock.
Myler converted both tries and Northampton pressed again, but Saracens' resolve saw them home in the dying stages.