Saints see off Sarries
Northampton advance to final at Franklin's Gardens
By Rachel Griffiths. Last Updated: 14/03/10 8:02pm
Dowson: Scored opening try
Northampton ran in four tries against a struggling Saracens side to prevail 31-20 and book their place in the LV= Cup final against Gloucester.
Saints were leading just 14-12 at half-time after Phil Dowson posted a try and Shane Geraghty kicked three penalties, but they surged ahead after the break as Brian Mujati, Paul Diggin and Neil Best all crossed the line.
Beleaguered Saracens, who have lost their last three Guinness Premiership fixtures, fought hard but were demolished in the scrum.
Fly-half Derick Hougaard kicked four of Sarries' five penalties, with his replacement Glen Jackson booting the other, while Justin Melck ran in a late try to complete their scoring.
Saints will now face Gloucester, who sit 20 points below them in the league standings, in the final at Worcester's Sixways home next weekend.
The first half at Franklin's Gardens was dominated by the boot, with Saracens fly-half Hougaard attempting several unsuccessful drop goals, one of which came in the opening 30 seconds.
The South African managed to hit his target with a penalty in the fourth minute, but Saints responded with a neatly executed try.
Jon Clarke and Juandre Kruger set things in motion before Dowson went over from close range down the left channel.
Hougaard blundered a second penalty attempt but compensated with two more in the space of four minutes to fire Saracens 9-5 ahead.
Sarries captain Ernst Joubert was sent to the sin-bin soon after for being offside, with Geraghty kicking the resulting penalty to close the gap.
Hougaard and Geraghty added another penalty apiece before the England international claimed his third, making it 14-12 to the hosts after Saracens prop Richard Skuse was yellow-carded for lying on the wrong side of a ruck.
Saints took advantage of Skuse's absence to score two swift tries early in the second half, with Mujati powering over for the first on the back of a looping pass from Bruce Reihana.
Chris Ashton was then set free in the centre by a Geraghty offload two minutes later and fed fellow wing Diggin, who sauntered over.
Geraghty failed to land both conversion attempts but Northampton were 24-12 ahead and the win seemed firmly in the bag for the hosts.
The fly-half did scuff another effort against the crossbar from directly in front of the posts in the 55th minute, before Jackson made it 24-15 with a penalty.
Sarries were unable to stage any real comeback, however, and Best's 70th-minute try closed out the victory for the dominant hosts.
Melck touched down with five minutes remaining to gain some consolation for the visitors, but it was Saints that were celebrating at the final whistle.