Aviva Premiership: Saracens grind out victory against Northampton
Last Updated: 30/12/12 4:44pm
Saracens cut the gap on Aviva Premiership leaders Harlequins to one point with a 17-16 victory over Northampton Saints at stadium:mk.
An early John Smit try and two penalties apiece from Charlie Hodgson and Owen Farrell were just enough for Saracens to complete the league double over their opponents.
Northampton battled back from an early 11-point deficit with a Phil Dowson try and three Stephen Myler penalties. The Saints led for almost 20 minutes of the second half and the match ended with Myler's potential winning penalty attempt from inside his own half bouncing back off the crossbar.
Saracens dominated the opening quarter-of-an-hour, former South Africa captain Smit going over for his first Premiership try after a catch-and-drive lineout, swiftly followed by two Hodgson penalties.
But Northampton stopped the rot and then went onto the front foot, earning their reward when flanker Dowson stepped out of a tackle to get the ball down in the 24th minute.
Stand-off Myler converted and then added a penalty two minutes before the break to reduce the visitors' deficit to 11-10 at half-time.
Another Myler penalty in the 47th minute - sandwiched by misses from his opposite number Hodgson - gave Northampton the lead for the first time.
Saracens changed their entire front-row in the 52nd minute in an effort to find a spark but it made no difference to Myler, who landed his third penalty - this one from 51 metres - to extend Northampton's advantage to 16-11.
Farrell, who came on for Joel Tomkins, took kicking duties off Hodgson and landed penalties in the 61st and 67th minutes to edge Saracens back in front by a point, a lead they held through to the end - but only just.
Northampton were awarded a penalty in the last minute, which was moved 10 yards closer by referee JP Doyle when Saracens prop Rhys Gill kicked the ball away in dissent, but Myler's effort fell short by the narrowest of margins. The Saints picked up a losing bonus point for their efforts and remain in sixth place in the table, two points outside the play-off places.
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