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Dublin: 3°C Wednesday 20 January 2021

Saracens rest stars ahead of Munster showdown but still recover to stun Saints

Meanwhile, Bristol were relegated back to the Championship.

Marcelo Bosch scored the winning try earlier.
Marcelo Bosch scored the winning try earlier.
Image: Paul Harding

MARCELO BOSCH’S LATE try helped Saracens complete a remarkable recovery as the reigning English and European champions beat Northampton 27-25 in the Premiership at Milton Keynes on Sunday.

Saracens seemed destined for defeat when Northampton were 25-12 up with 10 minutes left to play.

But two tries in the closing stages, from former England wing Chris Ashton and Argentina international Bosch, plus a penalty and a conversion from rising English star Alex Lozowski, saw Saracens snatch victory.

The win was testament to Saracens’ never-say-die attitude and the depth of the London club’s squad.

Lozowski, son of former England centre Rob, kicked five penalties in all in a match haul of 17 points.

Saracens were already safely ensconced within the top four who will contest the Premiership’s title-deciding play-offs.

But this agonising defeat left Northampton in sixth place, with two regular-season games remaining, and in danger of missing out on a place in next term’s elite European Champions Cup.

“Our game wasn’t up to the required level for the first 60 minutes as our set piece wasn’t dominant,” said Saracens boss Mark McCall.

“It was a lesson for us as the big things have to be right and they’ll need to be at Munster next Saturday if we are to win there.”

Saracens rested several key players, including club captain Brad Barritt and England’s Owen Farrell, Maro Itoje and Mako Vunipola, ahead of Saturday’s Champions Cup semi-final against Irish giants Munster in Dublin.

Northampton too were not at full strength, with France back-row Louis Picamoles missing through injury.

Nevertheless they looked to have done enough to secure victory thanks to tries from Harry Mallinder, Ken Pisi and England captain Dylan Hartley.

Stephen Myler kicked two penalties and a conversion, with Mallinder — son of Northampton director of rugby Jim — also landing a conversion.

But instead this was the third straight league game where Northampton saw victory snatched from their grasp right at the last, with Leicester beating the Saints 36-31 and Wasps winning 32-30.

“It’s really disappointing to lose but we needed a little bit of luck and more composure,” Jim Mallinder said. “But it didn’t help that we had our two key decision makers off the field.

“Louis has a bad neck while Stephen (Myler) has a knee injury. Fingers crossed they will be OK for the Exeter trip as we now have a fortnight off.

“It will be tough down there so European qualification may come down to a winner-takes-all game against Harlequins in the final match of the season.”

Bristol v Wasps - Aviva Premiership - Ashton Gate Mark Tainton speaks to his Bristol players after they were relegated. Source: PA Wire/PA Images

Sunday’s other English top-flight match saw leaders Wasps beat Bristol 36-21 to effectively relegate the west country side.

Bristol are now doomed to finish bottom of the table — the lone relegation place — and their only hope of staying in the top flight is if the second-tier Championship title-winners fail to meet Premiership ground criteria.

But that looks a forlorn hope for Bristol, given the likelihood of either London Irish or Yorkshire Carnegie, both Premiership compliant clubs, being promoted.

“Obviously we are disappointed, getting relegated today,” said Bristol boss Mark Tainton.

“It was a similar story today to a lot of games we’ve played. We were in the opposition 22 many times, but we have just not executed and got across the line.”

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