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Page last updated at 15:45 GMT, Saturday, 12 September 2009 16:45 UK

Saracens 19-16 Northampton

Saracens (9) 19
Tries: Cato Cons: Jackson Pens: Jackson 3 Drop-goal: Jackson
Northampton (3) 16
Tries: Clarke Con: Geraghty Pens: Geraghty 2 Drop-goal: Geraghty


Soane Tonga'uiha is wrapped up by the Saracens defence
Tonga'uiha was denied a dramatic late try by the television match official

Soane Tonga'uiha was denied what would have been a match-winning try as Saracens just held off Northampton to win their first ever game at Wembley.

Two Glen Jackson penalties and a drop-goal gave Sarries a 9-3 half-time lead in front of a crowd of 44,832.

Noah Cato picked off a loose ball to score a converted try but Saints hit back with a converted Jon Clarke score.

Two Shane Geraghty kicks kept Saints in touch before, with a minute left, the TMO ruled Tonga'uiha had knocked on.

It was a dramatic end to a brave venture as Saracens decided to leave the cosy environs of Vicarage Road and head a few miles south to Wembley Stadium, the home of English football.

The massive stadium holds 90,000 people and the Londoners will have been pleased to virtually sell out the bottom two tiers.

They will have been even more delighted to have come away with four points after Northampton threatened to spoil their party with a pulsating second-half display.

606: DEBATE
emiatss

Both sides were below their best in a scrappy first half, with two penalties and a drop-goal from Jackson, to a solitary Geraghty drop-goal, giving the hosts a 9-3 lead.

It had been a case of Saracens' defence proving too strong for the Northampton attack, which was lacking the sharpness showed the previous week in the fightback against Worcester.

The visitors' attempts to raise the pace of their attacks came to grief within three minutes of the restart.

Northampton launched a multi-phase attack but just when it looked they had created men over down the right, Saints captain Dylan Hartley was hit in a man-and-ball tackle by 21-year-old England prospect Cato.

When the ball popped loose the Saracens winger was first to react and although Ben Foden launched a brave chase, no-one was going to catch Cato as he raced 80m to cross under the posts.

Jackson's conversion gave Sarries a 13-point lead but with their backs against the wall the Saints immediately hit back with a cracking try.

Geraghty's pop pass to Paul Diggin created the initial incision and when the visitors swept the ball wide, Geraghty and Phil Dowson combined to send Clarke over in the corner.

Geraghty's conversion cut the gap to six points and a penalty apiece for the two fly-halves meant Sarries led 19-13 entering the final quarter.

The visitors were now on top both territorially and in terms of possession and their large travelling support serenaded Geraghty with a rousing chorus of "When the Saints go Marching in" after he cut the gap to only three points with his second penalty.

He then missed with a further attempt which would have levelled the scores but, after Saracens had lost hooker Schalk Brits to the sin bin, Saints came desperately close to grabbing victory with the final whistle looming.

After the latest in a series of surging attacks giant Tongan prop Tonga'uiha looked as though he had rumbled over.

The television match official studied the replay before deciding Tonga'uiha had knocked on as he went over, which meant Courtney Lawes's follow-up effort was also discounted.

It was a bitterly disappointing end for Northampton and meant they were unable to ruin Saracens' Wembley premiere.


Saracens boss Brendan Venter:

"If the club can do something like this game at Wembley, I want to be part of it. What a day, what an atmosphere.

"The yellow card came with 15 minutes to go and in my opinion that's not the way rugby is played.

"A scrum-half can't deliberately throw the ball into Schalk, put his hands in the air and say he was guilty of lazy running - Lee Dickson is the culprit here and not Schalk."

Northampton director of rugby Jim Mallinder on the disallowed try:

"I thought it was a try and that Soane got the ball down just for an instant.

"It was a massive decision but you have to be philosophical. It's happened, we've lost and we have one point.

"It's pointless me shouting. It was a very tough call for the video referee."


Saracens: Goode, Cato, Ratuvou, Barritt, Wyles, Jackson, de Kock, Gill, Brits, Nieto, Borthwick, Vyvyan, van Heerden, Saull, Joubert.

Replacements: Haughton for Wyles (72), Hougaard for Jackson (66), Marshall for de Kock (75), Mercey for Gill (52), Ongaro for Brits (74), Skuse for Nieto (64), Botha for Vyvyan (52), Owen for Joubert (69).

Sin Bin: Brits (68).

Northampton: Foden; Diggin, Clarke, Downey, Reihana; Geraghty, Dickson; Tonga'uiha, Hartley, Gonzalez Bonorino, Fernandez Lobbe, Kruger, Dowson, S Gray, Wilson.

Replacements: Best for S Gray (61), Mujati for Bonorino (70), Lawes for Dowson (70).

Not Used: Sharman, Dreyer, Dickens, Everitt, Mayor.

Att: 44,832

Ref: Andrew Small (RFU).




see also
Guscott's predictions
13 Sep 09 |  English
Saracens 18-14 London Irish
05 Sep 09 |  Rugby Union
Clarke proud of Saints resilience
09 Sep 09 |  Northampton
Geraghty delighted with tough win
07 Sep 09 |  Northampton
Northampton 20-17 Worcester
06 Sep 09 |  English
Guinness Premiership Ins and Outs
25 Aug 09 |  English
Guinness Premiership fixtures
09 Aug 06 |  Fixtures


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