Premiership: Northampton Saints 25-20 Saracens

Samu Manoa scored Northampton Saints' first-half try
United States number eight Samu Manoa scored the only try for champions Northampton
Northampton (13) 25
Try Manoa Con: Myler Pens: Myler 6
Saracens (17) 20
Tries: Wyles 2 Cons: Hodgson 2 Pens: Hodgson 2

Premiership leaders Northampton had to come from behind as they won the top-of-the-table clash against Saracens.

Two early Chris Wyles tries, converted by Charlie Hodgson, earned third-placed Sarries an early 14-6 advantage.

Samu Manoa's converted try pulled it back, only for Hodgson's first penalty to earn Sarries' 17-13 half-time lead.

But Saints stand-off Stephen Myler won the second-half battle with the boot, kicking four of his six penalties for an individual 20-point haul.

Hodgson's second penalty of the day had stretched Sarries' lead to seven points at 20-13.

But, in front of a healthy crowd of 27,411, Myler struck four times in 19 minutes to resist the away side's challenge on their first visit to Stadium MK.

Not the sort of game to put your shirt on
Saracens started the game wearing white shirts, but then changed to their familiar black jerseys at half-time after that kit was driven from St Albans to Milton Keynes, therefore avoiding any further clash with Northampton's one-off red and white kit to mark St George's Day, two days earlier.

The first two of them came following Maro Itoje's 49th-minute sin-binning as Saints, who still have bottom club London Welsh to play at home, remain on course for a home semi-final.

It represented a strong recovery by Saints, who were dumped out of Europe 37-5 by Clermont Auvergne earlier this month and then lost to Premiership opponents Exeter two weeks ago.

Sarries had dropped to third, six points behind Northampton, as a result of Bath's 43-18 home win over London Irish on Friday night.

The visitors did not quite have enough in the tank after last Saturday's narrow European Champions Cup semi-final loss to Clermont Auvergne in France.

They should still join Northampton in next month's Premiership knockout phase, but a lot now hangs on their next game at home to Exeter.

Although they picked up a losing bonus point, Saracens are only two points clear of fourth-placed Leicester and are in danger of being overtaken by fifth-placed Exeter if the Devon side win at Wasps on Sunday.

And they must also hope that first-half injuries to back-row forwards Billy Vunipola (ankle) and Jackson Wray (concussion) are not long-term.

Northampton director of rugby Jim Mallinder:

"It is a big win. The Clermont game really disappointed us because we came a good second-best. The Exeter game was slightly different. We saw five or six chances that we basically blew, so we knew there were parts of our game that were still functioning well.

"This win is a big help in terms of trying to achieve that home semi-final. Saracens disrupted our set-piece - the lineout didn't function quite as well as it normally does - but we managed to keep in the game and Stephen Myler kicked his goals.

"Stephen gets man-of-the-match in a lot of the big games he plays in. You need someone as reliable as him who can kick the goals in big pressure situations and can run the team.

"Billy Vunipola going off was a critical moment. We seemed to get on the front foot in the second half and we dominated."

Saracens rugby director Mark McCall:

"You can't expect to win games of that nature when you give away the amount of penalties that we did. There were seven penalties for offside.

"We genuinely don't mind losing the odd game. Last week, I was incredibly proud of how we lost. This felt a bit different. We lost a bit of composure in the last 20 minutes.

"We were clinical for our first two scores, but we had a horrible six minutes when Billy Vunipola drops the ball over the line, then he rolls his ankle.

"It is a big blow to lose a player like him - and then his replacement goes off two minutes later. Billy has rolled his ankle. We will know more in the next couple of days - and Jackson Wray has got a concussion."

Northampton: Tuala; K Pisi, G Pisi, Burrell, Elliott; Myler, Fotuali'i; Corbisiero, Hartley (capt), Ma'afu, Lawes, Day, Wood, Clark, Manoa.

Replacements: Waller, Denman, Dickinson, Fisher, Stephenson, Wilson.

Not Used: Haywood, L Dickson.

Saracens: Goode; Strettle, Bosch, Barritt (capt), Wyles; Hodgson, de Kock; M Vunipola, Brits, Johnston, Kruis, Itoje, Joubert, Brown, B Vunipola.

Replacements: Longbottom, Hamilton, Wray, Wigglesworth, Farrell, Ashton.

Not used: George, Gill.

Sin Bin: Itoje (49).

Attendance: 27,411

Referee: Greg Garner (RFU).

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