sport news Saracens 38-15 Northampton: Should match-winner Maitland have been sent off ... trends now
Just before he kicked the penalty to put Saracens 24-3 up, Owen Farrell hauled opposite number Fin Smith from the floor and put his arm around the young No 10’s shoulder. It was an image that summed up the match. A moment of moral support for the challengers. Thanks for coming.
There was no doubt that the better team won but this victory will be marked with a huge asterisk. Saracens are the competition’s rightful finalists, heading to Twickenham as favourites irrespective of whether they face Sale or Leicester. They swallowed up Northampton with their defensive brilliance but the outcome was overshadowed by a major ‘What if?’
What if Sean Maitland’s wild challenge on George Furbank after 39 seconds had been given the sanction it warranted? Maitland flew into Furbank with a flying knee as he chased a box kick, recklessness of the highest order. The referee offered little protection for the catching player, awarding a penalty only, before Maitland went on to score his side’s two opening tries.
Perhaps feeling sorry for themselves, Northampton were dominated for the next 40 minutes. They were wrapped up by two-man tackles and turned over nine times in the first half. Ben Earl roamed the breakdown like a wild animal, pouncing on the ball like his last meal.
Northampton’s pretty patterns were shredded to pieces. They were not given a chance to move the point of contact, running directly into the teeth of Saracens’ rear guard. Earl and Maro Itoje made more than 20 tackles each, limiting Northampton to just three points for almost an hour.
Sean Maitland could have been sent off for a flying knee on George Furbank early on
Furbank felt the brutality of the challenge but the Saracens man didn't receive the punishment the tackle warranted
Sacacens coach Mark McCall branded the showing 'our strongest defensive performance in years'
‘I thought it was our strongest defensive performance for years,’ said Saracens coach Mark McCall. ‘It’s always been the DNA of the club and that’s as good as we’ve been for a while to be honest. That laid the foundation for the victory and the performance.
‘I thought we got