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Highlights & Report | Saints topple Saracens in opener.

Huge results for Saints.

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Photo by Luke Walker/Getty Images

Northampton Saints kicked off their Gallagher Premiership campaign with their first win at Allianz Park in three years as they defeated reigning champions Saracens in a see-saw season opener.

In a back-and-forth contest that saw the lead switch six times, Saints scored three tries before the break – David Ribbans, Rory Hutchinson and Henry Taylor all crossing the whitewash – with Saracens only able to send Matt Gallagher over in response.

But the boot of Ben Spencer kept the home scoreboard ticking over and though neither side crossed the whitewash in the second forty it was ultimately a James Grayson penalty that secured the win at the death for Saints. 

Saracens wasted no time getting their first points of the Premiership season – with Spencer knocking over a penalty just two minutes in – before the scrum-half added a second on the 15 minute mark.

But Saints responded well and charging runs from Taqele Naiyaravoro, Alex Coles and then Paul Hill got Saints into Saracens’ 22; and after a period of pressure on the tryline, the men in Black, Green and Gold came away with the first try of the game – David Ribbans the man over the line in his 50th appearance in Saints’ colours.

Grayson made no mistake with the conversion to put Saints ahead, but the lead was short-lived as another Spencer penalty swung the scoreline back Saracens’ way. And the home side stretched that lead just a minute later as Ben Earl snuck through a gap and fed Matt Gallagher for the score.

An important turnover from Coles in Saracens’ territory got Saints back on the front foot though and with Northampton working their way up the pitch, Hutchinson spun and stretched over the line for Saints’ second of the match. 

Grayson’s conversion brought the game back within two and Saints were soon back on the scoresheet again. After scooping up loose ball in their own 22, Grayson hacked the ball downfield and with Collins in chase and Taylor on his shoulder, the wing offloaded to see the scrum-half score Saints’ third against his former side – again Grayson converted and the away side entered the changing room five points in front.

Saints were denied a George Furbank try by the TMO after the break though, and Spencer sent another penalty through the posts to close the gap to two points. Spencer and Grayson exchanged another penalty each before the Saracens kicker added another from the tee to see the home side lead again.

But the scrumhalf’s eighth kick came off the post and when the chance came for Grayson to line up for the sticks in the game’s final minute, the 21-year-old sent the ball sailing through the uprights to see Saints secure their first away win over Saracens in three years.

Match Highlights:

Report from Saints

Premiership

Saracens Chairman makes statement.

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(Photo by Henry Browne/Getty Images)

Statement below from Saracens Chairman, Nigel Wray.

Saracens today confirms that it is not going to appeal the recent ruling of the independent panel in relation to salary cap breaches.

Any review or further appeal would be a costly, time consuming and destabilising exercise and so for the good of the game, the Premiership and this wonderful club and all its great people, a club which I have loved and served for 25 years, we have decided not to appeal but to take our punishment and hopefully soon put this behind us.

I recognise that the arrangements between myself and players, made in good faith, which comprise the material element of the charges, should have been brought to the attention of the salary cap manager for consultation prior to entering into them.

It is significant that following extensive investigations the independent panel stated that we have “not deliberately sought to circumvent the regulations” albeit we recognise that some of our actions were considered to be “reckless”.

As chairman, I must take full responsibility for the arrangements that led to this outcome. It is important to stress that our excellent coaching staff were not involved in these issues in any way.

In addition, we can confirm that we are complying strictly with the salary cap regulations in the current season and will continue to work transparently with Premiership Rugby in this regard. 

We will shortly introduce robust independent governance measures acceptable to all, including the appointment to the Saracens board of a director, who will oversee a new governance regime. I will continue as always to support the club financially going forwards to ensure there is no financial instability or uncertainty.

This amazing club, which has been such a huge part of my family’s life and indeed of many, many others, has produced an incredible number of world-class rugby players. About ten of our current team have been together for between seven and ten years, as indeed have all the coaches; fourteen players have played over one hundred times for the Club and for me it is the caring and the closeness of everyone in the Saracens Family that achieves success throughout every part of our wide-ranging Saracens activities, both on the field and away from it.

Perhaps we have done the wrong thing for the right reasons, but we must now draw a line and come together as Saracens to fully support our players, our coaches and our hard-working staff.

Q&A

Why has the Club decided not to appeal the decision?

The Club believes that a review or further appeal would be a costly, time consuming and destabilising exercise. So for the good of the game, the Premiership and this club, we have decided not to appeal but to take our punishment and aim to put this behind us.

What does this mean for the season ahead?

The season ahead will be challenging but Mark McCall, his coaches and players will prepare for all of our games in the same focused, committed way and that will continue to be the case. We are a very tight family and this will only make us closer.

Does this outcome affect any of your Premiership titles?

No. The sanctions do not have an impact on any trophies the team has previously won.

Will the Club now be forced to sell players to comply with the salary cap?

No. The Club allocates a set budget for player remuneration which the CEO and coaching staff take full responsibility for. This budget falls within the salary cap and has no connection whatsoever to third party co-investments.

Is the Club now in compliance with the salary cap?

Yes. Under PRL regulations we are in compliance. 

How does this outcome affect the Club’s transfer policy?

It does not prevent the Club from signing new players in the future.

What has the Club done to make sure this doesn’t happen again?

We will now introduce robust independent governance measures acceptable to all, including a new appointment to the Saracens board who will oversee governance.

And longer term, what does this mean for Saracens Chairman Nigel Wray?

Nigel has been involved with the Club for 25 years and his support for the Club remains as strong as ever. He will ensure the Club moves forward from today in the right way as quickly as possible.

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Premiership

Tigers star ruled out for 6 months with leg-break.

6 Months out.

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(Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Leicester Tigers outside back Sam Aspland-Robinson has been ruled out of action for up to six months after fracturing his tibia in the European Challenge Cup win over Pau at Welford Road.

The 22-year-old suffered the leg injury in the opening minutes of the European fixture and was replaced by George Worth after being assisted from the field by Tigers medical staff.

Aspland-Robinson was playing in just his second match of the 2019/20 season after suffering a foot injury in the opening game of the Premiership Rugby Cup, away to Worcester Warriors at Sixways Stadium.

Speaking about the loss of Aspland-Robinson, Tigers head coach Geordan Murphy admitted he was “gutted” to see the young back facing another length period on the sideline.

“At this stage, we don’t expect to see Sam back until well into the New Year,” said Murphy.

“He had an x-ray following the match which showed a fracture and will meet with a surgeon, who will help determine as to whether he needs surgery and the full extent of the injury.

“We’re all gutted for Sam, he’s worked hard to get his way back into the side. he had a great pre-season and has been waiting for his opportunity since Worcester. He’s been training brilliantly and I was excited to get him out against Pau.

“What we do know is that he will put everything into his rehab and return fitter and stronger.”

Aspland-Robinson is in his second season in Leicester after joining the Tigers from Harlequins over the summer of 2018, making 12 appearances during his debut campaign with the club.

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Premiership

Saracens Set to Land South African Starlet

Saracens have had their struggles of late but it appears as though despite everything they remain active in the transfer market and are preparing to sign one of South Africa’s brightest stars

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(Photo by Henry Browne/Getty Images)

Saracens are in advanced talks with young South African forward Cobus Wiese from the Stormers it has been revealed and his signing could benefit England too.

With the South African side struggling with cash at the moment, losing a host of their star players in recent times, the English Premiership giants are preparing to swoop in for another, with it believed that the utility forward to sign a five-year contract. 

At 22, the forward has been a regular for both the Stormers and Western Province over the past two years and if he does put pen to paper on the deal it would see him become available for England during his career. 

The London-based side have had a rough few days being handed a £5.3 million fine and being deducted 35 points in the Premiership for a breach of salary cap rules, but while that is being appealed, the club seem likely to continue their transfer business as usual. 

While for Saracens it would be a massive coup to sign Wiese, for the Stormers it would be a huge loss as they have already lost World Cup winners Eben Etzebeth and Damian de Allende, as well as other players such as Dan Kriel, Michael Kumbirai, Corne Fourie and EW Viljoen among others due to the current crisis at the franchise. 

The Stormers have been struggling through their pre-season so far as a host of their players are on loan abroad and they await the returns of some of their World Cup stars. 

They should be boosted by the returns of captain Siya Kolisi, Steven Kitshoff, Herschel Jantjies, Bongi Mbonambi, Frans Malherbe and recent World Player of the Year winner Pieter-Steph du Toit, who are all set to come back to the franchise come mid-December. 

However, the loss of another player and a rising star could not only be a blow for the club but for the Springboks in the future.

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