Ebongalame flies in for Sarries

Saracens 24 Northampton 23
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The Independent Online
Pulsating rugby, which set the blood pounding on a chilly evening, showed that the game in England is heading in the right direction - on the field at least. Northampton and Saracens revealed some superlative attacking skills and unbelievable defensive qualities as they entertained a large crowd throughout their First Division match at Enfield Town's Southbury Road Stadium last night.

The only unusual feature of the game was Michael Lynagh's uncharacteristically poor form with the boot. The world record holder with 911 points in international rugby missed three conversions and a penalty.

Points difference separates the sides in the league and they matched each other for excitement throughout.

Saracens have found a lethal finisher in their left winger, Muna Ebongalame. He comes from Cameroon although his last club was Luton. He could well have come from the airport because he is real flyer. Having given Saints' Scotland international wing Craig Moir a massive start, Ebongalame sprinted 75 yards to touch down Lynagh's kick.

That edged Saracens in front after the Northampton flanker Shem Tatupu wrapped up a fine series of surges by Saints. Paul Grayson landed the conversion, but before he slotted his next kick, a penalty, Saracens had crossed for their second try.

This, too, was greeted with huge cheers as Philippe Sella, the world's most-capped international with 111 appearances for France, finished off a stunning move which began in the Saracen 22. Lynagh missed that conversion as he had his first attempt, but he kept knocking over the penalties.

The second half had its share of excitement and opportunities, for Saracens in particular, but for the first 20 minutes or so Saints defended admirably, just as Saracens had in the first half. But it was Northampton who scored midway through the half when substitute Matt Allen, on for the injured Jonathan Bell, was sent over in the corner following a tap penalty.

Saracens made the perfect counter-attack 10 minutes later with Steve Ravenscroft going over in the corner for yet another unconverted try. Grayson then reduced the deficit to one point with two late penalties.

Saracens: Tries Ebongalame, Sella, Ravenscroft; Penalties Lynagh 3. Northampton: Tries Beal, Allen; Conversions Grayson 2; Penalties Grayson 3.

Saracens: A Tunningley; R Wallace, P Sella, S Ravenscroft, M Ebongalame; M Lynagh, K Bracken; T Daly, G Botterman, P Wallace, P Johns, T Copsey, G Clark, R Hill, T Diprose (capt).

Northampton: N Beal; C Moir, G Townsend, J Bell (M Allen, h-t), H Thorneycroft; P Grayson, M Dawson; M Volland, A Clarke, M Hynes, J Phillips, J Hearn (M Fountaine, 70), S Tatupu, B Pountney, T Rodber (capt).

Referee: G Warren (Bristol).