Leeds 13 Saracens 17: Saracens leave Leeds on edge of trapdoor

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The Independent Online

Leeds revealed all their own failings in crashing to their 14th, and most significant, defeat of the season when they lost narrowly to a well-organised Saracens at Headingley last night. Had Saracens not made as many crucial mistakes when in try-scoring positions, they would have won much more comfortably.

Though still 10 points adrift of Bath, Bristol and Newcastle and with 15 available from their last three matches, there remains a mathematical possibility the Tykes can avoid relegation, but they would have to win them all, pick up some bonus points, and hope other results go their way. It is the tallest of tall orders.

With so much at stake, the opening sequences were wringing with anxiety. While Leeds threw caution to the wind, Saracens looked the more impressive at scrum and line-out. Once Sarries settled they looked the more dangerous and they could have scored a try, when Ben Johnston knifed through the Tykes midfield, only for the move to falter with Iain Balshaw's tackle on Dan Scarbrough.

If that was a let-off for Leeds, another one followed shortly afterwards when Glen Jackson's penalty struck the right upright. There was no respite when Jackson stepped forward for his second shot at goal, though the New Zealander was at fault with a drop-out which went awry for Tom Biggs to scoot 50 metres for a try. Jackson soon made amends. His brilliant, one-handed pass was seized upon by the full-back, Mark Bartholomeusz, for a try under the posts. Jackson converted to give Saracens the lead 10-5. Having squandered a five-on-three overlap Leeds were reprieved when Gordon Ross then hauled back another three points with a penalty on the stroke of half-time.

Saracens began the second half with a sweeping move. But Scarbrough dropped the ball when a try was there for the taking, as was three points for a straightforward penalty, though Jackson opted to kick for a line-out drive, which went horribly wrong. Jackson put that error behind him with a try, which he converted to take Saracens in front 17-8. Back came Leeds, with a try by Balshaw. But Ross missed the conversion.

Leeds: Tries Biggs, Balshaw; Penalty Ross. Saracens: Tries Bartholomeusz, Jackson; Conversions Jackson 2; Penalty Jackson.

Leeds: I Balshaw; A Snyman, C Bell, C Jones, T Biggs; G Ross, J Marshall; K Lensing (Gerber, 67), G Bulloch, R Gerber (M Shelley, 34), S Hooper (capt), S Morgan, J Dunbar (T Palmer, 34), R Parks, N Thomas (J Crane, 65).

Saracens: M Bartholomeusz; D Scarbrough, B Johnston, K Sorrell, T Vaikona; G Jackson, K Bracken (M Rauluni, 76); K Yates (N Lloyd, h-t), S Byrne (M Cairns, 64), C Visagie, S Raiwalui, T Ryder, K Chesney, T Randell, H Vyvyan (capt).

Referee: T Spreadbury (Somerset).