Owen Farrell signs off from Saracens career with narrow defeat at Northampton

Farrell will join French side Racing 92 this summer.

Owen Farrell’s final Saracens appearance ended in defeat .
Owen Farrell’s final Saracens appearance ended in defeat . (Joe Giddens/PA)

Owen Farrell signed off from his Saracens career with a 22-20 defeat by Northampton that extends Courtney Lawes’ own stay in English rugby for one last week.

Both former England captains depart for French clubs at the end of the season and for Farrell that was signalled by a hard-fought Gallagher Premiership play-off at Franklin’s Gardens that propels Saints into next Saturday’s final.

With defences ruling, it came down to the kickers to settle a gripping evening and up stepped Fin Smith for Northampton as he punished Saracens’ indiscipline and shaky scrum by landing five penalties.

The first of the weekend’s semi-finals lived up to expectations as the league leaders went toe to toe with the defending champions – and it was Northampton who had more in the locker.

They controlled the last half hour, aided by their dominant scrum, and deservedly secured their place in the Twickenham showpiece for the first time since their title-winning season of 2014.

Farrell’s aim of a triumphant finish to his last season at his only club before joining Racing 92 met a green and black wall, while the night also saw his long-time England team-mates Billy and Mako Vunipola say farewell to Saracens.

Farrell was only kicking off his left foot during the warm-up and confirmation that he was carrying a niggle came when Elliot Daly stepped up to take the first penalty and kick for touch.

Saracens deserved their early lead, outmuscling the hosts and showing greater threat in attack with Daly rifling over another three points to underline their superiority.

Owen Farrell in the thick of the action against Northampton .
Owen Farrell in the thick of the action against Northampton . (Joe Giddens/PA)

But in a flash Saints seized the lead, their own attack firing for the first time with short passes and solid carries driving them into the 22 where George Furbank pulled the trigger by sending centre Burger Odendaal over.

Furbank’s pass was delayed perfectly to suck in the midfield defence but Odendaal still had to show strength and pace to finish, although the South African was also helped by the line he had picked.

Smith landed three penalties as Northampton turned the screw and Saracens faced growing adversity with conspicuous knock-ons by Farrell and Daly inducing loud jeers from the crowd.

Crucially, Saints were accumulating points with their visits to opposition 22 even though they had lost the first-half penalty count 9-6.

Saracens’ scrum was coming under pressure while in the backs Smith and Furbank were growing in influence for Northampton – until Farrell struck in the 54th minute.

The champions’ most impressive spell of attack reached its moment of truth when they probed down the left with Farrell producing a superb grubber that was skilfully collected and touched down by Alex Lewington.

The tension was mounting as Smith missed a penalty and Alex Mitchell was denied by a try-saving tackle by flaker Juan Martin Gonzalez, who somehow chased down the England scrum-half.

Smith was on target in the 60th minute to give Northampton a 19-13 lead and they were beginning to camp in the Saracens half with their scrum a powerful weapon that kept forcing penalties.

Over went another kick by Smith but Lucio Cinti ran in a late corner in the left corner, sending ripples of panic through Franklin’s Gardens until the final whistle blew.