Hougaard kicks Sarries to victory
Derick Hougaard booted all of Saracens points in a 24-17 win over Northampton that hauled his team into the top half of the Aviva Premiership table.
Despite an impressive start Northampton's indiscipline proved costly at Vicarage Road as referee David Pearson punished them with a series of penalties and Hougaard filled his boots.
Paul Diggin scored the game's only try in the last minute, crossing from the right to secure the visitors a losers' bonus.
Hougaard's first penalty was sandwiched by two for Shane Geraghty as Northampton looked the better side in the early stages.
Saracens had a let-off in the 18th minute when Brad Barritt's attempted kick-through rebounded off a group of opponents and led to a straight chase for the line between Neil de Kock and Tom Wood. Pearson consulted assistant referee Roy Maybank before agreeing that the Sarries scrum-half was first to the ball after it had crossed their line.
Geraghty extended Northampton's lead to six points after 22 minutes when a scrum nosedived into the pitch but Northampton drifted offside and Pearson presented Hougaard with the opportunity to cut the deficit from 35 yards.
An early turning point came shortly afterwards when Hougaard took aim from 45 yards before firing an impressive drop-goal high between the posts to level the scores with a goal which had a galvanising effect on Saracens.
Hougaard booted two further penalties but it was the visitors who finished the half as they began, with Geraghty's penalty 90 seconds from the interval cutting the lead to 15-12.
Hougaard kicked two more goals and Saracens began to drive upfield at every opportunity, sucking in defenders, and one turned out to be fly-half Geraghty who not only got on the wrong side of a ruck in front of his posts, he failed to get clear fast enough to satisfy Pearson, who sent him to the bin in the 58th minute.
Hougaard kicked his eighth goal, before Diggin crossed for the visitors at the end.