The Scotland wing’s heart would have been in his mouth when colliding with George Furbank in mid-air in the immediate exchanges at StoneX Stadium. But rather than any card, the 34-year-old was simply penalised – and five minutes later he was racing in for the first of two scores that sealed Saracens’ commanding 38-15 semi-final triumph.
Maitland revealed exclusively to Standard Sport last month that he is yet to resolve his future for next season, with no deal so far in place to stay at Saracens.
A dismissal here could have proved the cruellest ending to seven years in north London, but now he can start prepping for the Premiership final instead. The powerful wing wants to keep going next term, and showed all the credentials for exactly that here, with a superlative first-half brace.
Ivan Van Zyl sneaked over for Saracens’ third score, before Alex Mitchell scampered in to put Saints on the board well into the second half. James Ramm capped a fine Saints attack to set up a tense last 15 minutes, only for Sarries to hit back with a penalty try and a Max Malins score to seal the win.
Saracens will now face the winner of tomorrow’s semi-final battle between Sale and Leicester in the Premiership final at Twickenham on May 27. Mark McCall’s men will step into their second final in a row, having been edged out last term 15-12 by Leicester.
Nick Tompkins told Standard Sport earlier this week how talisman fly-half Owen Farrell had spearheaded Saracens’ attacking expansion in the wake of the frustrations of losing last season’s league final. And that swashbuckling edge came to the fore right from the off in north London, as the Men In Black plundered the booty of yet another shot at silverware.
Saints threatened in the early exchanges after Maitland survived that card scare, but Sarries more than held on – then stormed upfield in style. Alex Goode kept calm in his own in-goal area, made space then floated a wide pass to Maitland, who ghosted past Courtney Lawes to race clear.
Van Zyl’s pop off the deck almost sealed the opening score, but Saints snatched the ball to clear. The hosts were right back on the attack in moments however, with Goode’s masterful dink catching Saints cold in the front line – and bamboozling them in the backfield too.
Mitchell and Furbank were both wrong-footed by the bounce, and Maitland stormed home. Finn Smith’s penalty had Saints on the board at 7-3 but Furbank punted dead, then Smith missed touch from a penalty.
Farrell took full advantage, with a cute grubber to send Maitland across the whitewash again. And when Van Zyl cantered in for try number three, Saracens were in control with hardly half an hour gone.
Farrell’s sumptuous clean break just before half-time underscored a fine showing from the skipper, that begged to be rewarded with another score. Sarries settled instead for a 21-3 advantage at the break, and quickly stretched that lead after the interval through a Farrell penalty.
Mitchell stepped his way over next, finally dragging Saints into the contest. Ramm doubled the Saints’ try tally after the visitors’ first truly fluent attack, and Tommy Freeman so nearly steamed clear from deep on the left flank.
But Saracens won a vital ruck turnover instead, then forced a penalty try with Tom James sin-binned. Malins winged in at the death for Sarries’ fifth score, and there was even still time for Maro Itoje to be sin-binned for a deliberate knock-on.
By that point Saracens were well out of sight – but come May 27 at Twickenham, the Men In Black will be very much in everyone’s minds.