Nov 23, 2014
Saracens 24 Northampton 31
Saracens clinched a late losing bonus-point, as they were beaten by Northampton Saints 24-31 at a damp Allianz Park.
In a Jekyll and Hyde showing from the north London side, Saracens were left to chase the game after being 3-24 down during a laboured first-half performance, but produced an admirable comeback in the second stanza much to the approval of the 8,000+ Saracens fans in attendance.
Saracens’ first-half showing was one to quickly file under the “burn-after-reading”. Three tries scored with ease by the visitors in the opening 40 minutes meant the Saracens display in a forgetful first-half was as dreary and gloomy as the horrendous weather that plagued north London on this early Sunday afternoon.
Saints winger James Wilson ran-in two tries, with captain Phil Dowson also crossing as Stephen Myler kept the scoreboard ticking over with a handful of penalties after Charlie Hodgson has sent over an early penalty for Saracens.
Saracens needed a lift, and were provided a timely shot-in-the-arm when Jackson Wray burrowed over at the stroke of half-time after a dominant rolling maul. Hodgson failed to kick the conversion in testing conditions.
With half-time words from the Saracens coaching staff ringing in their ears the home side improved dramatically in the second-half.
Now enjoying some parity at the set-piece Saracens looked to claw themselves back into the game and Charlie Hodgson added an early second half penalty when Saints were penalised at the breakdown.
The improvement was palpable and it was Billy Vunipola leading from the front, as the rumbustious England No.8 looked to be a magnet to the ball and made numerous dominant carries.
Then Saracens’ dominance was translated into points, when Chris Wyles crossed in the left hand corner after a quick-tap penalty from half-back Ben Spencer in the build-up. Hodgson failed to convert from wide out.
Saracens were in the ascendant and continued to batter the Saints defensive line, with Vunipola, Jamie George and replacement Ernst Joubert all making noticeable in-roads.
Wyles crossed for his second effort to set-up a grandstand finish with seven points separating the two sides.
But a Stephen Myler penalty nudged Jim Mallinder’s men into a ten point lead as the excitement and momentum Saracens were enjoying was shelved.
Hodgson added another three points to clinch the losing bonus point, but Mark McCall’s side will be asking themselves what might have been, after a poor first half performance.