Nov 07, 2015
Saracens defeat Saints in tense away win
Saracens picked up a fine 12-6 win away to Northampton Saints in round four of the Aviva Premiership, as Mark McCall’s side won their fourth game of the season to maintain their perfect start to the 2015/16 season.
Four penalties from Owen Farrell frustrated the Saints in a powerful and disciplined performance from the north Londoners.
In a repeat of May’s Aviva Premiership semi-final Saracens faced Northampton Saints at Franklin’s Gardens and much like the two side’s previous encounter Saturday’s match-up was once again proved to be a war of attrition.
Saracens were able to welcome back bulldozing back rower Billy Vunipola into the starting line-up, whilst Northampton Saints welcomed back their own big hitter, George North, into the starting XV.
With a torrential downpour threatening to rain on Saints’ parade of opening their new Barwell Stand, the showers and gloom made way for the some welcomed November sunshine prior to kick-off.
The seasonal November showers did leave an indelible mark on proceedings making conditions slippery and the Franklins’s Gardens surface particularly heavy under foot.
With the conditions in the forefront of their minds, both sets of half-backs understandably played for territory when presented with possession in their own half. The opening exchanges were dominated by Messrs Wigglesworth, Fotuali’i, Farrell and Myler kicking the Gilbert rugby football skyward to exert pressure on their opposing side.
It was the Saints who would register the first points of the game. Alistair Hargreaves found himself on the wrong side of the ruck and Stephen Myler coolly slotted over the three points with just three minutes played.
Sarries began to open up their style of play, with Schalk Brits (in his 150th appearance for the club) at his enterprising best. The Springbok hooker ignited the opening exchanges with some fleet-footed carries and some silky offloads in heavy traffic.
Brits and co though were having to deal with a powerful Saints set-piece in the opening quarter. Three times the Saracens scrum was penalised by Referee Luke Pearce, and it was an issue that Mark McCall and his coaching team had to address at half-time.
The contest, low on opportunities would be dominated on the coalface of the set-piece. Saints never enjoyed the possession in dangerous areas to translate their set-piece dominance into points and it would be Saracens who would go into the break with a slender three point lead.
After Tom Wood maliciously hit Owen Farrell with a late tackle low at his England teammates knee, Farrell picked himself up to land the three points to silence the unsporting boos that were ringing around Franklin’s Gardens to draw level.
Before half-time Saints were once again penalised, and the ice-cool Farrell sent over a 48-yard penalty to give his side a 6-3 lead at the break.
Saracens kicked off the second half by extending their lead by another three points, with Farrell sending over a 46th minute penalty.
The game was as tight as a drum, and Sarries would have to depend on their defensive resolve for the majority of the second half and with a much improved performance at the set-piece.
In amongst a courageous Saracens defensive display, youngster Maro Itoje really came to the fore in the second half. The 21-year old was abrasive, and a constant menace for the Saints at the breakdown.
Sarries spent the second forty minutes defending for the most-part, so it came as a sucker-punch to Saints when they extended their lead to nine points with a late Owen Farrell penalty. Replacement JJ Hanrahan added a late score for the hosts.
That would be that for Saracens, as they maintained their 100% start to the season, picking up their 11th win away at Northampton Saints in Premiership Rugby in the process.
Saracens: 15 Alex Goode; 14 Chris Ashton, 13 Duncan Taylor, 12 Brad Barritt, 11 Chris Wyles; 10 Owen Farrell, 9 Richard Wigglesworth; 1 Mako Vunipola, 2 Schalk Brits, 3 Petrus Du Plessis; 4 George Kruis, 5 Alistair Hargreaves ©, 6 Maro Itoje, 7 Jacques Burger, 8 Billy Vunipola.
16 Jamie George, 17 Richard Barrington, 18 Juan Figallo, 19 Michael Rhodes, 20 Kelly Brown, 21 Ben Spencer, 22 Charlie Hodgson, 23 Marcelo Bosch.
Northampton Saints: 15 Ben FODEN; 14 Jamie ELLIOTT, 13 George PISI, 12 Luther BURRELL, 11 George NORTH; 10 Stephen MYLER, 9 Kahn FOTUALI’I; 1 Alex WALLER, 2 Dylan HARTLEY, 3 Kieran BROOKES; 4 James CRAIG, 5 Christian DAY; 6 Jamie GIBSON, 7 Tom WOOD ©, 8 Sam DICKINSON.
16 Mikey HAYWOOD, 17 Ethan WALLER, 18 Paul HILL, 19 Michael PATERSON, 20 Teimana HARRISON, 21 Lee DICKSON, 22 JJ HANRAHAN, 23 Ahsee TUALA.