Mar 05, 2016
Saracens Frustrated By Saints In Scrappy Encounter
It was a tough afternoon at Allianz Park for Saracens as they were edged out 20-15 by Northampton Saints in what was a scrappy Aviva Premiership encounter on both sides.
Alex Goode shone for the home side, looking lively with the ball and making a number of breaks, but Saracens were unable to convert pressure into points in an error strewn game that saw the Allianz Park side pick up a losing bonus point.
Saracens took the lead mid-way through the first half through two Ben Spencer penalties before Saints charged down an Alex Goode clearance and Stephen Myler crossed over to score. Minutes later however a superb penalty from Goode reinstated the home side’s lead and Sarries went into half time 9-7 up.
The second half started poorly however as soft defence allowed Saints captain Lee Dickson to get over the try line. Myler converted to make it 9-14. Saints looked to have crossed again shortly after but for a try saving tackle from Mike Rhodes which prevented Ben Foden from touching down.
Penalties were traded as the half wore on with errors continuing to mar both sides’ performances. An Alex Goode penalty would put Sarries within two points of the visitors with just under ten minutes to go but it was Saints who had the final say with another penalty of their own with three minutes to play.
The home side had plenty of effort and endeavour but too many times the Men in Black coughed up possession with the ball, or fluffed their lines when looking to build momentum against a steadfast Saints outfit.
It took 17 minutes for the first points of the game. Ben Spencer who sunk Saints hearts in a Man of the Match display almost 12 months earlier in the LV=Cup semi-final between the two sides stepped up and slotted a penalty goal after Jamie George punctured the Northampton defence with a strong carry in the build-up.
Spencer added another penalty before he was yellow carded under his own posts as Saracens continued to fall foul of referee Tom Foley. Saints duly punished their hosts indiscipline, when Stephen Myler made the most of a charged down Alex Goode box-kick to score. He converted his own try to give Northampton a 7-6 lead as a first half that proved to be low on action and quality drew to a close.
Saracens though would have the final say of the first forty minutes, when Goode (kicking in the place of the sin-binned Spencer) slotted a 39th minute penalty to give his side a 9-7 lead.
If Sarries had the final say of the first half, it would be the Saints who had the first of the second. Not long after the players had reacquainted themselves with the blustery conditions at Allianz Park, Lee Dickson would wriggle through the Sarries defence to dot the ball down to score. Myler, who was faultless with the boot throughout, added the extras.
Mark McCall’s side were lucky not to have fell further behind when the Pisi brothers combined to release Saints full-back Ben Foden who dived in to score in the left hand corner only for Sarries flank forward Michael Rhodes to produce a stunning try saving tackle.
Sarries responded to the early pressure via their forward pack. Michael Rhodes, Jackson Wray and Richard Barrington carried well as they looked to hit the heart of the Saints defence. Their efforts would be rewarded when Saracens cut Northampton’s lead to two points when Ben Spencer sent over a 53rd minute penalty goal after the Saints were penalised for not rolling away in the tackle.
Either side continued to plug away, but they continued to cancel each other out as both teams attacking play suffered under the well-drilled defences on show.
Myler sent over 65th minute penalty to make the scores 17-12 in favour of Saints, only for Saracens to hit back with an Alex Goode three pointer four minutes later.
Saracens continued with an abundance of effort, but it was the team from Franklin’s Gardens who would score the final points of the game when the metronomic Myler added 77th minute penalty. Saints held on, deep in Sarries territory to win the game 20-15.
Saracens: 15 Alex Goode; 14 Mike Ellery; 13 Duncan Taylor; 12 Brad Barritt (c); 11 Chris Wyles; 10 Nils Mordt; 9 Ben Spencer; 1 Richard Barrington; 2 Jamie George; 3 Petrus Du Plessis; 4 Hayden Smith; 5 Jim Hamilton; 6 Michael Rhodes; 7 Kelly Brown; 8 Jackson Wray
Replacements:16 Jared Saunders;17 Hayden Thompson-Stringer; 18 Juan Figallo;19 Kieran Low;20 Jacques Burger;21 Neil De Kock; 22 Marcelo Bosch;23 Nathan Earle:
Replacements used: Figallo for Du Plessis (50); Burger for Brown (47); De Kock for Spencer (69); Bosch for Ellery (63)
Penalties Spencer x 3; Goode x 2:
Yellow card Spencer 34 mins
Northampton: 15 Ben Foden; 14 Ken Pisi; 13 George Pisi; 12 Luther Burrell; 11 Tom Collins; 10 Stephen Myler; 9 Lee Dickson (c); 1 Alex Walller, 2 Mikey Haywood; 3 Kieran Brookes; 4 Courtney Lawes; 5 Victor Matfield; 6 Jamie Gibson; 7 Tom Wood; 8 Teimana Harrison;
Replacements: 16 Reece Marshall; 17 Ethan Waller; 18 Paul Hill; 19 James Craig; 20 Sam Dickinson; 21 Tom Kessell; 22 JJ Hanrahan; 23 Harry Mallinder:
Tries Myler (35); Dickson (43):
Cons Myler x 2:
Penalties Myler x 2:
Replacements used: Marshall for Haywood (80); E.Waller for A.Waller (65); Hill for Brookes (56); Craig for Lawes (32); Dickinson for Matfield (69); Kessell for Dickson (74):