Northampton Saints returned to the top of the Aviva Premiership standings on Sunday after beating Saracens 31-24 at Allianz Park.
Northampton returned to the top of the Premiership standings on Sunday after beating Saracens 31-24 at Allianz Park.
Three first-half tries created a gap which Sarries couldn’t recover from, as a few England hopefuls did their bit to stake a claim in the line-up against Australia next week.
Saracens sensed a famous comeback in a busy second-half, but couldn’t recover from a disastrous start.
Rain, and points, poured for the away side in the first-half, who looked to have the game sewn up by the break. Stuart Lancaster chose not to give Luther Burrell a run out against Samoa on Saturday night, but that didn’t dampen his spirits, as he made sensational early break, playing in James Wilson to open the scoring.
Alarm bells were ringing for Saracens just before the 15-minute mark. Despite Charlie Hodgson’s penalty getting them off the mark, Northampton looked comfortable and went in for a second try. Lee Dickson’s sumptuous kick in behind the Sarries defence was perfectly weighted for Wilson to touch down comfortably for his second.
Mark McCall’s men looked shell-shocked, the Saints comfortable. The home side’s scrum creaked, with Billy Vunipola getting knocked off the ball by Dickson. The ball dropped invitingly for Phil Dowson who powered over.
Saracens had to act before the break, and that’s exactly what they did on the stroke of half-time. Jackson Wray marshalled a rolling maul over the line to score, but the hosts were still 25-8 behind going into the second period.
All the territory sat with Saracens after the break, as they went hell for leather in an attempt to salvage something from the game.
It took them 25 minutes, but finally the try came which reignited the home crowd’s spirit. Ben Spencer took a quick tap penalty which caught Saints off guard, with the ball being worked wide to Chris Wyles who scored to make it a 12 point game.
Wyles was in again moments later, sliding over in the corner to put his side even closer to a remarkable turnaround. Hodgson’s conversion would have put the Sarries just five points behind, but despite his sliced kick the game was very much alive.
Northampton were being overrun, and continued to struggle going into the final moments despite holding the lead. Myler steadied his side with four minutes remaining, knocking over a penalty which sealed a victory which should have been a lot more comfortable than it was.
Tries: Wray, Wyles 2
Pen: Hodgson 3
Tries: Wilson 2, Dowson
Con: Myler 2
Pen: Myler 4
Saracens: 15 Alex Goode; 14 Chris Ashton, 13 Nick Tompkins, 12 Chris Wyles, 11 David Strettle; 10 Charlie Hodgson, 9 Ben Spencer, 8 Billy Vunipola 7 Will Fraser, 6 Jackson Wray, 5 Alistair Hargreaves, 4 Jim Hamilton, 3 Juan Figallo, 2 Jamie George, 1 Rhys Gill.
Replacements: 16 Brett Sharman, 17 Richard Barrington, 18 James Johnston, 19 Maro Itoje, 20 Jacques Burger, 21 Ernst Joubert, 22 Neil de Kock, 23 Ben Ransom.
Northampton: 15 Ben Foden, 14 Jamie Elliott, 13 Tom Stephenson, 12 Luther Burrell, 11 James Wilson, 10 Stephen Myler, 9 Lee Dickson, 8 Samu Manoa, 7 Phil Dowson (c), 6 Calum Clark, 5 Christian Day, 4 James Craig, 3 Salesi Ma’afu, 2 Mike Haywood, 1 Alex Waller.
Replacements: 16 Ross Mcmillan, 17 Ethan Waller, 18 Gareth Denman, 19 Teimana Harrison, 20 Ben Nutley, 21 Joel Hodgson, 22 Dom Waldouck, 23 Howard Packman.
Referee: Matthew Carley
Assistant referees: Gareth Copsey, Ross Campbell
Television match official: Graham Hughes
Timekeeper: John Burtenshaw
Assessor: Christopher White