Six Nations stars impress for Northampton as Owen Farrell outshone by England understudy

Planet Rugby
Fin Smith in action for Northampton Saints against Saracens in the Premiership in 2024.

Fin Smith in action for Northampton Saints against Saracens in the Premiership in 2024.

Fin Smith maintained his fine form in a Northampton Saints shirt as he got the better of Owen Farrell and Saracens on Friday.

The England fly-half, who earned three caps off the bench during their Six Nations campaign, controlled the game superbly and earned the man of the match award in their 41-30 victory.

Northampton scored five tries in total with Alex Coles and James Ramm going over for a 17-0 buffer after 17 minutes.

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Although Sarries fought back and reduced that deficit to four points via Theo McFarland’s try and successive Farrell penalties, the Saints eased to a win in the second period.

Ramm completed his brace, while Tommy Freeman, who was playing his first game since the Six Nations, and Ollie Sleightholme also went over to effectively secure the win.

Saracens did get a try bonus-point late on as Alex Lewington’s double added to Ben Earl’s earlier effort, but it was another setback for the defending Premiership champions, who had looked to have found their rhythm during the 52-7 demolition of Harlequins last weekend.

Saints came racing out of the blocks as they piled the pressure on Saracens, eventually going ahead when Smith released Coles for an early score.

Smith converted, and he was doing so again soon after as the Saints added a second score, with Sleightholme’s stunning run eventually leading to a try for Ramm.

Northampton were calling the tune, even at the scrum, winning a penalty, which Smith slotted from in front of the posts.

But Saracens hit the Saints with a sucker punch when Tom James saw an attempted clearance charged down, allowing McFarland to gather and score.

Farrell converted and soon added a penalty as Northampton saw their lead reduced to seven points in the blink of an eye.

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The away side looked certain to score two minutes before the break but Nick Tompkins knocked on following a huge defensive set from Saints.

The gap remained seven points at the break, but it was down to four early in the second period as Farrell slotted a penalty.

But the Saints came storming back and after a quick tap penalty from James caused real panic, Saracens were opened up as Ramm cruised over for his second try of the night.

Smith converted, but Northampton again shot themselves in the foot as Ramm tried to clear inside his own 22 and Earl charged the kick down before gathering to score.

Farrell converted and the gap was just seven points, but Saracens lost Lewington to the sin bin for a deliberate knock-on.

Northampton took immediate advantage, producing a flowing move that was finished by Freeman before Sleightholme touched down under the posts to make the game safe.

Smith was sin-binned before Saracens ensured they would leave with something to show for their efforts, Lewington grabbing two tries in the final two minutes to earn his side a losing bonus point.

The teams

Northampton: 15 James Ramm, 14 Tommy Freeman, 13 Burger Odendaal, 12 Fraser Dingwall, 11 Ollie Sleightholme, 10 Fin Smith, 9 Tom James, 8 Juarno Augustus, 7 Tom Pearson, 6 Courtney Lawes (c), 5 Alex Coles, 4 Alex Moon, 3 Trevor Davison, 2 Curtis Langdon, 1 Emmanuel Iyogun
Replacements: 16 Sam Matavesi, 17 Alex Waller, 18 Ed Prowse, 19 Temo Mayanavanua, 20 Lewis Ludlam, 21 Sam Graham, 22 Archie McParland, 23 Tom Litchfield

Saracens: 15 Elliot Daly, 14 Sean Maitland, 13 Lucio Cinti, 12 Nick Tompkins, 11 Alex Lewington, 10 Owen Farrell (c), 9 Ivan van Zyl, 8 Billy Vunipola, 7 Andy Christie, 6 Juan Martin Gonzalez, 5 Nick Isiekwe, 4 Theo McFarland, 3 Marco Riccioni, 2 Jamie George, 1 Mako Vunipola
Replacements: 16 Theo Dan, 17 Eroni Mawi, 18 Christian Judge, 19 Hugh Tizard, 20 Tom Willis, 21 Ben Earl, 22 Gareth Simpson, 23 Alex Goode

Referee: Luke Pearce
Assistant referees: Joe James, Andrew Jackson
TMO: Ian Tempest

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