The shock and awe generated from the opening defeat to Saracens reverberated through the whole of last season for Saints. How well did they front up at Franklin’s Gardens? Ruaraidh Britton was at the game…
Northampton Saints 27 – 38 Saracens
Northampton Saints suffered their second defeat of the season in a hard-fought battle with title holders Saracens.
The hosts dominated for large parts of the match in possession, and managed to score three tries through co-captain Dylan Hartley, Ben Franks and Piers Francis.
But despite their heroic efforts, a late brace of tries from David Strettle secured the win for Saracens who maintain their perfect start to the season as defending champions.
Saints took an early 10-0 lead after Francis tore through a gap in the Sarries defence to break the deadlock; Dan Biggar followed up soon after with a penalty.
That lead was soon lost when two tries from Alex Lewington levelled the score, with the former London Irish winger taking his tally to five tries in three games.
After the half time break, Ben Spencer doubled the away sides lead with a try and a penalty to put the pressure on Saints, who soon responded through Dylan Hartley just minutes later.
Both sides exchanged a number of penalties during the second half, and Franks looked to have sealed the win for Saints with his first try in black green and gold taking the score to 27-26.
Lightning struck twice for Strettle, who dotted down in the corner twice in three minutes to put the game to bed, and send Saracens back to London with their third bonus point win of the season.
It was a game that could have gone either way, with Saints putting in a much better performance compared to those last season against Saracens.
The record humbling of 62-14 back in January seemed to be of the distant past when Biggar’s penalty took Saints to 27-26 with ten minutes on the clock.
Yet their inability to close out the game seeped through once again in all too familiar fashion to games last season, with two soft tries at the end being Northampton’s downfall.
There was hope for Saints however despite ending week three ninth in the table.
Taqele Naiyaravoro proved himself to be a big hit with the Saints fans quite literally on his debut, smashing the likes of Billy Vunipola and Liam Williams around the pitch like rad dolls, with the former usually being the one dishing out the hard tackles rather than receiving one.
The fact they lead for the majority of the fixture as well will be a big sign of improvement, and there’s no shame in losing to a side like Saracens in this fashion; they’re the champions for a reason, and Mark McCall’s side are only getting better.
Winger Tom Collins spoke about his sides’ progress after the match.
“It definitely is a frustrating defeat, but it just shows how far we’ve come as a team. Ten or twelve months ago we would have been getting absolutely battered there.
“At home we want to make it a fortress for us and make it tough for other teams to come and play and I felt we did that today with Sarries. The last eight to ten minutes we let them pull away a bit due to some soft tries and it’s frustrating but it shows where we’re going as a team.”
They travel to Bath next week, and look to return to winning ways in the West Country against a side who have had a similarly shaky start to their season, but a win for Saints next week could see them move back into the top half of the table before the first block of Gallagher Premiership fixtures come to a close.