MATCH REPORT | Northampton Saints 38-29 Saracens Men
Saracens Men left Franklin’s Gardens with a four-try bonus point after a valiant effort despite a 38-29 defeat to Northampton Saints.
The Men in Black, who played with 14 men for 70 minutes with a much-changed side scored four to ensure that they registered another crucial point in their pursuit of top spot in the Gallagher Premiership.
Sarries made the perfect start, and an incredible try from Rotimi Segun put them on the front foot with just five minutes played. Olly Hartley’s excellent offload put Alex Lewington through a gap, and his inch-perfect grubber bounced up to Segun who acrobatically finished in the corner for a try of the season contender. Manu Vunipola’s excellent touchline conversion made it 7-0.
Saints then looked for a quick response and thought they had it when David Ribbans crashed over from close range, but after a TMO check to was brought back as he knocked the ball on in the process of grounding it.
Then came a crucial moment as Duncan Taylor’s huge hit on Fin Smith looked to have created a chance for Lewington to gather the loose ball, but Wayne Barnes deemed the tackle to be high and Taylor was shown a red card, meaning his side would play with 14 for the following 70 minutes.
Sam Matavesi nearly punished Sarries straight away, but with an overlap on the left hand side he couldn’t gather a pass and the visitors escaped.
Sarries, with their backs against the wall were fronting up and another penalty came their way with 15 minutes on the clock, which Vunipola kicked straight through the posts to extend the lead to 10-0.
The hosts took their next chance though to get themselves right back in the match. A penalty was kicked to the corner, and then the ball was shifted left to Alex Moon who crashed over from just two metres out.
They took the lead with their next attack as the raucous home crowd were brought to their feet again. James Ramm’s chip took play deep in to the 22, and then a smart offload found Lewis Ludlam who was never going to be stopped from close range. Fin Smith’s conversion made it 12-10 with 25 minutes played.
Segun then got a half chance to snatch the lead back when the ball popped up to him on half way, but his chip in behind went in to touch and the opportunity passed.
Northampton then struck a major blow just two minutes before the break when Tommy Freeman flew over for their third try. Once again a penalty was kicked to the corner and quickly moved from right to left, allowing the England winger to use his quick feet and race over the line. Smith added the extras from the touchline, and that meant his side went down the tunnel with a 19-10 lead at the break.
The Saints carried on where they left off after the break, and wrapped up the bonus point just four minutes after the restart. A sweeping attack from inside their own half took them up to the 22, and then Rory Hutchinson pounced on a flat pass and beat his opposite man to dive over under the posts.
Alex Goode then executed a beautiful chip and chase and kicked deep in to Saints’ territory as he looked to get his side back in to it, but George Furbank scrambled back to clear.
The hosts then put the result beyond doubt with try number five on the 50 minute mark. Sustained pressure in the 22 sucked the defence in and a wide looping pass found Smith in acres of space to dot down in the corner and take them over 30 points.
Sarries then made a whole host of replacements and it had the desired effect as they sprung back in to life.
A lovely pass out wide looked to have put Olly Hartley through but the Saints defence managed to get back, however they took the next chance to get back in the game.
Another delightful chip in behind was gathered by Hartley, and his inside pass to Vunipola gave him a clear run under the posts. He converted his own try to cut the deficit to 14 with 20 minutes to play.
The task got harder when Segun was sent to the sin-bin for a tackle in the air, and the hosts made them pay once again as Fraser Dingwall was next to crash over from close range to give them further breathing space as we approached the closing stages.
Sarries did strike back with 10 minutes to go though, Ben Harris and Ben Earl combined brilliantly from the base of a lineout to take play right up to the line, and then they went through the hands until Theo Dan burst through for try number three. Vunipola’s conversion made it 38-24 and gave them hope of a four-try bonus point.
That hope became reality in the final play of the game as a late penalty was kicked to the corner, and Segun found himself in acres on the right wing to dot down and ensure that his side wouldn’t leave empty handed.
Sarries will now welcome London Irish back to StoneX next weekend as they look to lock in top spot in the Gallagher Premiership.