MATCH REPORT | Saracens Men 12 - 18 Northampton Saints
Saracens Men saw their five-match winning streak in the Gallagher Premiership come to an end as they were beaten 18-12 by Northampton Saints at StoneX Stadium.
At a sub-zero StoneX it was the visitors who pulled away from the Men in Black, despite tries from Tom Parton and Alex Lewington which gave the home supporters hope of a dramatic comeback in the closing stages.
In the freezing conditions both sides spent the opening exchanges working each other out in an uneventful start to the match.
Theo Dan came closest to breaking the deadlock when he burst through a gap and looked to pass inside to Ivan van Zyl, but it was intercepted and the Saints survived.
Fin Smith then had a great chance to edge the visitors in front from the tee, but he dragged his attempt wide and it remained scoreless.
Lucio Cinti, who was making his home debut had a lovely exchange with Nick Tompkins in the midfield as his offload almost set Manu Vunipola through a gap, but Courtney Lawes was on alert and managed to haul him down.
Smith then got another opportunity from the tee and this time was successful as the Saints ended the first quarter with a narrow 3-0 lead.
The Saints were beginning to get regular success at scrum time, and that brought Smith another chance which he took to double their lead with 30 minutes played.
Sarries, who has struggled to find intensity in the first half then had a golden chance to get on the scoreboard with an overlap on the left hand side, but unfortunately a fizzed pass at Cinti went to around and the visitors got the scrum.
There was one more chance for the Londoners before the break as a penalty was kicked to the corner, but the maul was held up and Sarries went down the tunnel trailing 6-0.
The hosts looked to the bench early in the second half and called upon experienced duo Jamie George and Mako Vunipola, but it was Saints who struck first as they gave themselves some breathing space with 30 minutes remaining.
A line break took them deep in the Sarries 22, and then a brilliant cross-field kick found Ollie Sleightholme in acres of space who had a clear run to the line. Smith then converted as well as their lead grew to 13-0.
Saracens needed to dig deep to find a path back in to proceedings and that is exactly what they did on the hour mark as they scored their first try of the match in style.
A succession of penalties gave them the field position required, and then after going from left to right multiple times a brilliant 20-metre pass from Vunipola across the whole defence found Tom Parton who was never going to be caught from close range. The conversion came back off the post, but the deficit was now down to eight.
However just when Sarries looked to be back in it, Alex Mitchell’s sniping score put the visitors back in the ascendancy in front of the South Stand. A high ball was gathered and they headed in to their opponents half before the scrum-half turned on the afterburners and raced away from 30 metres. The kick came back off the post, but the deficit was now back at 13 with 10 minutes to go.
Alex Lewington then breathed new life in to the hosts as he was first to react to Alex Goode’s grubber and score in the corner, and Vunipola’s crucial touchline conversion set up a grandstand finish as Sarries trailed 18-12 with eight minutes to go.
Lewington was then inches away from completing the comeback as he hacked clear a loose ball and chased after it, but a cruel bounce meant it trickled in to touch with the try-line at his mercy.
The deficit eventually proved too much to overturn, and attention now turns to the Investec Champions Cup as Sarries open their campaign with a trip to Pretoria to face the Vodacom Bulls next Saturday.