Saints make big statement as Sarries are swept aside

Saints celebrate Samu Manoa's try against Saracens (pictures: Linda Dawson)
Saints celebrate Samu Manoa's try against Saracens (pictures: Linda Dawson)

Saints sent a shuddering statement of intent to the rest of the Aviva Premiership as they smashed Saracens’ unbeaten record with a 41-20 win at Franklin’s Gardens.

Jamie Elliott, Samu Manoa, Luther Burrell, Ken Pisi and a double from Ben Foden lit up the Gardens in a sensational showing.

Pictures by Linda Dawson

Pictures by Linda Dawson

The away side did respond with second-half efforts from Duncan Taylor and Kelly Brown but saw their five-match winning streak come to a devastating end.

Instead, it was Saints who coped best with the absence of their international stars - six in total - as they played some Champagne rugby on the way to the win.

Foden and Burrell, released by England in time for the game, did their international chances no harm with fine displays, but it was a gargantuan team effort that claimed the victory.

A tight game had been predicted between two sides previously separated by six points in the standings, with Saracens sitting at the summit.

Pictures by Linda Dawson

Pictures by Linda Dawson

But after overcoming a slow start that saw Sarries wing Michael Tagicakibau just miss out on a try, Saints turned up the heat in impressive fashion.

Myler got the first points on the board, defying the swirling wind to lash the ball through the posts.

Sarries were soon level, though, as Saints offended in front of the posts and full-back Goode easily slotted the kick to make it 3-3.

Parity had been restored but it wasn’t to last for long as Manoa sparked a slick Saints move, which culminated in Sam Dickinson teeing up Elliott to score.

Pictures by Linda Dawson

Pictures by Linda Dawson

Myler made the conversion and the home side could have had another try immediately after as George Pisi released Foden a fraction too early and the full-back was stopped.

At the other end, there was some superb work in defence as Elliott halted David Strettle at the last and Foden won the battle with England team-mate Goode, holding the Sarries 15 up after he crossed the whitewash.

And Saints soon made the away side pay with a sensational effort from last season’s player of the year, Manoa.

The American powerhouse, playing in the second row in the absence of Courtney Lawes, showed subtlety to find a gap and dance his way past last line of defence Goode to score.

Pictures by Linda Dawson

Pictures by Linda Dawson

Myler put the gloss on the score and the Gardens faithful were roaring with approval at the first-half showing of their side.

Goode missed the chance to mount a response, firing his long-range penalty to the right of the posts. It was to be a microcosm of his team’s performance.

Saracens were struggling to get a foothold in the game, and Saints were whipping the rug from under their feet with Alex Waller getting the better of Lions tighthead Matt Stevens.

But, despite the set piece struggle, the men in grey and blue did manage to get another three points before the break, Goode landing a penalty with the final act of the half.

At 17-6 up, Saints enjoyed a healthy lead at the break, but they were hit with a blow as No.8 Dickinson was unable to reappear for the second half after taking a knock.

Replacement GJ van Velze was straight into the action, helping the home pack push Saracens back with a huge maul and after the ball was spread wide, Foden got his name on the scoresheet.

Pictures by Linda Dawson

Pictures by Linda Dawson

Myler missed the conversion but Saints continued to step on the accelerator, using their maul to great effect, bashing Saracens back.

The away side did their best to hold out, but their efforts were in vain as Northampton simply had too much, securing a bonus-point try through a determined Foden.

The England full-back latched on to a Myler grubber kick to dive over the line and hammer home his point to England boss Stuart Lancaster ahead of next weekend’s game against Australia.

Myler made another tough conversion from out wide to give his side a 29-6 lead with 25 minutes to go and shattered Saracens turned to their bench in a desperate effort to get wrest some momentum from Saints.

They managed it, with a concerted spell of pressure paying dividends as centre Taylor went over unopposed to breathe life into his side.

Goode kicked to make it 29-13 but Saints weren’t on the back foot for long as a break from their own half saw George Pisi and Ken Pisi combine to send Burrell over.

Myler made it 36-13 with the conversion in front of the posts before Sarries skipper Brown got another try back.

But, fittingly, Saints had the final word as Ken Pisi raced clear with his arm in the air, diving over to add the finishing touches on a memorable afternoon.

Saints: Foden (Wilson 67); K Pisi, G Pisi, Burrell (Waldouck 67), Elliott (Glynn 75); Myler, Fotuali’i; A Waller (E Waller 62), Haywood (McMillan 75), Ma’afu (Denman 58), Manoa (Nutley 67), Day, Clark, Dowson (c), Dickinson (van Velze 40).

Saracens: Goode; Tagicakibau (Bosch 55), Wyles, Taylor, Strettle; Mordt (Ransom 67), Wigglesworth (de Kock 55); Barrington (Auterac 67), Brits (George 55), Stevens (Johnston 55); Borthwick (c), Hargreaves (Botha 55); Brown, Burger (Wray 60), Joubert.

Referee: Tim Wigglesworth

Attendance: 13,474