Tom Vickers’ Northampton Saints v Saracens review and player ratings

STAR MAN - George Pisi grabbed a hat-trick against Saracens (Picture: James Phillips)
STAR MAN - George Pisi grabbed a hat-trick against Saracens (Picture: James Phillips)
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Whatever oranges are on offer in the Franklin’s Gardens home dressing room at half-time these days, they’re clearly working.

Because the transformation from first to second half has been quite striking in the past couple of weeks.

On Saturday, Saints overcame a first 40 minutes in which they had minimal possession of the ball to see off Saracens in emphatic fashion.

George Pisi’s second-half hat-trick slayed the Allianz Park outfit and set up a place in next Sunday’s Sandy Park LV= Cup final against Exeter Chiefs.

But it wasn’t simply about the Samoan, as the man himself was keen to point out in his post-match interview.

This was a team who went from Hyde to Jekyll in little more than a half-time break and a few second half minutes.

It was a similar scenario to a couple of weeks ago, when Saints were locked at 13-13 with Gloucester before pulling away in the final 25 minutes.

They have taken their time to get up and running, but once they click into gear it has devastating effects.

Everything about the final stages of Saturday’s performance was quicker, slicker and more ruthless.

There was a Polynesian flavour to all three tries as George Pisi applied the finishing touches, with brother Ken and scrum-half Kahn Fotuali’i also hugely influential.

As always, the pack played a huge part, with the likes of Alex Waller and Samu Manoa again coming off the bench to add extra bite.

Saracens, so in control of proceedings for the final 30 minutes of the first half, were suddenly struggling to stem the tide.

And they were made to pay for not making the most of the stranglehold on proceedings they seemed to have at one point.

Marcelo Bosch’s disallowed try was, as both bosses later admitted, something of a gamechanger, as Saints finally got their act together.

And they can now look forward to an 80-minute shot at the silverware at Sandy Park next Sunday.

For Saracens, who were taunted with chants of ‘Can we play you every week?’ by the Saints faithful at the end, it was an opportunity lost.

They have now lost their past four games against Jim Mallinder’s men, who will hope that can give them a mental edge should they meet in the Premiership play-offs.

For now, though, it’s all about the LV= Cup final for Saints.

They’d just better remember to transport those oranges down to Exeter next weekend.

How they rated...

BEN FODEN

First start since November for the England full-back, and it was a good one. He played a key role in Saints’ second try with a good kick through and was big in defence... 7

KEN PISI

Really lively display from the winger, who seems to get better week by week at the moment. Showed huge determination to put pressure on Saracens... 7

GEORGE PISI - CHRON STAR MAN

Scored a fine hat-trick, ruthlessly taking advantage of some good team play. Also impressed with a superb saving tackle on Charlie Hodgson... 9

TOM STEPHENSON

A shame for the youngster as he was forced off after just 12 minutes with little chance to have an impact the game... 6

TOM COLLINS

Hadn’t played since January, but you wouldn’t have known. The winger was impressive throughout the first half and was sharp in the second, too... 7

WILL HOOLEY

A mixed day with the boot for the youngster, who will be disappointed not to have landed one of his conversion attempts, but aside from that it was a confident display... 6

KAHN FOTUALI’I

Set up Pisi’s third try with a genial pass inside and was in good touch in the second half as he helped keep Saints on the front foot... 7

ETHAN WALLER

Another decent shift from the fledgling prop, who has started the past two games. Gave little away in the scrum... 6

MIKE HAYWOOD

The young hooker showed plenty of aggression to drive his team on and put in a good all-round display... 7

TOM MERCEY

Good for Saints to have this man back from injury and he did what he had to well, helping his side take on Saracens up front... 6

JAMES CRAIG

Hadn’t played since November but didn’t show too many signs of rust, looking assured around the park... 7

CHRISTIAN DAY

Played an important role in defence, shutting down Saracens as quickly as possible and helped the younger men alongside him... 7

BEN NUTLEY

Got around the pitch well and did some good work at the breakdown as Saints grew into the game... 6

PHIL DOWSON

The skipper did his best to haul his team back into the game after the fell behind, and his drive and determination inspires others... 7

SAM DICKINSON

Solidiered on after sustaining a leg injury in the first half and made some big carries to push Saracens back... 7

Replacements (who played more than 20 minutes)

STEPHEN MYLER (for Stephenson 12)

Saints would have liked to give him more of a rest, but he came on, picked the corners and landed a drop goal to steer his side to victory... 7

ALEX WALLER (for E Waller 50)

Another vital cameo from the prop, who adds so much up front and played his part in the big second-half push... 7

GARETH DENMAN (for Mercey 50)

Like Alex Waller, helped turn up the heat on Saracens in the tight and is a good option to freshen up the forward pack... 7

SAMU MANOA (for Craig 57)

The Saracens slayer, who had been named man of the match in his previous three games against the Barnet side added plenty of power to get Saints over the line... 7

CALUM CLARK (for Nutley 57)

Like his fellow replacements, had a key part to play as he added extra energy at the breakdown and in the maul... 7