Saints paid the price for their profligacy as they fell victim to the Saracens sucker punch on Saturday.
Jim Mallinder’s men had enough territory in the clash at Franklin’s Gardens, but failed to turn possession into points.
Sarries shut up shop brilliantly in an extremely streetwise showing, which illustrates why they will be extremely hard to stop this season.
And they took one of the few opportunities presented to them, launching a searing counter-attack that saw full-back Alex Goode score the only try of the game.
Saracens had already edged a tight game at Harlequins this season and it was easy to see why as their impregnable defence shut Saints out.
Northampton got to within five metres on a number of occasions but just couldn’t find the creative spark needed to break down the opposition barriers.
It was a frustrating afternoon for Mallinder and his management team as not only did they see the game slip away, but they endured the disruption of injuries to more key players.
Courtney Lawes, Stephen Myler and Dylan Hartley played no part in the push for points as they were forced off before the second half began.
Whether their presence would have made the difference is, of course, unknown, but the fact so many changes were made so early didn’t help the home side’s flow.
That said, you can’t take anything away from Saracens who know how to do something Saints don’t: win games against top-four rivals on the road.
The nomadic outfit will no doubt be in the mix for the title when the season draws towards its conclusion, but Saints have got work to do to show they can be there, too.
How they rated...
Only lasted 28 minutes before being forced off with a hamstring injury. Was given little chance of stopping Saracens’ opening try as he found himself isolated against two men 5
Again showed flashes of flair and is a very good attacking tool for Saints. Linked up with his brother well again, but couldn’t find a way through the resilient Saracens backline 6
Looked most likely to break the Sarries resistance but like his team-mates could find no way through. Still Saints’ most potent attacking threat 6
Put himself in where it hurt once again, as showcased by the wounds on his face after the game, but saw opposition centres Joel Tomkins and Brad Barritt win the day 6
Showed glimpses of regaining some form, with a couple of bursts, one of which was stopped by a no arms tackle from Chris Ashton, but couldn’t make his mark 5
Opted to kick far too much during the first half and looked a little lost at times, but was better in the second period when Saints chose to run the ball when given the chance 5
Tried to cajole his team-mates through the opposition defence, but couldn’t manage it. He kept the tempo up well but the bullets he provided weren’t fired accurately 6
Played his part in a fairly good forward effort from Saints, but they couldn’t get the all-out dominance they desired throughout the game 6
The skipper was forced off at half-time and his absence, as ever, was a big blow. Though replacement Mike Haywood did put in a creditable display in his place 6
Was handed the chance to impress and didn’t do much wrong, helping Saints at least get parity in the scrum 6
Went off injured on 28 minutes and hadn’t really been able to impose himself on the game before that moment 5
Showed his strength in the second row and put in a good performance that justified Jim Mallinder’s decision to start him 6
Tried his best to get Saints over the gainline and was probably the pick of the home team as he gritted his teeth and tried to punch holes in the Saracens backline 7
Is having, by his own admission, a mixed campaign, but the flanker doesn’t shy away from the physical stuff and he did his best to get his team on top 6
Gerrit-Jan van Velze
A first start for Saints since being banned after the game against Exeter last month. Performed well, showing aggression and determination 6
Replacements (who played more than 20 minutes)
Really staked his case for a start against Leicester on Saturday after performing well at full-back following his introduction for Myler 7
Was brought into the action earlier than expected and it was a like-for-like replacement for Lawes as he maintained the physicality levels 6
Extremely creditable performance from the youngster, who ensured Saints didn’t suffer too much from skipper Hartley’s withdrawal 7
Has been off the boil at the start of this season, but showed signs of improvement in this game. The real Brian Mujati looks to be standing up again 6