Northampton Saints 27 Saracens 38: Tom Vickers' review and player ratings

Cobus Reinach was at scrum-half for Saints
Cobus Reinach was at scrum-half for Saints

If you had told Saints supporters that their side would concede fewer than 50 points and lose by just 11 to Saracens on Saturday, some might have taken it.

Scarred by memories of four eviscerations at the hands of Mark McCall's men last season, fans could still have been forgiven for fearing the worst, even after sweeping changes to the management team and playing staff.

But with 10 minutes to go at Franklin's Gardens, Saints supporters dared to dream again.

Because their side were closing in on what would have been a seismic victory.

Not because it would have won them a trophy, like it did in 2014 when they beat Saracens in the Premiership final.

Not because they would have made it to a final, like they did in 2013, when they rocked up at Allianz Park and slayed the home side.

Dylan Hartley scored a second-half try for Saints (pictures: Kirsty Edmonds)

Dylan Hartley scored a second-half try for Saints (pictures: Kirsty Edmonds)

But because it would have finally smashed a horrible hoodoo.

A win would have given the new set-up at Franklin's Gardens a huge platform on which to build.

But, in truth, even though Saints did not win the game, they were still able to claim plenty of credit.

And their claims of progress under new boss Chris Boyd were vindicated.

David Ribbans tried to take the fight to Saracens

David Ribbans tried to take the fight to Saracens

Because although they couldn't close out the game - two quickfire David Strettle tries saw to that - they showed an ability to go toe to toe with the champions.

At times, they even overwhelmed the men in red, especially from one of their main strengths: lineout drives, forcing Saracens to see yellow, not once but twice.

But Saints couldn't finish their opponents off.

And if you leave the door open for Saracens, they will waltz through it without a second thought.

That was what happened as Saints' struggles from restarts continued and they failed to exit their own half effectively.

From then on, the pressure told and a win that would have meant so much slipped agonisingly through their grasp.

Saracens have the winning mentality that gets them over the line in tight games time and again.

Saints are still a long way from getting back what they had a few years ago, but at least they showed the mental fortitude that was missing in all four meetings with Saracens last season.

When Saracens opened up a significant gap in games last season, Saints crumbled.

They were 15-13 down at half-time in the match against Saracens in April, and lost 63-13.

This time, though, they were not such a soft touch.

In fact, they shrugged off a 10-point deficit early in the second half and put the frighteners on their opponents.

They played some tidy rugby at times and there are certainly positive signs.

But there are still things to improve on and, in such a ruthless league, they will be ruing their failure to claim a single bonus point from three games so far.

Tricky away trips to Bath and Bristol lie in wait, and Saints will need to take every point they can from those games.

But even if they don't win them, the Saracens game has shown that Boyd's side will not go down without a fight.

How they rated...

AHSEE TUALA

Dazzled at times against Harlequins but didn't have the same impact here as Saracens stopped him making any inroads... 6

TAQELE NAIYARAVORO

Has been tipped to become a fans' favourite and he immediately showed why with some huge carries, including one that knocked over Billy Vunipola, but there were only fleeting cameos of what he is capable of... 6

LUTHER BURRELL

Put himself about but Saracens shackled him well, stopping him getting any forward momentum... 6

PIERS FRANCIS

Etched his name on the scoresheet after running a nice line during the first half, and he looks a good asset now... 7

TOM COLLINS

Made a couple of cutting breaks, using his footwork to good effect, but it was a tougher day going the other way as Saracens' wingers both got on the scoresheet twice... 6

DAN BIGGAR

Was one of Saints' better players on the day, commanding the team and producing some moments of inspiration before a tough final 10 minutes... 7

COBUS REINACH

Saints could have done with his experience late on but he had put plenty into the game prior to that... 6

ALEX WALLER

Is clearly enjoying the responsibility that the co-captaincy brings and although Saracens brought plenty of power, Saints largely combatted it well... 6

DYLAN HARTLEY

The skipper is going from strength to strength and he scored his second try in as many matches during an influential showing... 7

EHREN PAINTER

Was starting for Saints for the first time and he did little wrong as he continues to settle into life at the top level... 6

DAVID RIBBANS

Has enjoyed a fine start to the season and he was a key presence again here, showcasing his raw power on several occasions... 7

COURTNEY LAWES

Worked really hard once again, making some big tackles in a hugely physical contest at Franklin's Gardens... 7

JAMES HASKELL

Relished the forward battle, getting around the park well and taking it upon himself to carry the fight to Saracens... 7

HEINRICH BRÜSSOW

A constant nuisance at the breakdown, the South African did everything he could to stop Sarries in their tracks... 7

TEIMANA HARRISON

A typically tenacious showing from the No.8, who put his body on the line time and again in attack and defence... 7

Replacements (who played more than 20 minutes)

BEN FRANKS (for Painter 47)

Made a real impact when he came on as he showed his power around the park and didn't do much wrong in the scrum, capping his cameo with a try... 7

JAMIE GIBSON (for Haskell 47)

A great player to be able to bring from the bench and he helped Saints to get back on the front foot... 7

ANDY SYMONS (for Burrell 47)

Did his best to get into the game, but Saracens did well to stop Saints' back line before they could gather momentum... 6

HARRY MALLINDER (for Naiyaravoro 57)

Was so impressive against Harlequins eight days earlier, but didn't see anywhere near the same amount of the ball on this occasion... 6

CHRON STAR MAN - Maro Itoje (Saracens)