Northampton Saints 6 Saracens 30: Tom Vickers' review and player ratings

"We haven't played well for 80 minutes and lost yet."

By Tom Vickers
Monday, 3rd January 2022, 3:30 pm
Updated Monday, 3rd January 2022, 3:30 pm
Saints were left deflated as they started the new year with a defeat
Saints were left deflated as they started the new year with a defeat

That line might sound familiar as it is one Chris Boyd has echoed on several occasions this season.

And the Saints boss could have said it once again on Sunday evening after seeing his side fall to a fourth successive defeat, at the hands of Saracens.

Just as against Harlequins six days earlier, the black, green and gold provided hope in the first half.

But just as against Harlequins, they faded away.

In fact, across the two games, Saints have scored just 12 points in the past 145 minutes of rugby they have played.

Quins and Sarries both overcame tough starts before eventually finding a way to shore up their defence and manage the game.

It is something Saints have struggled to do on so many occasions.

Against Quins, they flew into a 21-7 lead but never looked comfortable in trying to defend it, actually going behind on the brink of half-time.

And against Saracens, Saints went in level at half-time after a first-half showing in which they bossed both territory and possession with little reward.

Saracens shut the door time and again, perhaps being fortunate to avoid a sin-binning considering how many penalties they gave away in the process, and then turned the screw after the break.

Again we saw how Saints struggle when they have to chase a game against a well-drilled outfit.

As against Quins, they seemed to completely run out of ideas and as the rain fell, handling errors started to become more and more frequent and points seemed so hard to come by.

Saracens, to their credit, defended superbly, keeping Saints at arm's length during the second half and taking their chances when they came.

It was once again a story of Saints finding it far more difficult to score than the opposition did.

And that is not an equation that will deliver joy in any game.

Saints seem to lack an X-factor against the top teams at home and abroad.

Because while other sides can fall back on their true strength and identity when times get tough, Saints don't seem to be able to do that.

They are not able to overpower top teams for a full 80 minutes and with conditions at this time of the year often unkind, they are not able to outplay them either.

And that means they still seem some way from being able to truly trouble the elite.

To make matters worse, Saints supporters peer over the fence and see the Leicester Tigers winning machine rolling on.

Tigers, who not so long ago lost to Saints on a fairly regular basis, have beaten both Quins and Saracens this season.

And it is clear to see the incredible progress they have made as they continue to motor forward.

For Saints, the journey has been nowhere near as smooth and there continue to be bumps in the road.

They have shown glimpses of what they are capable of, but they have yet to produce a statement performance against a fully-loaded side this season.

They have beaten several depleted outfits and they are now starting to fall down the table.

And with a trip to Newcastle Falcons up next, things don't get much easier as Kingston Park is a traditionally tough place to go.

It is where Saints' top-four hopes all but ended last season and if they don't find a way to start performing for the full 80 minutes, they will have another big dent put in their bid there this year.

How they rated...

GEORGE FURBANK

Was able to provide some cut and thrust from full-back during the first half, beating defenders in trademark fashion, but Saracens got a grip on him in the second period... 6

OLLIE SLEIGHTHOLME

One burst from deep got supporters on their feet but he was snuffed out well by Saracens and the pressured him into giving away a first-half penalty... 5

RORY HUTCHINSON

Tried to use his footwork and skill to unlock Saracens during the first half, but they managed to cling on to him and he wasn't able to get in the game after half-time, like many of his team- mates... 5.5

PIERS FRANCIS

You have to feel for this man as he has been hit by so many injury problems during his time at Saints and was visibly upset as he left the field with a foot problem that will sideline him for a few weeks

COURTNALL SKOSAN

Couldn't really get into the game and didn't manage to receive the ball in the threatening positions that he thrives on... 5

DAN BIGGAR

Looked hungry for the action against an imposing side and he tried to test Saracens with the high ball with varied outcomes... 6

ALEX MITCHELL

Some really nice moments from the scrum-half at times and his clearances helped to relieve some pressure but as the Saracens pack started to turn the screw, life got tougher... 6

ALEX WALLER

Made the tackles when he had to and also kept the scrum fairly steady as Saints put Saracens under pressure in the first half... 5.5

SAM MATAVESI

One of the better Saints performers on the day as he tried to respond to Saracens at the breakdown and got stuck in defensively... 6

PAUL HILL

It was a tough day for Saints' tightheads as they both fell foul of the referee, and this man wasn't able to have the impact he would have wanted... 5

ALEX COLES

Worked hard for his team and also carried well but the effort went unrewarded as the Saints pack started to feel the force of Saracens after half-time... 6

API RATUNIYARAWA

Made 10 tackles without missing one and certainly worked hard for his team before coming off in the second half... 6

COURTNEY LAWES

Got his hands on the ball on a few occasions but Saracens' physicality in defence was impressive and they didn't let him gain much ground... 6

LEWIS LUDLAM

Has been in fantastic form this season and pushed his team on in the first period before decisions started to go against Saints in the second period... 6

JUARNO AUGUSTUS

Got trapped on a couple of occasions by Saracens' suffocating defence but he also managed to find some space here and there... 6

Replacements (who played more than 20 minutes)

FRASER DINGWALL (for Francis 9)

Missed a couple of tackles he would usually make after coming on early in the piece but did try to have an impact in attack... 5

DAVID RIBBANS (for Coles 44)

Couldn't really have a say during a difficult second half for Saints but he did get stuck in when he had to... 5

MANNY IYOGUN (for Waller 57)

Made one big carry that brought a little excitement but that was about it as the young prop got some more valuable experience... 5

TOM WOOD (for Juarno Augustus 57)

Was welcomed with a roar but this was a tough game to have an influence on as Saracens really started to assert their authority... 5

CHRON STAR MAN - Alex Lozowski (Saracens)