Saints stun Saracens to return to Premiership summit

DOUBLING UP - James Wilson scored twice for Saints at Saracens (picture: Kirsty Edmonds)
DOUBLING UP - James Wilson scored twice for Saints at Saracens (picture: Kirsty Edmonds)

Saints produced a stunning first-half display as they slayed Saracens and returned to the top of the Aviva Premiership table.

Two tries from James Wilson, who started on the wing, and one from Phil Dowson laid the foundations for a superb 31-24 victory at rain-soaked Allianz Park.

Stephen Myler’s assured boot added a further 16 points as Saints repeated their 2013 Premiership semi-final victory in Barnet to hit the summit.

Saracens had threatened a fightback as Jackson Wray’s try just before the break and two from Chris Wyles after it pulled them back to within seven points.

But Saints, who had prop Alex Waller sin-binned during the second period, held on, with Myler and Hodgson exchanging late penalties as Saracens salvaged a losing bonus point.

The last time the two teams had met was in last season’s Premiership final, with Waller’s last-gasp try seeing Saints crowned champions.

And Jim Mallinder’s men were desperate to get one over on Saracens once again, with a stirring start seeing them fly into a sizeable lead.

Saints were inspired by their released England contingent, with Luther Burrell setting the tone with a break that saw him fling a pass out wide to Wilson, who took it in and scored.

Myler’s conversion from the left touchline was typically accurate and the away side held a 7-0 lead inside the first two minutes of the match.

Saints had the chance to apply more pressure soon after as a big shove at the scrum secured a penalty, but Lee Dickson’s quick tap didn’t prove productive and Saracens won the ball back.

The home side used the possession to earn a shot at goal and fly-half Hodgson cut the visitors’ lead to four points.

But Myler soon restored the seven-point advantage as Saints continued to boss territory and possession thanks to a dominant scrum and clever ball retention.

And the men in lime were soon sliding in for a second score of the afternoon as Dickson’s sublime grubber with the outside of the boot found the sliding Wilson.

Myler again made the trickiest of conversions from the left touchline and Saints were revelling in a 17-3 lead that had silenced the home support.

Saracens were all at sea, with Saints were flooding forward, forcing mistakes from the men in black and red.

And after Dickson robbed Billy Vunipola from the back of a scrum, captain Dowson used his power to drive over the line.

This time, Myler couldn’t add the conversion, but Saints could boast a 22-3 lead that their sensational start had merited.

Another three points were soon added by the visiting fly-half as Saints won their fourth scrum penalty of a first half in which they had totally overwhelmed their hosts.

Saracens were leaking like a ship with a hole in it, but Myler’s penalty attempt five minutes before the break was wide of the posts.

And having barely entered the away 22 in the first 39 minutes, Sarries finally built some pressure, pushing their way over through flanker Wray.

Hodgson’s kick was missed, meaning Saints held a 25-8 lead, knowing some stern words would be said in the home dressing room at half-time.

Saints had been 17 points up at half-time at Allianz Park in the 2013 Premiership semi-final and went on to win by 14 points, but Saracens were determined to avoid a repeat.

They won their first scrum penalty in the early stages of the second half and proceeded to turn the screw, earning a shot at goal that Hodgson landed.

Saints responded well, with Myler landing a penalty, but Saracens were soon on the attack again, knocking loudly at the door.

And after Waller was sin-binned, the home side worked the ball wide for Wyles to wrestle his way over the line.

Hodgson hit the post with the conversion, but Saracens were soon adding another five points to their tally, with Wyles again going over in the left corner.

Hodgson’s failure with the boot left the gap at seven points, with Saints now under real strain and the home fans getting into the game.

Saints needed a spark and they got it from Calum Clark, who did an immense job to win a penalty at the breakdown, roaring like a warrior as the referee raised his arm.

The possession was used to earn a shot at goal, that Myler made to put his team 10 points up with four minutes to go.

Saracens did at least manage to salvage a losing bonus-point with a late Hodgson penalty, but it was Saints who were left celebrating a fine win.

Saracens: Goode; Ashton, Tompkins, Wyles, Strettle (Ransom 52); Hodgson, Spencer; Gill (Barrington 55), George, Figallo (Johnston 40); Hamilton, Hargreaves; Wray (Joubert 52), Fraser (Burger 63), B Vunipola.

Replacements not used: Sharman, Itoje, de Kock.

Saints: Foden; Elliott, Stephenson, Burrell (Waldouck 77), Wilson; Myler, Dickson; A Waller (E Waller 77), Haywood (McMillan 77), Ma’afu (Denman 67); Craig (Nutley 73), Day; Clark, Dowson, Manoa.

Replacements not used: Harrison, Hodgson, Packman

Referee: Matthew Carley