Tom Vickers’ Saracens v Saints view and player ratings: Best yet from Mallinder’s men
Jim Mallinder called for a season’s best performance from Saints at Saracens on Sunday - and that was exactly what he got.
In fact, the director of rugby witnessed perhaps the most impressive performance of his six-year Northampton tenure.
Saints did not just beat Saracens.
They beat them up, physically and mentally.
Led by human wrecking balls Dylan Hartley, and in particular Samu Manoa, Mallinder’s men marched into a 17-0 lead.
And they didn’t look back.
They put Saracens under immense pressure during a scintillating first 40 minutes and the cracks appeared in a side who have now lost four successive semi-finals in all competitions.
Saints, of course, were bidding to avoid a fourth successive Premiership play-off semi-final defeat, and they not only banished the hoodoo, they smashed it to pieces.
Manoa was magnificent.
Hartley was hungry. The Saints players hunted down their opponents in packs, then mauled them.
There were two things no Allianz Park spectator would have wished they were: A Saracens player or a tackle bag.
Because right from the warm-up, Saints showed their intent. They hammered all before them and refused to be beaten, even when they went down to 14 men.
During that period, after Jamie Elliott saw yellow for a late tackle, Saracens scored once through Duncan Taylor.
Had they scored twice, they would have been back within a score of Saints.
But the away side, with a siege mentality, held out.
GJ van Velze, who has scored four big tries this season - at Ulster, Exeter and Saracens and at home to London Irish - finished the job.
Saints had a famous victory - one their fans were due after three years of agony in the league and the Heineken Cup.
Of course, they may not beat local rivals Leicester Tigers, who have won the past seven meetings between the sides, at Twickenham on May 25.
But when they finished fourth in the regular-season standings fourth, all they could ask for was a shot at them.
They’ve got that.
Now, if Mallinder somehow gets another season’s best out of this defiant bunch, the trophy might, just might, be heading to Northampton.
How they rated...
One brilliant defensive stop to hold up David Strettle, who looked certain to score early in the second half... 8
Only has a slight frame, but doesn’t half throw himself into tackles and never allowed Saracens a yard... 7
A massive asset in the midfield as he provides creativity and a booming boot, which helps relieve the pressure... 7
Has turned into a great find for Jim Mallinder and Co and once again showed his power in another huge centre display... 8
Copybook was slightly blotted by his second-half sin-binning, but scored the try that stretched Saints’ lead in the first half... 7
Missed his first two shots at goal, but was flawless after and made some really difficult kicks to keep the scoreboard ticking over... 8
Full of fizz and was always alert to possibilities, including GJ van Velze flying down the blindside for the third try... 8
Never gave Saracens an inch in the scrum and now gets the chance to end his Saints career on a high, at Twickenham... 8
Showed exactly why he will be travelling with the Lions to Australia this summer in a performance full of drive and desire... 9
Like Tonga’uiha, showed how desperate he is to end his time at Saints the right way as he shone in the scrum and scored a try to get Saints going... 8
Unlucky to be forced off by injury, but more than made his mark before then with another immense physical performance... 7
Always in control and may be understated but is a really important player to the Saints cause... 8
Picked up an injury for his troubles, but once again excelled at the breakdown and is such a talented player... 8
Fully deserved to be named in the Premiership team of the season and showed why with a superb showing which drove Saints on... 8
SAMU MANOA - CHRON STAR MAN
What more can be said about this man? He is an immense physical specimen and played dodgems with the Saracens team, smashing them all over the place... 9
Replacements (who played more than 20 minutes)
GJ VAN VELZE (for Lawes 46)
Always capable of popping up with big tries in big games, as he has at Ulster, Exeter and now Saracens... 7
PHIL DOWSON (for Clark 55)
Exactly the kind of player you want to be able to bring on as he adds leadership and real determination in defence... 7