Feast of tries as Saracens eventually get better of Northampton Saints
- Credit: Archant
Saracens bounced back from their loss to Sale Sharks last week by recording a big 54-28 win in a Premiership Rugby Cup game that was full of incident.
In total there were 11 tries and a red card, although not for a high tackle as has been seen in the World Cup, and the lead changed hands throughout before Sarries pulled clear after the break.
The final score is slightly harsh on the home side as they were tough opponents throughout but there was just the sense that the way Sarries closed out the game was reminiscent of the Premiership champions in their pomp last year.
Depending on how you rate your games of rugby, this one could split opinions.
If you like games with high scores and plenty of tries then this was one for you. However, if you like your defence to be on point with tackles made and not missed then you would not have been impressed.
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There could have more than the six in the first-half too as Sarries spurned two good chances to take the lead before the second minute was done.
The first came after an interception but despite seemingly always having an overlap, they failed to ignite the burners and get beyond the Saints defence.
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And even when they won a scrum and delivered the ball to Alex Lozowski, a last-ditch tackle knocked the ball from the centre's grasp as he crossed the line.
The visitors did open the scoring though as they finally managed to spring the two-on-one and put Matt Gallagher over in the corner.
Saints though had seen some of the ball by this point and they were soon ahead thanks to Andy Symons barrelling over under the posts from close range.
They should have scored 30 seconds before but Ryan Olowofela opted to hold on to it instead of pass.
A second Saints score came courtesy of Henry Taylor as he darted left from a five-metre scrum and over but Saracens hit straight back with two tries in two minutes.
Both had a lot to do with sloppy defending with the first of them starting in odd circumstances.
Gallagher fielded a kick with a diving catch which took him to ground but while he was down there the home defence simply flew over the top of him.
It allowed him to get back to his feet and race down field unopposed.
A couple of passes and one ruck later the ball was slipped wide to Rotimi Segun who stepped his way into the corner.
Moments later Josh Ibuanokpe was allowed to rumble through a number of green and black shirts, with Jackson Wray taking in deep into the Saints 22.
The ball went right and Nick Tompkins bounced over.
Saints weren't done and a missed tackle in midfield gave Symons a clear run in for his second and seemingly the half-time lead.
Kicking had been problematic in the wind with James Grayson landing all three conversions but Tom Whiteley slotting just the one.
However, the Saracens scrum-half had the last say before the interval as a penalty drifted over to give them a 23-21 advantage.
With the wind slightly behind him Whiteley opened the second half with another three points but that just led to a period of sustained Northampton pressure, with only superb defence from the visitors keeping them out for as long as they did.
Eventually gaps did appear and David Ribbans was the man to profit, Grayson adding another conversion.
Saints were on top at this point and even for the next 10 minutes or so. Yet it was in this period that suddenly the game slipped away from them.
Three tries in 12 minutes from Ben Spencer, Tompkins again and Manu Vunipola stretched the lead to 47-28 with Vunipola taking over the kicking duties to great effect.
Spencer's try came seconds after he came on but was made by superb support and talking by former Old Albanian Elliott Obatoyinbo.
The Woollams-based club were well represented by the end although not by Charlie Hughes who lasted three minutes before being sent off for kicking out at a ruck and catching a prone Saints' player on the floor.
Symons also saw yellow for his part in the incident to leave both sides with 14 men for 10 of the final 12 minutes.
Despite the space there was just the one further score, Tomkins taking advantage of a spilled ball to claim a hat-trick.
Qualification for the semi-final will depend on next week's game with Harlequins but the result, if not the entire performance, will fill the young Saracens side with plenty of belief.
Northampton Saints: Van Wyk, Van Vuuren, Painter, Ribbans, Moon, Tonks, Harrison, Eadie, Taylor, Grayson, Collins, Symons, Dingwall, Olowofela, Hutchinson.
Replacements: Ma'asi, Waller, Garside, Bean, Brussow, Tupai, Matthews, Bird-Tulloch.
Tries: Symons 15, 36, Taylor 24, Ribbans 50
Conversions: Grayson 15, 24, 36, 50
Yellow card: Symons 68
Saracens: Barrington, Woolstencroft, Ibuanokpe, Skelton, Hunter-Hill, Christie, Reffell, Wray, Whiteley, Vunipola, Lewington, Tompkins, Lozowski, Segun, Gallagher.
Replacements: Pifeleti, Crean, Wainwright, Kpoku, Isiekwe, Spencer, Watson, Obatoyinbo.
Tries: Gallagher 8, Segun 31, Tompkins 33, 61, 77, Spencer 53, Vunipola 65
Conversions: Whiteley 33, Vunipola 53, 61, 65, 77
Penalties: Whiteley 18, 40, 42
Sent-off: Watson 68
HT: Northampton Saints 21 Saracens 23
Referee: Craig Maxwell-Keys (Cheltenham)