Saracens 27 Northampton Saints 12: Tom Vickers’ review and player ratings

Alex Waller was sin-binned after this incident with Jamie George (pictures: Sharon Lucey)
Alex Waller was sin-binned after this incident with Jamie George (pictures: Sharon Lucey)

For 55 minutes, you felt it was going to happen again.

You thought Saints were going to win at one of their happiest hunting grounds.

But then the ground opened up and swallowed Alex Waller.

The prop was sin-binned and with him went Saints’ hopes of downing the double winners.

During the next 10 minutes, Saracens’ ruthelss efficiency came to the fore.

They grabbed two tries and put the game beyond their opponents, who also had Sam Dickinson yellow carded before the end.

Ben Foden on the end of some Saracens physicality

Ben Foden on the end of some Saracens physicality

It was all so frustrating for Saints and the fans who watched this match from the stands or from the comfort of their own sofa.

Because, make no mistake about it, Jim Mallinder’s men were more than in this game.

In fact, it looked like that were in control of it before an incident the director of rugby described as ‘a moment of madness’ from his prop.

Stephen Myler and Saracens fly-half Alex Lozowski had traded penalties before the Saints man went one up on his rival.

It was a feisty affair at Allianz Park

It was a feisty affair at Allianz Park

Saints were 12-9 up and playing the game in the opposition half.

Saracens looked defensively strong, but didn’t appear to be able to scythe through Saints.

The much-talked-about team looked to be getting flustered, losing their cool.

Richard Wigglesworth conceded a penalty after reacting to a Waller nudge and Saints had the home side where they wanted them.

Louis Picamoles was impressive again

Louis Picamoles was impressive again

Then came that red mist moment from a man you wouldn’t expect it from.

It is no defence, but Waller is a happy-go-lucky guy off the field.

You can’t imagine him getting wound up easily.

But then this incident was not the first he was involved in during the match.

Prior to the George flashpoint was the Wigglesworth squabble.

But there was also a more serious, notable confrontation, with Chris Ashton appearing to bite his former team-mate on the hand.

Jamie George scored for Saracens

Jamie George scored for Saracens

It was all extremely fractious and you could see why a normally cool-headed Waller had found himself in a frenzy.

Rugby players, like any professionals who play contact sports, are competitive beasts and sometimes their emotions bubble over.

What George did may not have seemed enough to warrant such a reaction from Waller, but earlier events clearly had an impact.

He should have been sensible enough to see if off, to cage his inner animal, but he wasn’t.

And for that he will feel hollow, just as everyone could see from the image of him on the big screens.

He sat on the bench with agony etched on his face during his 10-minute cooling off period.

To rub salt in the wounds, George was the man who scored soon after, continuing his record of making the most of misdemeanours by Saints players.

He was, after all, the man who profited after Dylan Hartley was involved in an incident with him in a Premiership play-off semi-final in May, 2015.

After that, George took Hartley’s place in England’s World Cup training squad.

That hurt Hartley, and this will hurt Waller.

Because by the time he returned to the field, the game had gone.

And that will be a source of irritation for him and everyone else of a Saints persuasion for the next few days.

However, Saints must bottle the positives from the events prior to the final 25 minutes and take them into another huge game, against Wasps at Franklin’s Gardens on Saturday.

Saints will need to be as good, if not better, to beat another team cooking on confidence.

And they will also know they must be much smarter and more composed if they are to conquer a team who did the double over them last season.

How they rated...

AHSEE TUALA

A very strong and steady showing from the full-back, who made a few forward bursts and was defensively secure... 7

KEN PISI

Tried to find a way through Saracens but didn’t have much luck, and his forward pass late on prevented a try for Mike Haywood... 6

GEORGE PISI

Put himself about with real desire and made one fantastic hit during the first half as Saints showed their physicality... 7

LUTHER BURRELL

Like George Pisi, this man was up for the fight, but he paid the price as he was knocked unconscious during the second half... 7

GEORGE NORTH

Always hungry to get in the game and did well to strip Alex Goode of the ball during the first half, with the full-back flying towards the try line... 7

STEPHEN MYLER

Kicked well from the tee, with only an ambitious effort from inside his own half blotting his copybook... 7

LEE DICKSON

Wanted to get Saints on the front foot, but found it difficult, especially during the first half when his kicks kept coming back in the wind... 6

ALEX WALLER

Was the victim and the aggressor in an eventful game and, ultimately, the incident with George cost Saints dear... 5

MIKE HAYWOOD

Thought he had a try late on, only to see it ruled out for a forward pass, but the hooker had done a good job... 7

KIERAN BROOKES

Was used as a good, old-fashioned battering ram, but even his power couldn’t break down a resilient home side... 7

COURTNEY LAWES

Getting back to his bulldozing best at the beginning of this campaign and he kept Saracens under the cosh here... 8

MICHAEL PATERSON

An unsung hero, the lock showed his worth, winning turnovers and making important tackles in an impressive display... 8

TOM WOOD

Ferocious display from the skipper, who made tackle after tackle as he tried to help his team get over the line... 8

TEIMANA HARRISON

Was unfortunate to be forced off with a shoulder injury as he was looking sharp and causing Saracens problems... 7

LOUIS PICAMOLES

Looks likely to be a man of the match contender every time he plays as he makes so many metres and tackles... 8

Replacements (who played more than 20 minutes)

JAMIE GIBSON (for Harrison 49)

Won one important turnover as he showed his worth at the breakdown, but things were to turn sour for Saints soon after his arrival through no fault of his own... 6

CHRON STAR MAN - Alex Lozowski (Saracens)

Sam Dickinson was sin-binned during the second half

Sam Dickinson was sin-binned during the second half