Farrell puts the boot in as Saints lose to Sarries

NO WAY THROUGH - Alex Waller gets caught in a Saracens sandwich (Pictures: Kirsty Edmonds)
NO WAY THROUGH - Alex Waller gets caught in a Saracens sandwich (Pictures: Kirsty Edmonds)

Owen Farrell stuck the boot into Saints once again as Saracens spoiled the party at Franklin’s Gardens.

The ground, open for business for the first time since the new Barwell Stand was built, hosted a typically streetwise Sarries showing as they kicked their points and claimed a 12-6 win.

Farrell was four from four at the end of a frustrating afternoon for Saints, who had also felt the wrath of the England fly-half in the Aviva Premiership play-off semi-final defeat to Saracens at the Gardens back in May.

But the home fans felt he should not have been on the field to make his first two kicks, which put Mark McCall’s men 6-3 up at half-time after an earlier Stephen Myler effort.

Referee Luke Pearce reviewed an incident between Farrell and Tom Wood, with the fly-half appearing to push Wood in the face.

But Pearce took no action and even decided against reversing the penalty he had given to Saracens, which Farrell kicked to a backdrop of boos from the incensed Saints supporters.

The No.10 added three more points before the break and six after it to give his team their fourth win in as many Premiership games this season.

JJ Hanrahan did salvage a late losing bonus point for Saints, but it was another disappointing afternoon as they suffered their third defeat in four games this season.

They have only scored six tries during that time, with five of those coming against the alarmingly porous Newcastle Falcons.

And Jim Mallinder’s men must now rebuild quickly as they seek to get their Champions Cup campaign off to a winning start at home to Scarlets next Saturday evening.

A former Scarlets player, George North, returned to the Saints line-up for the clash with Saracens and he was given a big welcome on his first appearance at the Gardens since the clash with Wasps on March 27.

Saints, who had suffered defeat to Sale six days earlier, got the start they wanted as Farrell booted the kick-off straight out of play, giving the home side a platform to earn an early penalty.

Myler pushed it through the posts in front of the new stand before North got his first taste of the action, doing superbly to hold up Mako Vunipola and end a Saracens attack.

Vunipola was also having a tough time in the scrum, with Kieran Brookes totally dominating the all-England battle.

Saints were having to do plenty of work in defence, shutting the door on the Saracens driving game as the away side bossed the territory.

And eventually Sarries did get some points on the board.

After the incident involving Farrell and Wood, in which the fly-half pushed the flanker in the face after feeling he had been tackled late, was reviewed, the Saracens player stepped up to land a penalty.

The Gardens crowd, usually so respectful to opposition kickers, were fuming, booing Farrell loudly as he bisected the posts with the penalty.

That meant honours were even in a game of fine margins and the atmosphere was starting to build after the Farrell-Wood flashpoint.

The noise levels inspired Saints and they scrapped to win a penalty in the Saracens 22, but Myler missed a kick he would usually make.

And it was to be Saracens who headed in at half-time ahead as Farrell landed a penalty with the final kick of the hard-fought first 40 minutes.

The second half was to start with another Farrell penalty after Saints were penalised at the scrum, and the home side desperately needed a lift.

JJ Hanrahan was introduced at 10 as Saints went in search of adventure with 20 minutes to go, but Saracens continued to dominate.

Farrell put the win beyond Saints with his fourth successful penalty, but the home side did manage to grab a late losing bonus point as Hanrahan held his nerve with the final kick of the match.

Match facts

Saints: Foden; Elliott (Tuala 70), G Pisi, Burrell, North; Myler (Hanrahan 60), Fotuali’i (Dickson 57); A Waller (E Waller 64), Hartley (Haywood 60), Brookes (Hill 63); Craig (Paterson 57), Day; Gibson, Wood (c), Dickinson (Harrison 70).

Saracens: Goode; Ashton; Taylor (Bosch 62); Barritt; Wyles; Farrell (Hodgson 70), Wigglesworth; M Vunipola (Barrington 64), Brits (George 50), Du Plessis (Figallo 64); Kruis, Hargreaves (c) (Rhodes 50); Itoje, Burger, B Vunipola (Brown 60).

Referee: Luke Pearce

Attendance: 15,169