Northampton Saints 41 Saracens 30: Tom Vickers' review and player ratings

This wasn’t a Good Friday at the Gardens, it was a Great Friday.
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Under the lights, Saints and their supporters delivered something truly special to down the champions.

United, players and fans conjured up the kind of magic that propelled this club to its first Premiership title back in 2014.

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It was an old-school night of noise and nirvana, a dream state that was so badly needed after the nightmare that unfolded seven days earlier.

Tommy Freeman scored for Saints against Saracens (picture: Ketan Shah)Tommy Freeman scored for Saints against Saracens (picture: Ketan Shah)
Tommy Freeman scored for Saints against Saracens (picture: Ketan Shah)

Saints had headed home with their tails between their legs after another brutal evening in Bristol.

They had failed to come flying out of the blocks after the break from competitive action - and they were made to pay in painful fashion.

It had prompted questions as to whether they could rediscover the spark that saw them piece together a stunning 10-match winning streak before the Six Nations threw a spanner in the works.

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Absence made the heart grow fonder but it also erased some of the feel-good factor that had built up, with short-term memory kicking in.

Would Saints fall from the mountain which they had built?

After what happened at Ashton Gate, and with a game beckoning against the champions, who had put a half-century of their own past Harlequins last weekend, the nervousness was initially evident in the stands at the Gardens.

But supporters needn’t have worried.

Because this Saints side, this special Saints side, doesn’t do trepidation.

It sees a challenge and runs straight at it.

And, backed by what truly felt like the cliched 16th man, they set about showing that they are more than mere pretenders in the Premiership this season.

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They saw the chance to make a statement - and make it they did.

It would have been easy for the status quo to be resumed.

For Saracens to storm the Gardens and grab the win that would have put them back above Saints in the league standings.

And it looked like that was possible when Mark McCall’s men started to grab the game by the scruff of the neck as the first half went on.

At 17-10 up, Saints were submerged and Saracens were turning the screw.

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But where they would have seen their resolve dissolve last season, this year, yet again, they refused to be beaten.

They rolled up their sleeves time and again, defensive set after defensive set.

And Saracens, who had run riot against Harlequins, making line break after line break, could not find a way through.

In fact, the only two tries the champions scored, before a crazy final two minutes of the match, came from charge-downs inside the Saints 22.

That was how good the Saints defence was.

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And when you can ally that with the kind of attacking brilliance the men from Northampton possess, you become a formidable team.

Phil Dowson’s men showed why they are top of the table.

They showed why they have beaten the likes of Saracens (twice), Sale Sharks, Exeter Chiefs and many more at home this season.

And they showed that they will not go quietly in this title race.

This team is loved by its supporters and the symbiosis is there for all to see.

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This is a special club with a special fanbase that has the ability to deliver special Gardens nights under the lights.

And this truly was one of the most special in recent memory.

How they rated…

JAMES RAMM - Settled in after a couple of early issues with the high ball and started to produce the form that made him player of the season in 2022/23, capping a fine display with a try double... 9

TOMMY FREEMAN - the guy is just class. And he so often scores. Made some typically scything runs as he kept Saracens on their toes throughout... 9

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BURGER ODENDAAAL - a midfield powerhouse, the South African adds some serious muscle to the backline and he was in strong form here... 9

FRASER DINGWALL - Saints' defensive leader set the tone for his team and he also contributed in attack, delivering an assist for Sleightholme to make the game safe... 9

OLLIE SLEIGHTHOLME - absolutely electric. Added yet another try to his tally and almost had a score of the season contender, only to be stopped just short before Ramm picked up the pieces for a five-pointer of his own... 9.5

FIN SMITH - CHRON STAR MAN – simply sensational. The fly-half pulled the strings for his side, racking up try assist after try assist as he picked the perfect time to set his backs free... 9.5

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TOM JAMES - overcame the early chargedown that led to a try to deliver a truly superb showing, with his tempo and ability to kick Saints out of trouble coming to the fore... 9.5

MANNY IYOGUN - has so much talent and he showed why he can be such a key member of this team with a powerful performance on a big night... 8.5

CURTIS LANGDON - surely the signing of the season. Always the heartbeat of the team, he flew around the pitch, making key carries, hits and even scrambling to get back and stop danger... 9.5

TREVOR DAVISON - how good is big Trev? A serious shift from the prop, who kept chugging along all night long, delivering in the scrum and even popping up on the shoulder to push Saracens back... 9.5

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ALEX MOON - made a key intervention to stop a Saracens try during the first half and got through plenty of hard work... 8.5

ALEX COLES - started the scoring for Saints and kept going until the end as he reinforced his international credentials... 9

COURTNEY LAWES - didn't get some of the calls at the breakdown that he would have liked, but aside from that, this was another towering performance from the Saints legend... 9

TOM PEARSON - such a boost for Saints to have this man back as he adds so much to the back row with his energy and ability... 9

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JUARNO AUGUSTUS - a serious force to be reckoned with, the powerhouse No.8 was key in helping Saints to escape at times as he made them some vital metres... 8.5

Replacements (who played more than 20 minutes)

ALEX WALLER (for Iyogun 47) - added another special memory to a career full of them in the week he announced he will retire this summer. Still has plenty to give this season... 8

SAM GRAHAM (for Augustus 47) - so often makes a huge impact, and this was no different, as his physicality proved key for Saints in a strong second half... 8.5

LEWIS LUDLAM (for Lawes 57) - you could see the desperation to drive his team forward oozing from every pore as he flew around the pitch looking to make a telling contribution... 8

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