Saints 6 Saracens 12 - Tom Vickers’ view and player ratings

George North is confident Saints will get back on track (picture: Kirsty Edmonds)
George North is confident Saints will get back on track (picture: Kirsty Edmonds)

The ultimate party poopers came to town and did what they do best.

Saracens, like the kid who hogs the dancefloor at the school disco, stepped up and ensured they were the only ones left singing when the lights went down at a new-look Franklin’s Gardens.

Mark McCall’s men were simply brilliant in defence and ruthless from the tee as they once again rained on Saints’ parade, dampening spirits in the first competitive game played in front of the new Barwell Stand.

Back in May, Saracens had waltzed into the Gardens and won when it mattered most, frustrating Jim Mallinder’s men into submission in a 29-24 Aviva Premiership play-off semi-final win.

Sarries went on to beat Bath at Twickenham, tearing up the dreams of another team who play the opposite way to the clever tactical offering served up by the men from Allianz Park.

There is no getting away from it, McCall has built a side which is one of the hardest in Europe to beat (insert comment about possible salary cap issues here...).

And Saints simply had no answer, struggling to pose questions in a match in which they had little territory.

They were forced to play the game in their own half, particularly in the first period, and even a dominant scrummaging display could not lay a foundation for victory.

Because Saracens, most likely motivated by the huge picture on the Tetley’s Stand of Saints celebrating their title triumph against the north London team in 2014, were too streetwise.

Their linespeed is the best in the league and their defending is, to put it mildly, ferocious.

Owen Farrell maybe got a little overzealous as he opted to push England team-mate Tom Wood in the face during one first-half flare-up.

McCall described it as handbags, while Mallinder felt the incident warranted a penalty reversal in Saints’ favour.

But it wasn’t to be as Farrell, as he had in that semi-final last season, stepped up, to a backdrop of boos, and stuck the boot into Saints, landing two penalties before the break and two after it to seal the victory.

A late JJ Hanrahan penalty barely brought a smile to Saints’ faces as they were left to contemplate another Premiership failure and another post-match hangover that will have hurt this morning.

It is now three defeats in four matches, with only six tries scored during that period.

The fact five of those came against a particularly porous Newcastle Falcons team makes it worrying, and Mallinder’s men must regain their spark quickly.

This calendar year has not been kind to them.

They have won just 10 of their 22 matches in all competitions, which compares unfavourably to 2014.

Last year, they won 31 of their 40 games, meaning they have already suffered more defeats in 2015 than they did in 2014 - and there are still seven clashes to go before 2016 begins.

Those games don’t get much easier, with four of them coming in the Champions Cup, where Saints will take on an in-form Scarlets team, Gregor Townsend’s Glasgow Warriors and a Racing Metro side containing Dan Carter among others.

It is a daunting task, but a change of competition during the next couple of weeks could do Saints some good as they bid to kick-start their campaign.

It must be remembered that every side - even the best - has a rough patch or two during the season, and it always looks worse when you start with one.

Fans look at the table with worry, wondering why their team is languishing in the bottom half, scratching around for points.

You just have to hope that the cream rises to the top and does not do what last season’s English top division table-toppers in football, Chelsea, have done, which is implode completely.

Saints will know they need to set the record straight.

They will know they need to get back to their best if they are to avoid adding European woe to their Premiership problems.

Now they need to use memories of defeats to fuel them, as they have done so successfully in previous seasons.

It is time to start hitting the right notes again rather than leave the party early.

How they rated...


Used his boot well on a couple of occasions and tried desperately to break the Saracens line, but he was shackled well... 6


Always gives everything he’s got, but has come up against some determined defences in recent weeks... 5


Made a couple of huge hits during the first half as he looked to be getting back to his bruising best, but wasn’t able to add style to the steel on this occasion... 5


Thrives on front-foot ball in good positions, but didn’t get much of it as Saracens kept Saints at arm’s length... 5


Always probing for an opening in the Saracens defence and a couple of breaks got the supporters excited, but the away side scrambled well to stop him... 6


Missed one kick he would usually expect to land and though he didn’t kick too badly out of hand, he wasn’t able to find any openings... 5


Plenty of fire and desire from the Samoan scrum-half, who was desperate to make something happen, but it wasn’t his day in that regard... 5


Had an interesting afternoon in the scrum as Saints stamped their authority on Saracens early on before the away side fought back... 7


A good performance from the hooker, who carried well and also did well in the set piece throughout... 7


Relished the battle with England team-mate Mako Vunipola, comprehensively winning the early contests, with the Saracens men left scratching his head... 7


Made his first appearance since playing for Saints in the final game of the regular season of 2014/15, but couldn’t have a huge say in this one... 5


Wasn’t quite able to exert his usual control as Saracens fought for every ball, but his experience will be vital going forward... 5


Has started life at Saints by making a big impression in the first few games, but he couldn’t leave his mark here... 5


Was the victim of a push in the face from England team-mate Farrell, reacting by putting in a decent shift... 6


The big No.8 put his body on the line for the team, looking like he was injured on a couple of occasions before getting up to get involved again... 6

Replacements (who played more than 20 minutes)


Was one of a number of Saints players who was guilty of dropping the ball at the crucial moment on a slippery afternoon and couldn’t make an impact during his cameo... 4

LEE DICKSON (for Fotuali’i 57)

The skipper was desperate to help his team turn the tide, but even his attempts at a high-tempo game couldn’t spark Saints into life... 5