Saracens 25 Northampton Saints 27: Tom Vickers' review

"If you're on the back foot from a physicality point of view, you're on the back foot for the game."

Monday, 21st October 2019, 4:31 pm
Saints secured a memorable win at Allianz Park

Those were the words of scrum guru Matt Ferguson after Saints lost 54-28 at home to Saracens just two weeks ago.

And how quickly they learned their lesson.

Because Saints rocked up at Allianz Park, fronted up and walked away with a memorable away win against the Gallagher Premiership and Champions Cup holders.

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James Fish played the full 80 minutes

It was their first success at Saracens since March 2016 and it ended a six-match losing streak in the league against Mark McCall's men.

Okay, Saracens were far from at full strength thanks to the World Cup.

But, arguably, Saints were even more stretched.

Their back row contained lock Alex Coles, who had made just nine senior appearances prior to the Allianz Park battle, and JJ Tonks, who was making his Premiership debut.

Saints and Saracens scrapped it out

But the talented youngsters took to life at the top level like ducks to water.

They competed against the likes of Saints double-winner Calum Clark and England contender Ben Earl and refused to take a backward step.

Tom Wood produced a huge showing from No.8 as he helped his young colleagues shine, and there were myriad other gargantuan displays in Saints' away colours.

It was the second week in succession that they grey kit had been on show, and the second week in succession that Saints had visited a notoriously tough venue and won.

Henry Taylor impressed against his former club

There were worries after that defeat to Saracens two weeks ago that Saints were showing a soft centre in their preparations for the new Premiership season.

But they dispelled those theories at Welford Road last weekend, standing tall to sink their old rivals on Leicester Tigers turf once again.

They knew they would have to step up another several levels to defeat Saracens - and that was exactly what they did.

In fact, so strong were Saints in defence that they laid the foundations for more attacks than the ones they eventually profited from.

Had their handling been at its best, they would have been far further ahead than 21-16 up at half-time.

The three tries they scored were all eye-catching in their own way, with David Ribbans and Rory Hutchinson delivering instinctive finishes.

And the effort from Henry Taylor, which owed much to James Grayson and Tom Collins, plus some solid defending that forced the error from Saracens, was simply outstanding.

No, Saints were not perfect in their performance, but that can only be taken as a positive.

Because it means there is still so much more to come from a team that is playing with a fantastic swagger these days.

There are so many players still to come back to bolster this matchday 23, but what Saints showed on Saturday was just how much strength in depth they now have.

That has come from boss Chris Boyd and his coaches trusting young players in the toughest environments - and how well they have been rewarded.

Saints now have to ensure they don't surrender points in games they will be expected to win.

But if they can keep this level of performance and sharpen up those basic errors, they will again be a force to be reckoned with this season.

They have shown that they can win anywhere.

And they have shown they can learn from the mistakes they made just a matter of weeks earlier.

That is the sign of a good team, but they will not be allowed to get carried away.

Boyd's reaction to the win was typically relaxed, and that is exactly how fans, players and fellow coaches will want it to be, because the season is more than one game long.

But what a one game it has been so far.