Saracens 62 Northampton Saints 14: Tom Vickers' review and player ratings

To say Saints are now sick of the sight of Saracens is a sizeable understatement.

Sunday, 21st January 2018, 6:58 pm
Updated Sunday, 21st January 2018, 7:12 pm
Dylan Hartley skippered Saints

This season, there have been three matches, 24 tries and 174 points conceded against the men who don the Dennis the Menace colours.

Bit by bit, Saracens have chipped away at Saints' spirit, smashing them at Twickenham in September, completely outgunning them at Franklin's Gardens in October and utterly annihilating them at Allianz Park on Saturday.

It has been sobering stuff.

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Reality check after chastening reality check.

And after back-to-back wins against Gloucester and Clermont Auvergne, this certainly brought the black, green and gold crashing back down to earth.

It may have been a dead rubber for Saints, but they stressed it had meaning.

They were desperate to maintain momentum.

Cobus Reinach scored for Saints at Allianz Park (pictures: Kirsty Edmonds)

Desperate to keep the 2018 feel-good factor going.

Desperate to show that they could mix it with the European champions.

And desperate to make amends for those two horror shows earlier in the campaign.

But in the end, it was another desperate, misery-laden display.

Cobus Reinach scored for Saints at Allianz Park (pictures: Kirsty Edmonds)

New coaching consultant Alan Gaffney, who had seen Saints win both of his games in charge prior to the trip to north London, admitted bad habits had crept back in.

The mental fortitude shown in bucketloads against Gloucester and Clermont was severely lacking.

And after a promising opening, which encompassed two Saints tries - the second of which was like those they registered during the September purple patch - the Saints of late 2017 returned.

They were overwhelmed up front and chasing shadows for what seemed like an eternity.

Saracens poured forward with wave after wave of pressure put on Saints.

They would have most likely conceded more than two tries during the second 40 minutes had Saracens not opted to kick at goal so often.

The home side didn't need to push for tries, having racked up the bonus point before the break, just as they did during the previous two meetings with Saints.

And so England fly-half Owen Farrell just kept twisting the knife from the tee.

Point after point went Saracens' way as they topped their totals from Twickenham and the Gardens.

It was the most points Saints have conceded in a Champions Cup match and, overall, it was nothing short of soul-destroying for the visiting fans to watch.

Yes, Gaffney's squad was lacking several stars, including Courtney Lawes, who was ruled out with illness before the game, but Saints would still have expected to perform much better.

There was still a plethora of international players on the pitch who have set the standards high during their careers.

And they simply didn't deliver here.

Saracens' recent dominance against Saints is even tougher to take when you consider the men from Northampton defeated the Londoners in the Premiership final in 2014.

Since then, the two clubs have gone in completely different directions.

And this once again showed just how much hard work there is ahead for Saints as they bid to close a gap that is currently as wide as the Grand Canyon.

They had looked forward to the Champions Cup this season, having qualified in thrilling fashion via the play-offs last May.

But, the superb victory against Clermont aside, the competition has proved more than a bridge too far this time round.

Saints will be glad to see the back of it as they concentrate on claiming silverware in the Anglo-Welsh Cup and finishing in the top six in the league.

The rest some of their key men were given this weekend will do them good.

And not being part of the mental battering will be just as important as the physical relaxation.

It is back to the drawing board ahead of the Premiership trip to Bath on February 9, and a couple of morale-boosting wins in the Anglo-Welsh Cup would not go amiss.

As for Saracens, Saints can now forget about them until the two teams square up again at the Gardens in April.

That is a prospect that may fill those of a Northampton persuasion with nightmares.

But all Saints can do now is ensure they enter that renewal of rivalries with something to play for in the Premiership, and an Anglo-Welsh trophy in the cabinet.

How they rated...


A forward pass to Pisi during the first half proved costly and though he carried well, this wasn't an easy day for the full-back as Saracens peppered Saints throughout... 3


Played his part in a positive opening for Saints, but it was one-way traffic after that and the backs were left chasing shadows... 3


Always puts himself about, trying to force Saracens into mistakes, but he wasn't able to and the home side ran riot... 3


Was unfortunate to be forced off with an injury after two strong displays in previous weeks, but sitting on the sidelines during the second half wasn't the worst place to be... 3


Has now scored two tries in his past two appearances but things went downhill quickly after his effort on this occasion... 4


It was one of those afternoons for the youngster, who saw his good record at fly-half tainted as he made a couple of errors and Saracens took advantage... 2


Showed his impressive speed on a couple of occasions and was lively during the opening stages, grabbing a predatory try... 4


Had impressed in previous weeks, but this was a really tough day for the prop, who lost the battle at scrum time... 2


The skipper tried to push his team forward, making the second most carries for Saints, but Saracens were too strong... 3


Put in plenty of tackles, but Saracens did get the better of him on a couple of occasions in open play and it was another difficult afternoon up front... 2


Got through plenty of work, topping the Saints tackle count along with Jamie Gibson as he desperately battled against the tide... 4


The experienced campaigner never lets the team down, but Saracens were too dominant on this occasion... 3


Came in at late notice after Courtney Lawes was forced to withdraw and couldn't have a say in this clash... 3


As ever, the flanker made plenty of hits and got stuck in as much as possible, but he was sin-binned on an afternoon he and his team-mates will want to forget... 3


Made a few metres for the team, trying to take the fight to Saracens in the early stages, but it was all about defending after that... 3

Replacements (who played more than 20 minutes)

GEORGE NORTH (for Stephenson 40)

The game was gone by the time the Welshman entered the fray and the only positive was that he came through unscathed... 4

STEPHEN MYLER (for Mallinder 40)

Was a really difficult match to come into as Saints were already well behind and had no front-foot ball... 4

LEWIS LUDLAM (for Day 54)

The youngster did his best to help Saints stop the Saracens steam train, but the home side continued on their relentless charge to victory... 5

CHRON STAR MAN - Owen Farrell (Saracens)