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Match Reaction: Saracens 24 Northampton Saints 31

Head coach Jim Mallinder paid tribute to Northampton Saints’ breathtaking first half as they ran out winners at Saracens to go top of the Aviva Premiership Rugby table.

The visitors built up an early 22-3 lead dominating the scrum, with two tries from James Wilson and one from Phil Dowson.

But Jackson Wray’s try on the stroke of half-time hinted at a comeback for the home side, and Chris Wyles’ two second-half scores put Saracens within touching distance.

But with Stephen Myler reliable with the boot Northampton prevailed and became the first visiting team to score more than 30 points at Allianz Park.

And Mallinder pinpointed the performance of his backs, while also dismissing a minor injury to Luther Burrell.

“I think tactically we got it right in that first half,” said Mallinder. “It’s always a difficult place to play here, poor conditions, but in the first half we played really well, got our tactics right, and got a good lead.

“These are strange weeks, these international weeks. I came into today’s game not quite knowing where we were at, and it showed we’re in a pretty good place.

“James Wilson is a great player for us. In a game like today’s, that involved a lot of catching, kicking and scoring tries, he was very good.

“Both the half-backs were excellent today. It’s very difficult when you come back from England duty, mentally and physically, to then start playing for your club.

“I believe Luther Burrell has just gone over on his ankle, I don’t think it’s life-threatening! He’ll be hoping to get down to England training and show Stuart [Lancaster] again what he can do.”

Meanwhile, MarkMcCall was left rueing a dismal start for the hosts that saw them ship three tries in 21 first-half minutes.

He said: “The contrast between the two halves was too big. The first 25 minutes for us was unbelievably disappointing.

“I think we were second best at almost every area, but in particular in the scrum.

“We allowed what happened at the scrum during that 25-minute period to drain us of our energy across the board.

“We weren’t sharp enough, weren’t intelligent enough, lacked intensity in really everything we did, and Saints were 25-3 up after 25 minutes.

“We gave ourselves a shot at the end, to come back to 28-21, and we had a lot of momentum in those last eight or nine minutes.

“I’m glad we showed our true colours in the second half, we looked like a team who had a bit of bite, a bit of edge, a bit of urgency.

“It would have been a good achievement to have pulled it back, but we gave ourselves far too much to do.”
 
Saracens: Goode; Ashton, Tompkins, Wyles, Strettle (Ransom, 52); Hodgson, Spencer (de Kock, 70); Gill (Barrington, 54), George, Figallo (Johnston, 40); Hamilton, Hargreaves, Wray (Joubert, 52), Fraser (Burger, 63), Vunipola
Replacements not used: Sharman, Itoje
 
Northampton: Foden; Elliott, Stephenson, Burrell (Waldouck, 77), Wilson; Myler, Dickson; A Waller (E Waller, 77), Haywood (McMillan, 77), Ma’afu (Denman, 68); Craig (Nutley, 74), Day, Clark, Dowson, Manoa
Replacements not used: Harrison, Hodgson, Packman
 
Scorers
 
Saracens
Tries: Wray, Wyles 2
Penalties: Hodgson 3
 
Northampton
Tries: Wilson 2, Dowson
Conversions: Myler 2
Penalties: Myler 4
 
Referee: Matthew Carley
Attendance: 8314
 
This Christmas, Premiership Rugby is offering fans a special gift with selected tickets for the Aviva Premiership Rugby Final 2015. Click here to find out about this limited offer.

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