Owen Farrell’s boot guided Saracens to a gritty victory over Northampton Saints as the champions preserved their winning start to the Aviva Premiership Rugby season.
It was a war of attrition at Franklin’s Gardens as Sarries, who beat the Saints in last season’s semi-finals on the same turf, ground out victory.
Farrell, who kicked 19 points in that semi-final, held his nerve from the tee throughout while penalties from Stephen Myler and JJ Hanrahan salvaged a point for Northampton.
Defeat leaves the Saints with just one win from four rounds of Aviva Premiership Rugby action, while Sarries sit pretty at the top of the pile with 17 points to their name.
Myler kicked the game’s first points on three minutes, after Saracens skipper Alistair Hargreaves was offside at the ruck, as the 2014 Aviva Premiership Rugby finalists wrestled for the early advantage.
The Northampton pack enjoyed the better of those exchanges but there appeared to be no way through a Saracens defence that began the weekend having conceded just 32 points, the fewest in the competition through three rounds.
By the half-hour mark, the Saints had made just 23 metres with ball in hand – compared to more than 100 from their visitors – as indiscipline and tactical kicking dominated proceedings.
Farrell at last got his side on the board five minutes before the break, levelling things up from the tee after the fly-half was tackled late by England teammate Tom Wood.
Myler sent a penalty wide of the target three minutes later, while Farrell slotted one from just inside the Northampton half – after the hosts were pinged at the breakdown – to send Sarries into the break 6-3 ahead.
Farrell drew first blood in the second half, slotting a straightforward scrum penalty between the uprights, before Schalk Brits – on his 150th Saracens appearance – and George North – playing his first game for Saints since March – each sought to inject some life into the contest with ball in hand.
The hosts began to probe in search of an opening try and Myler’s accurate kick to the corner after 59 minutes increased the pressure, Alex Goode eventually clearing his lines from on Saracens’ dead ball line.
But Sarries had significantly improved their discipline after the break, not only holding their hosts at bay but also ensuring Myler – or his replacement on the hour mark, Hanrahan – would have no sight of goal.
The same could not be said for Northampton, who infringed at the maul deep in their own half, allowing Farrell to make it 12-3 with 11 minutes left to play.
Chris Wyles knocked on when a switch with Charlie Hodgson had presented him with an opportunity to kill the game off and Hanrahan capitalised from the tee with the final kick of the game to earn the home side a losing bonus point.
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