Saracens surrendered their 100 per cent start to life in this season’s Aviva Premiership as Northampton Saints picked the pocket of the pre-game table-toppers and in the process claimed a bonus point.
Both sides were minus a number of star names ahead of the autumn internationals, but still produced a titanic battle more than worthy of being top of the Premiership billing this weekend.
Ben Foden scored two second-half tries to give England boss Stuart Lancaster a timely nudge ahead of the autumn internationals; as he came out on top in the battle of the No.15s with Saracens’ Alex Goode, with Northampton scoring six tries in total.
Stephen Myler opened the scoring for Northampton Saints with a penalty after five minutes, while Goode – kicking in the absence of England No.10 Owen Farrell – replied three minutes later for Saracens.
Jamie Elliott produced a moment of magic at both ends just after the ten-minute mark, firstly he scored the game’s opening try – comfortably converted by Myler – and then made a try-saving tackle at the other end of the pitch as former England wing David Strettle seemed certain to score.
England hopeful Foden experienced a mixed opening quarter of the game for Saints.
Firstly, he got lucky knocking the ball behind under pressure from Sarries wing Michael Tagicakibau and then saw Goode unluckily penalised for knocking the ball on inside the in-goal area after initially holding his England rival up over the line.
Northampton’s England hopeful Luther Burrell was next to impress on 25 minutes. He bulldozed his way up to the Sarries’ 22 and as the ball was recycled second row Samu Manoa beat two defenders and then sidestepped Goode to score his third Premiership try of the season under the posts – again Myler converted.
Just before the half hour Goode missed a kick at goal to drag Sarries back into the game but on the stroke of half-time the England man redeemed himself with another penalty – this time he was successful from right in front of the posts to leave the score 17-6 to Saints at the break.
Northampton started the second-half in spirited fashion and scored their third try after just three minutes.
After a powerful break in midfield by George Pisi, play continued and fellow centre Burrell was held up short of the Saracens line, but Foden managed to burrow over in the ensuing play, helped by skipper Phil Dowson – Myler missed his kick at goal this time.
And it got even worse for Saracens on 51 minutes as Foden scored his second try of the half, with Myler adding the extras to put Northampton all but out of sight.
Sarries centre Duncan Taylor, playing in the absence of Brad Barritt and Joel Tomkins, gave Mark McCall’s men hope with 20 minutes to play as he changed the angle of his running line to grab a pass from Nils Mordt and score under the posts – Goode added the conversion.
The comeback lasted less than 60 seconds though as George and Ken Pisi produced a sublime interchange and offload to put Burrell over Northampton’s fifth try of the afternoon – Myler added the extras.
After an elongated look from the television referee, Kelly Brown was awarded a close range score on 67 minutes and Goode brought the score back to 36-20 with the conversion.
But Northampton again came back at Saracens and after a flowing move involving James Wilson, Ken Pisi was given a run in from the halfway line on 71 minutes to take the Saints past 40 points in the game –Myler missed his kick at goal.