Northampton Saints 13 Saracens 57: Sarries begin European Champions Cup defence with eight-try mauling of Saints
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European Champions Cup: Northampton Saints 13 Saracens 57
Northampton Saints collapsed to another harrowing rout by Saracens after being overwhelmed 57-13 in their Champions Cup clash at Franklin’s Gardens.
Saints opened their season with a 55-24 defeat by the European champions at Twickenham after trailing 41-3 at half-time, and the parallels with this Pool Two clash were clear as they entered the interval 29-6 down before crumbling to an even heavier loss.
Saracens had wrapped up the bonus point by the 40th minute, Liam Williams running in two of their tries, in a superb performance that delivered a statement of intent in their quest to emulate Toulon by claiming a hat-trick of Champions Cup titles.
Courtney Lawes was the chief source of home resistance, but his team-mates were far too passive in defence and Saracens expertly exploited their frailties in an eight-try canter that saw Williams, Brad Barritt and Nick Isiekwe excel.
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Jamie George edged his duel with rival England hooker Dylan Hartley but he evidently benefited from playing in a dominant visiting pack that bullied Saints from start to finish.
To add to Northampton’s misery, George North limped off in the first half after crumbling beneath a knee injury that was initially incurred when tackled by Barritt, his efforts to run off the knock taking a significant toll.
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Forceful carries from Isiekwe and prop Vincent Koch helped the European champions make a strong start and several phases later Chris Wyles fed Williams, who picked a clever inside line to evade Cobus Reinach and Ahsee Tuala and touch down.
Relentless pressure was taking a toll on Northampton, who cracked for a second time in the 21st minute when a line-out drive ended with Barritt falling over the line.
When Saints finally built some phases, a mazy run by North ended with Barritt stealing the ball and shortly after the Wales wing collapsed in a heap, his match over.
Saracens renewed their attack and Maro Itoje and Marcelo Bosch were prominent in the build-up to Williams’ second try that was well finished, before Owen Farrell was penalised for a soft elbow on England team-mate Teimana Harrison.
Northampton’s collapse continued unchecked, lock David Ribbans sent to the sin-bin for bringing down a maul before another line-out drive concluded with Calum Clark securing the bonus point.
Whatever director of rugby Jim Mallinder said to his Saints players at half-time had little effect as two minutes after the break Saracens struck for a fifth time, Farrell ghosting between Alex Waller and Kieran Brookes and several carries later Koch was over.
George Kruis and Mako Vunipola combined for the latter to add the London club’s sixth and then it was the turn of the backs to deliver, a set move from a scrum involving Farrell and Williams finished by Alex Lozowski.
Replacement hooker Mikey Haywood crossed for Saints, but inevitably Saracens had the final say when Ben Spencer touched down.