Aviva Premiership: Saracens 55 Northampton 24
PUBLISHED: 16:25 02 September 2017 | UPDATED: 16:25 02 September 2017
PA Wire/PA Images
A Schalk Brits-inspired Saracens hammered Northampton 55-24 at Twickenham, with the free-running hooker spearheading a stunning nine-try rout as Sean Maitland grabbed a hat-trick.
The back-to-back European champions led 41-3 at the break, needing just 29 minutes of the new Aviva Premiership season to claim the try bonus point.
Brits confirmed via social media ahead of kick-off that this would be his last season before retirement – but the 36-year-old conjured vintage form to create four tries in the first-half alone.
Brits tweeted only hours before kick-off at Twickenham: “And so my last season of rugby starts, can’t wait to share the pitch with friends”.
Few of his foes will miss his devastating line-breaking abilities. But on this evidence the Premiership can sit back and savour one more year of his unrivalled hybrid of front-row and centre play.
Brits raced in Sarries’ eighth try before being replaced, while the men in black also had Brad Barritt, Richard Wigglesworth, Alex Lozowski, Vincent Koch and Ben Spencer on the scoresheet, to add to Maitland’s treble.
Sarries’ only concern appeared a potential ankle injury to George Kruis, the England and British and Irish Lions lock withdrawn in the game’s first quarter.
Saracens had rested Lions contingent Jamie George, Mako Vunipola, Owen Farrell and new recruit Liam Williams, while Billy Vunipola remains injured.
The star-laden Londoners were also without new additions Will Skelton and Calum Clark, but made a mockery of that catalogue of absentees in rampaging past a stunned Saints.
Northampton finished seventh in an underwhelming campaign last term, and have lost star number eight Louis Picamoles back to France.
Despite claiming three second-half tries, Saints were wholly overwhelmed here, and could face another frustrating campaign if this opening loss is any indicator.
Saracens captain Barritt kick-started the rout, powering in from close range, before Brits launched his master class.
The South African front-rower scythed through for a stunning line-break, before Duncan Taylor skinned two defenders and sent Wigglesworth crashing over.
Alex Goode’s fine break teed up Maitland’s first score, before a smartly-improvised basketball-style pass from Brits led to Lozowski crossing for the bonus point score.
Another blistering Brits break set Sarries on the front foot again, with Maitland the beneficiary once more for his second try.
And when Barritt turned the defence with a side-footed grubber, Maitland completed his treble – with such an easy finish that Goode was even queuing up for the score as well.
Just when Saints thought their first-half torture was at an end though, up popped Brits again, this time offloading cutely to set Koch rampaging home for Sarries’ seventh try.
Northampton finally scooped their first try after the turnaround, flanker Lewis Ludlam easing home, with Mallinder converting.
Saracens hit back immediately though, Lozowski racing through Saints’ porous defence and Brits, who else, skipping under the posts.
Brits then left the field to fully deserved rapturous applause, his work well and truly done for another day.
Tom Wood sneaked a quick try double for Saints, the former England flanker proving typically obdurate.
Replacement scrum-half Spencer stole in to hand Sarries the final word however, as Europe’s dominant flexed their muscles once more.
If you value what this story gives you, please consider supporting the Ham&High. Click the link in the orange box above for details.