Reject Foden makes point to England

Northampton 19 Saracens 3
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The Independent Online

A couple of flashes of brilliance from Ben Foden, discarded by England for the second weekend running despite his sustained excellence at club level, helped settle this low-quality Anglo-Welsh contest Northampton's way.

With Martin Johnson, the England manager, continuing with Ugo Monye – a wing by trade – at full-back for the November Tests, the unlucky Foden has been left to lick his wounds back at Franklin's Gardens.

But after what happened at Twickenham yesterday – and given Foden's game-changing breaks that made him man-of-the-match and ended Saracens' 100 per cent domestic record this season – surely his moment will come against New Zealand next weekend.

This error-strewn match was delicately poised at 3-0 to Saracens 24 minutes in when the 24-year-old Foden fielded yet another high kick deep in his own half. A scampering 50-yard run saw him glide past three would-be tacklers before he had the presence of mind to stab a perfectly weighted grubber-kick through for Chris Ashton to ground in the right corner.

That score gave the Saints momentum and they did not look back, Foden playing a major part in Bruce Reihana's try midway through the second half that made the score 16-3 and ended Sarries' hopes.

"Ben's a little bit frustrated," Jim Mallinder, Northampton's director of rugby, said of Foden, the in-form No 15 in the Guinness Premiership. "But he has to be patient. I don't think Martin Johnson would have been watching this game, but Ben is playing well for us," he said, before adding: "But it will probably need an injury for him to find his way in [to the England team] for next week."

Before yesterday, Saracens' only defeat this season had come at Jonny Wilkinson's Toulon in the Challenge Cup. Top of the Premiership with seven wins from seven, Brendan Venter, Saracens' director of rugby, clearly has bigger fish to fry than this tournament – not least Tuesday's showpiece match against South Africa at Wembley. Venter fielded his reserves here and how it showed.

Alex Goode, who did his best at fly-half, kicked Saracens ahead in the 20th minute, but Ashton's try and a penalty from Stephen Myler gave Northampton an 8-3 half-time lead. Myler, the Saints fly-half, made it 11-3 with a second penalty while Sarries were down to 14 men following Tom Mercey's yellow card, a decision Venter called "unbelievably harsh", before suggesting "the crowd and their scrum-half got to the referee and his touch judges".

Foden then caused confusion in the visiting ranks with an incisive arcing run and Reihana, the veteran utility back from New Zealand, ended up burying over the line from close range.

Myler took his tally to nine points with a late penalty as Saracens perished in the driving wind and rain, in front of more than 12,000 brave souls.

Northampton B Foden; C Ashton, J Clarke (J Ansboro, 74), J Downey, B Reihana; S Myler, L Dickson (A Dickens, 74); S Tonga'uiha, B Sharman (J Gray, 73), S Bonorino (J Vickers, 69), C Day, J Kruger, P Dowson (capt), R Wilson (M Hopley, 73), S Gray.

Saracens R Haughton; N Cato, R Penney, K Sorrell, J Short; A Goode, K Barrett; K Lealamanua (R Gill, 50), E Reynecke (capt, J George, 67), C Nieto (T Mercey, 35-42), G Kruis, M Botha, D Barrell, J Wray, A Saull.

Referee: G Morris (Wales).