Saracens owed their first win in four Premiership matches to a traffic jam on the M25. Their first-choice right wing, Paul Bailey, was stuck in it, so 10 minutes before kick-off Richard Haughton came into the starting side.
"Richard had been lacking confidence in the last couple of weeks," said Rod Kafer, the Saracens head coach. After scoring two stunning tries to leave Northampton on the end of a four-match losing streak, Haughton will not lack for confidence. Nor will his team-mates, who have leapfrogged Saints in the table.
Every man of the home side put his body on the line as the match roared to a thrilling climax. Saints had 70 per cent of the second-half possession and got into Saracens' 22 on 11 occasions, yet had a solitary penalty to show for their pains. "We are not pushing the panic button," said their head coach, Alan Solomons. "Churchill did not panic in the Second World War. He said we must fight on."
Saracens certainly were not panicking, despite a second half in which they visited the opposing 22 on just three occasions, because they scored two tries and a drop goal when they got there.
The first half had been a farrago of errors. Northampton frequently found their way to the Saracens line or its vicinity, but were kept out by the brave home guard or, once, a television replay, when the lock Matt Lord was driven over the line but was deemed not to have touched down. There was a second call to the video referee, to ascertain that Andrew Blowers had spilled the ball in the 65th minute. At least Saracens had scored a try, sparked by a Mark Bartholomeusz chip and culminating in some slick handling to send Haughton over on the right.
After the interval Saracens emerged with a steelier sense of purpose. Within three minutes the prop Ben Broster was driven over for his first Premiership try. Northampton then paid for their inability to convert pressure into points when Thomas Castaignède sent out a wonderfully timed flat pass to Kevin Sorrell, who passed the ball on to Haughton.
The wing stepped off his right foot twice before speeding through the gap that had opened up. It was all over, bar the joyous shouting in the home dressing room.
Saracens: Tries Haughton 2, Broster; Conversion Castaignède; Penalty Castaignède; Drop goal Johnston. Northampton: Penalties Drahm 2, Reihana 2.
Saracens: D Scarbrough (P Bailey, 36); R Haughton, T Castaignède, D Harris (K Sorrell, 48), B Johnston; M Bartholomeusz, K Bracken (M Rauluni, 56); K Yates (N Lloyd, 56), M Cairns (R Ibañez, 60), B Broster, K Chesney (B Skirving, 78), S Raiwalui, T Randell, H Vyvyan (capt), D Seymour.
Northampton: B Reihana; W Human (B Cohen, 40), M Tucker (J Rudd, 73), M Stcherbina, J Clarke; S Drahm, M Robinson; T Smith, S Thompson, R Kempson, S Boome, M Lord (D Browne, 58), D Fox, A Blowers, C Krige (capt; G Seely, 78).
Referee: R Maybank (Kent).
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