Saracens' errors exploited by Saints

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The Independent Online

Saracens lost not only the match, but also a chance to move into second place behind the Zurich Premiership leaders, Leicester, with a display that had home supporters leaving in their droves before the end yesterday.

Saracens lost not only the match, but also a chance to move into second place behind the Zurich Premiership leaders, Leicester, with a display that had home supporters leaving in their droves before the end yesterday.

For Northampton, whose last win against these opponents was seven league matches ago, back in 1997, it was a triumph, especially given the way that Saracens had begun. Saints exerted their muscle and inched up the Zurich Premiership table and this morning sit comfortably behind Saracens in fourth place. Just to rub it in, it was their biggest victory over Saracens since the leagues began 14 seasons ago.

It was an untidy and physical encounter from first to last. At times there were bodies strewn all over the place. Richard Haughton's brilliant opening score for Saracens entailed the replacement winger having to dance around a physio who was on the pitch. But the game was also littered with mistakes, chiefly by Saracens, especially late on.

Haughton had come on for the extremely rapid Gerald Arasa in the ninth minute, but any disappointment that the home supporters might have felt at the loss of the original choice was quickly dispelled.

Saints involuntary donation of the ball to the opposition saw it moved smartly out to the right and Haughton, having avoided the first obstacle, suckered centre Matt Allen then burst outside Luca Martin as if the Argentinian were a statue and then chipped the advancing Paul Grayson. Thereafter it was a one-horse race to the touchdown under the posts. Duncan McRae converted and landed a penalty in injury time.

In between there was some real fun and games. Saints pressed hard, Saracens pressed back. Blood was spilled, muscles were stretched, Saints' Allan Bateman departed clutching his left hamstring, and their captain, Pat Lam, left the battlefield streaming blood from his nose.

Saracens had begun with England internationals Kyran Bracken, David Flatman and Julian White on the bench, but after half an hour the trio were brought on. Bracken replaced scrum-half Nick Walshe, much to the latter's disgust, the props White and Flatman going straight into the front row.

Grayson's first penalty pulled Saints to within a point following Ali Hepher's 29th-minute drop goal. But it was not until after the interval that Saints stole a march, when Lam picked up at a scrum, rounded Kris Chesney with ease and touched down.

Although Grayson missed the conversion, four more penalties left too much ground for Saracens to make up, and judging by the errors that began to creep in, they were starting to go to pieces. After Joe Shaw had been sent in for a try, the home side had been broken down into their component parts.

Saracens: Tries Haughton; Conversion McRae; Penalty McRae. Northampton: Tries Lam, Shaw; Conversion Grayson; Penalties Grayson 5; D G Hepher.

Saracens: B Sparg; D O'Mahony, B Johnston, T Shanklin, G Arasa (R Haughton, 9); D McRae (K Iwabuchi, 78), N Walshe (K Bracken, 31); L Harbut (D Flatman, 31), R Russell (M Cairns, 79), S Phillips (J White, 31), B Davison, S Murray, K Chesney (K Roche, 75), T Diprose (capt), T Roques.

Northampton: P Grayson; H Thorneycroft, A Bateman (J Shaw, 26), M Allen, L Martin; A Hepher, D Malone; G Pagel, S Brotherstone (S Thompson, 81), M Stewart, A Newman, T Rodber (J Phillips, 66), A Blowers, P Lam (capt; G Seely 40-41 & 76), B Pountney.

Referee: E Morrison (Bristol).

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