Tom Vickers’ verdict and ratings: Saints need to learn from Sarries
Saints did everything bar beating Saracens at stadium:mk on Sunday.
Had Stephen Myler’s late kick gone over rather than rebounded off the crossbar, Jim Mallinder’s men would have seen in the New Year in style.
But as it was, they were left ruing another defeat to Saracens: The masters of triumphing in tight games.
Somehow, the nomadic outfit have the power to win matches which could so easily go against them.
How Saints could do with some of that luck/ability/mental strength.
Only a combination of those things can explain Sarries’ continual success in the trickiest of scenarios.
While the Fezheads have made edging tight games an art form, Saints have made losing them a habit.
Only in the 10-9 win against Ulster in Belfast have they been able to edge home against one of Europe’s elite.
That looked set to give them the belief to edge out sides of equal or superior ability. But a week later they lost to Harlequins.
And on Sunday they were made to suffer again.
It’s not a lack of ability that haunts them. They are more than capable of going toe to toe with the likes of Saracens, Harlequins and Leicester, who have all beaten Saints this season.
Perhaps it’s belief? But then if Myler’s kick had hit the target, as it so nearly did, then that theory would have been crushed.
And after all, they won in Belfast didn’t they?
Perhaps the rugby gods aren’t on Saints’ side? Or perhaps that’s just clutching at straws.
Whatever it is, and whatever your view on why Saints just can’t get over the line in the big games, there are good signs.
They rarely get blown away and they are almost always in with a shout come the last 10 minutes of matches.
They just need to convert, during the next few weeks more than ever.
It’s reaching crunch time in terms of staying in the hunt for major silverware, and Saints need to prove to themselves and everyone else that they can clinch a big pot in 2013.
And if they can get a bit of the Sarries about them - as difficult as it may be to say or hear - they can still make this season a successful one.
Tom’s player ratings
Showed signs of getting back to his best, especially with a sizzling run at the Saracens rearguard during the second half... 7
The Samoan is a good counter-attacking weapon and used his trademark fast fast to get out of trouble on a couple of occasions... 6
Ran into trouble, eventually conceding a crucial penalty during the second half and overall it wasn’t one of his best games... 6
Quite effective during the first half as he looked to prove a point after being left out of the side in recent weeks... 6
So secure under the high ball and Sarries’ onrushing runners, including former Saint Chris Ashton, had no change out of the youngster... 7
Kicked so well before seeing his monstrous late effort rebound back off the crossbar. Really staking his claim at 10... 8
Always a key component in the Saints side and was no different here, but a couple of box kicks could perhaps have been better... 6
Came in for Soane Tonga’uiha and found it tough early on, but eventually got to grips with the game and the opposition... 6
The skipper was back from a ban and his influence on the side can never be understated. Secure in the set piece and good in the loose... 7
Limped off on 36 minutes after a mixed opening to the game as Saracens took control before Saints pegged them back... 6
The American added to his burgeoning reputation with another good display and he is easily the player of the season so far... 7
Better display from the England man as he impressed around the field and played his part in a steady forward effort... 7
Gave as good as he got and was an important member of the Saints lineout as always, helping his side restore parity in the set piece after a slow start... 6
Mr Consistent came up with Saints’ only try of the game and he continues to show how important he is to the club... 7
GJ VAN VELZE
A confident display from the South African, who has progressed well this season to become a regular starter... 6
Replacements (who played more than 20 minutes)
Didn’t let the team down when he came on and ensured Saints got to grips with Saracens up front... 6
Looked fresh when he emerged from the bench and was straight into the mix to help Saints win a penalty... 7
Came on for Phil Dowson and helped maintained the intensity levels with some good work at the breakdown... 6
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Weather for Daventry
Monday 20 May 2013
Temperature: 10 C to 19 C
Wind Speed: 15 mph
Wind direction: North
Temperature: 7 C to 14 C
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