Saints are made to suffer by Saracens again

Piers Francis made his first competitive appearance at Franklin's Gardens (picture: Kirsty Edmonds)
Piers Francis made his first competitive appearance at Franklin's Gardens (picture: Kirsty Edmonds)

Saints suffered more misery at the hands of Saracens as the European champions started their second successive title defence in style at Franklin's Gardens.

The men from Allianz Park had smashed Saints 55-24 at Twickenham on the opening day of the Aviva Premiership, and it was to be a similar story in the Champions Cup curtain raiser.

Saracens scored eight tries in a comprehensive 57-13 victory that immediately put Jim Mallinder's men on the back foot in Pool 2.

Saints only scored one try on a sobering Sunday evening, with Francois van Wyk grabbing his first effort in Northampton colours.

The night was made worse by what looked to be a serious knee injury for George North. The Wales star was helped from the field during the first half, having initially tried to play on.

By that point, Saints were already behind the eight ball, and their struggles continued as Saracens continued to stick the knife in.

David Ribbans was sent to the sin bin at the end of the first half, with Calum Clark quickly making Saints pay as he scored on his first return to Franklin's Gardens after leaving during the summer.

It was another agonising event on a night full of them for Saints, who were frustrated that referee Pascal Gauzere refused to take action against Owen Farrell for a first-half flashpoint involving Teimana Harrison.

But even if Farrell seen yellow or even red for his elbow making contact with Harrison, it would have taken a huge effort for Mallinder's men to mount a comeback.

And they must now dust themselves off as they face another huge challenge, at Clermont Auvergne, on Saturday.

Saints had hoped to exact some revenge against Saracens, the team who beat Clermont in last season's Champions Cup final, for the events at Twickenham early in September.

And after Farrell missed an early penalty chance, Myler put Saints ahead with a penalty after lock George Kruis was penalised for a high tackle on Cobus Reinach.

But Saracens were soon at the Saints door and after some patient build-up play, Liam Williams wriggled free out wide and charged in to score.

Farrell converted to put his team ahead for the first time and Saracens continued to crank up the heat, keeping possession and putting pressure on the home defence.

Another three points came their way via the boot of Farrell and there was soon another try, too.

Saints were losing every aerial battle, meaning they couldn't get out, and after Saracens kicked to the corner, Brad Barritt scored.

Farrell converted to make it 17-3 after just 20 minutes and Saints were being smothered at every turn.

Saints suffered another blow soon after as North was forced off with a knee injury after taking a heavy contact while charging into the 22.

And in what was turning out to be a horrible half for the home side, Williams added his team's third try after finding space out wide.

There was then a big flashpoint as Farrell tackled Ben Foden, who landed on his back, before Harrison and Farrell engaged in a bit of a battle.

Farrell appeared to elbow Harrison while trying to shove the Saints player away and the home fans bayed for blood.

But referee Gauzere only awarded a penalty, which Myler kicked before boos rang around the Gardens.

And there was more discontent on the brink of half-time as Ribbans was yellow carded for pulling down a maul.

Saracens immediately made Saints pay as they powered over for their bonus-point try, which was awarded to Calum Clark on his first return to Franklin's Gardens.

Farrell kicked the conversion to a backdrop of boos, making it 29-6 at half-time.

The interval did nothing to disrupt the Saracens momentum and they scored within three minutes of the restart.

A flowing move finished with prop Vincent Koch dotting down and Farrell kicked the conversion to rub yet more salt in the Saints wounds.

Luther Burrell looked like he might have registered a reply as he hunted down a Tom Collins chip, but the centre was inches away from scoring as the ball evaded his grasp.

The game then began to peter out as both teams brought on replacements with the result put well beyond doubt.

But with the match seeming to take an age to reach its conclusion, Saracens still had plenty of time to score more, and Mako Vunipola made his way over the whitewash.

Farrell again converted and the margin of defeat was now bigger than the one at Twickenham during the previous month.

And it was to get even worse as Alex Lozowski ran a nice line and raced in under the posts, with Farrell's conversion taking Saracens up to 50 points.

The away fans were taunting their Saints counterparts, who had decided to exit the ground, with chants of "oh when the Saints go marching home".

And there was still 10 more minutes of misery for those who had remained in the ground to endure.

Van Wyk got what wasn't even a consolation score for Saints as he picked up his first in the green, black and gold, but Saracens were to have the final say as Ben Spencer registered.

Farrell kicked the conversion to put the icing on the cake for the men in white as Saints trudged off the pitch and back to the drawing board.

Saints: Tuala; North (Collins 27), Burrell, Francis, Foden; Myler (Mallinder 60), Reinach (Groom 48); Waller, Hartley (c) (Haywood 58), Brookes (Ford-Robinson 51); Paterson (Ratuniyarawa 55), Ribbans (Wood 48); Lawes, Gibson, Harrison.

Saracens: Goode; Williams, Bosch (Taylor 36), Barritt (c) (Lozowski 60), Wyles; Farrell, Wigglesworth; M Vunipola (Barrington 66), George (Brits 51), Koch (Figallo 51); Isiekwe, Kruis; Itoje, Clark (Burger 58), Wray.

Referee: Pascal Gauzere (France)

Attendance: 13,320

Ahsee Tuala was in action for Saints

Ahsee Tuala was in action for Saints

Stephen Myler kicked two penalties

Stephen Myler kicked two penalties