Saracens 55 Northampton Saints 24: Tom Vickers' review and player ratings

The Saints players showed their disappointment on a difficult day at Twickenham (pictures: Kirsty Edmonds)
The Saints players showed their disappointment on a difficult day at Twickenham (pictures: Kirsty Edmonds)

Supporters spend the summer dreaming about the new season.

But when it finally started for Saints fans, the nightmare scenario unfolded.

In the space of just 15 minutes, Jim Mallinder's men had conceded two tries and lost their new No.8, Mitch Eadie, to injury.

And if the Saints faithful thought that was bad, they hadn't seen anything yet.

Because what unfolded during the rest of the half was nothing short of a horror show.

Saints were left battered and bruised on the canvas as Saracens landed blow after blow on the sun-soaked Twickenham turf.

Alex Waller scored the winning try in the 2014 Premiership final success against Saracens at Twickenham, but there was little joy for the prop on this occasion

Alex Waller scored the winning try in the 2014 Premiership final success against Saracens at Twickenham, but there was little joy for the prop on this occasion

A total of seven tries were scored before the break - and all of them went the way of the home side.

Only a Harry Mallinder penalty prevented a complete whitewash.

And at half-time the game was not only over, it was smashed to smithereens.

Saracens had put their marker down, even without several of their Lions stars.

Tom Wood kept fighting and managed to score twice for Saints

Tom Wood kept fighting and managed to score twice for Saints

Saints were left scratching their heads, wondering how a seemingly successful pre-season, in which they won all four matches, had come to mean so little.

All the blood, sweat and tears during the close season had resulted in this.

And it hurt.

The first 40 minutes were as bad as you'll see from a Premiership side this season, and Saints had to respond in the second period.

Alex Mitchell made his Saints debut

Alex Mitchell made his Saints debut

They did manage to score three tries, one from fledgling flanker Lewis Ludlam and two from Tom Wood.

But it was nowhere near enough to compensate the supporters who had paid to watch this hollow performance.

Those supporters are owed a huge showing at Franklin's Gardens on Saturday.

And that is exactly what Saints will have to produce if they are to beat a star-studded Leicester Tigers team.

But that is for another day.

For now, Saints have to try to banish these Twickenham demons.

The hugely disappointing display can't be allowed to set the tone for the rest of the 2017/18 endeavours.

Saints have suffered opening-day defeats in three successive seasons now, and the first two were pre-cursors for below-par campaigns.

If there is one positive, it is that there is plenty of time to put things right.

And youngsters such as Ludlam and Tom Collins showed the desire to turn it around on the field on Saturday.

But their senior colleagues will now have to summon up similar spirit in the week ahead.

Plenty of talented players will turn out for the Wanderers at Sale on Monday night, with the new signings Cobus Reinach and Rob Horne set to feature.

And they will have to hit the ground running to bring a welcome boost to a team that looked beleaguered on Saturday.

Experienced fly-halves Stephen Myler and Piers Francis are desperately needed, too, but they are a few weeks away from returning from knee and jaw injuries respectively.

That means Harry Mallinder, who did so well at 10 during the closing stages of last season, will have to pick himself up and get ready to pull the strings again on Saturday.

And he and his team-mates will know just how much improvement they need to make to tame the Tigers.

Leicester, who have won the past seven east midlands derbies, are hardly the team you want to face when you are licking your wounds.

But Saints can only afford to view it as the perfect game in which to produce a reaction.

If they are to do that, they will have to find far more grunt up front and much more cohesion among their backline.

It is easier said than done, and at Twickenham, where Saints beat Saracens to win the Premiership title just three years ago, that certainly showed.

How they rated...

AHSEE TUALA

Was one of the stand-out players last season and though he tried to produce some go-forward, it didn't happen... 4

BEN FODEN

Kept trying for his team, but Saracens ran Saints ragged during the first half and there was no coming back from it... 4

NAFI TUITAVAKE

Tried desperately to find gaps in the Saracens defence and also made one eye-catching tap tackle, but that was about as good as it got for the Tongan... 4

LUTHER BURRELL

Wasn't able to get the front foot ball he thrives on and instead it was a difficult day in defence for the centre and his team-mates... 4

TOM COLLINS

Continued to fight for the cause and a few of his runs really troubled Saracens, but cramp forced him off... 6

HARRY MALLINDER

Difficult to judge him too harshly as he's still very young and undoubtedly has a very big future, but this was a tough day and he made a few key errors... 3

NIC GROOM

His box-kicking wasn't the best and with Saracens putting Saints' half-backs under pressure, the away side couldn't manage the game at all in the first period... 3

ALEX WALLER

Showed real desire to set up a second-half score for Tom Wood, but Saracens had the edge up front here... 5

DYLAN HARTLEY

Not the kind of game he would have wanted on his return as captain as Saracens managed to dictate the game and earn an unassailable lead... 5

KIERAN BROOKES

Has been working hard to step things up, but Saints struggled against the Saracens physicality... 5

COURTNEY LAWES

Enjoyed a stellar season last time round and he did his best to take the fight to Saracens players who are regular foes... 5

CHRISTIAN DAY

Was forced off for a HIA during the first half and the temporary absence of a man who normally steadies the ship didn't help... 5

TOM WOOD

Missed one key tackle that led to a try in the first half, but battled back well and scored two tries, completing the 80 minutes despite not playing during pre-season due to a ban... 6

LEWIS LUDLAM

There are high hopes for this youngster and he wasn't giving up on the game, grabbing his first Premiership try... 6

MITCH EADIE

No real time to make an impact for the former Bristol man as he was forced off with an injury after just 15 minutes... 5

Replacements (who played more than 20 minutes)

JAMIE GIBSON (for Eadie 15)

Always a steady performer, but Saints were already under huge pressure when he came on and there was no turning the tide... 5

KEN PISI (for Collins 52)

The game had gone by the time Collins was forced off, but the Samoan tried to add a bit of positivity late on... 6

ALEX MITCHELL (for Groom 59)

A bright debut from the young scrum-half, who would have dreamed of better days to make his first Saints appearance... 6