Tom Vickers’ Saracens versus Northampton Saints view and player ratings

ENGLAND'S LOSS - Luther Burrell was released by Stuart Lancaster, but shone for Saints at Saracens (picture: Kirsty Edmonds)
ENGLAND'S LOSS - Luther Burrell was released by Stuart Lancaster, but shone for Saints at Saracens (picture: Kirsty Edmonds)

May 12, 2013 seems like a long time ago now.

A lot has happened since then: two Premiership finals, one Amlin Challenge Cup showpiece, plenty of water under the bridge.

Saracens v Northampton Saints.'Calum Clark and Ross McMillan. NNL-141124-101814009

Saracens v Northampton Saints.'Calum Clark and Ross McMillan. NNL-141124-101814009

But at Allianz Park on Sunday, it felt like time travel had been made possible as Saints transported their fans back to that barnstorming day in Barnet.

In a first 40 minutes every bit as good as the 27-13 Premiership semi-final win against Saracens a year and a half ago, Saints slaughtered their hosts.

It was a systematic dismantling of a team famed for their powerful forwards and their wolf pack defence.

Here, the wolves were mauled as Saints swarmed over them, scoring three first-half tries on their way to a memorable 31-24 success.

Saracens v Northampton Saints.'Stephen Myler. NNL-141124-101800009

Saracens v Northampton Saints.'Stephen Myler. NNL-141124-101800009

While Saracens slipped and slid on the artificial surface, Saints displayed a sure-footed game plan, led by Dorian West’s well-drilled pack.

Behind them, Lee Dickson and Stephen Myler, two men unfortunate to be overlooked by England, used the possession astutely, putting the ball in all the right areas.

Dickson’s assist for James Wilson’s first try was a thing of beauty, the kind of skill shown by a footballer providing an open goal for a team-mate.

And Myler’s boot was also a source of points as he landed kick after kick on a day when opposite number Charlie Hodgson stuttered.

Saracens v Northampton Saints.'Dom Waldouck. NNL-141124-101744009

Saracens v Northampton Saints.'Dom Waldouck. NNL-141124-101744009

Saints, as they did in May, 2013, enjoyed a 17-point half-time lead.

And though they didn’t quite match the 14-point winning margin of the play-off encounter, they stood tall to secure success that means so much.

It provides a welcome boost after the surprise defeat to Exeter nine days earlier and it puts Jim Mallinder’s men back on top of the Premiership pile.

They are there because they can cope with testing conditions like the Allianz Park monsoon.

Saracens v Northampton Saints.'Luther Burrell. NNL-141124-101730009

Saracens v Northampton Saints.'Luther Burrell. NNL-141124-101730009

They are there because they don’t let a setback linger.

And they are there because they have a unit that, when all parts align, is hard for anyone to stop.

A penny for the thoughts of England boss Stuart Lancaster, then, because how he would like the same right now.

Should he want a bit of the Saints slickness and spirit, he should take another look at a number of their players.

Myler, Dickson, Luther Burrell, Calum Clark, Alex Waller... the list goes on.

These men have proven their quality over and over again in the biggest games, and Saints know just how lucky they are to have them.

Saracens v Northampton Saints.'Lee Dickson. NNL-141124-101715009

Saracens v Northampton Saints.'Lee Dickson. NNL-141124-101715009

At the moment, they are feeling extra fortunate, having anticipated that there would be more than just three of their number wearing white and red this autumn.

And credit must go to the players for not allowing their omission to affect them.

These players have grown with Saints.

This is a team that has come such a long way since last spring’s heroics at Allianz Park.

No longer are they plucky underdogs capable of biting back.

They are a team that has made performances like this one an extremely handy habit.

How they rated...

BEN FODEN

The full-back did nothing wrong in tricky conditions, catching and kicking well and ensuring Saracens’ use of the boot didn’t get Saints into trouble... 7

JAMIE ELLIOTT

The diminutive winger was lively throughout and was unlucky not to stop a Chris Wyles score with a despairing late dive... 7

TOM STEPHENSON

Shone against Exeter in the previous game and was also impressive here, handling everything that was thrown at him... 7

LUTHER BURRELL

England’s loss is certainly Saints’ gain and this man sparked his club side’s fine first-half showing with an eye-catching assist for Wilson’s opening score... 8

JAMES WILSON

The ultimate wet-weather player, the Kiwi thrives in these conditions and his utility back status was enhanced by a two-try showing that got Saints going... 8

STEPHEN MYLER - CHRON STAR MAN

It is criminal that this man only has one Test cap for England, but Saints once again profited as the fly-half steered his side to victory with a typically assured display... 8

LEE DICKSON

A fine showing from the scrum-half, whose superbly-executed grubber kick teed up Wilson and whose hit on Billy Vunipola helped Phil Dowson go over... 8

ALEX WALLER

Second-half sin-binning aside, this man was impressive, smashing Saracens to pieces in the first-half scrum battle... 8

MIKE HAYWOOD

Another solid showing from the hooker, whose lineouts were far better than the home side’s attempts and who is an important figure in the scrum and around the park... 8

SALESI MA’AFU

Got on top in the scrum, ensuring rival Gill drowned in the rain as Saints flooded forward to get a lead that they never relinquished... 7

JAMES CRAIG

A towering presence as he used his size to rob Saracens ball at the lineout and provide a platform for Saints... 8

CHRISTIAN DAY

Ensured Saints’ lineout remained secure when Saracens’ was rocking and played a key role in a fine performance from the away pack... 7

CALUM CLARK

Another important showing from the tenacious flanker, whose penalty win at a crucial breakdown helped Saints got the job done... 8

PHIL DOWSON

Leads his troops so well and was a powerful presence in a strong display, claiming a try for his efforts... 8

SAMU MANOA

Was important at both ends of the pitch as always, pushing Saints forward with some big carries and making some sizeable hits to stop Saracens in their tracks... 8

Saracens v Northampton Saints.'Gareth Denman. NNL-141124-101701009

Saracens v Northampton Saints.'Gareth Denman. NNL-141124-101701009