Saracens 36 Northampton Saints 17: Tom Vickers' review and player ratings
You'll often hear it said in sport that players learn more from defeat than they do from victory.
And if that's the case, Saints' youthful squad will certainly profit from what happened to them at Allianz Park on Saturday afternoon.
Because for more than 50 minutes they really struggled to get to grips with Saracens.
The champions, despite the fact they were shorn of several international stars, managed to implement their game plan in grand style.
They used their big ball carriers to suck Saints in, and then they hit them time and again out wide, with the away side wide open at times.
It was so difficult for Saints to stop the likes of Will Skelton and Jackson Wray as they continually made metres and fed their dangerous wide men.
Both wingers cashed in with tries as Saracens cruised into a 36-3 advantage.
It looked likely to be another humbling day at Allianz Park for those of a green, black and gold persuasion.
They could have let their heads drop totally and shipped more than 50 points, as Saints did in all four games against Saracens last season.
But, to their credit, this Northampton team stuck together and stuck to their task.
And eventually they got some reward, with Reece Marshall and Lewis Ludlam scores helping them to at least win the second half.
It was scant consolation in the bid to strengthen their position in this season's Gallagher Premiership standings.
But it did at least allow them to leave with some pride and once again showed that there is plenty of character in this young team.
Saints fielded a plethora of prodigious players and they were also hit by several injury issues during the day, starting with James Grayson's withdrawal in the warm-up.
Paul Hill and Fraser Dingwall both left the field with just 20 minutes gone, and regular reshuffles are something you can't really afford against Saracens.
After all, the champions shift you around the field enough without fresh players having to come into new positions and adapt.
But Saints boss Chris Boyd was in no mood to make excuses after the match.
He wants everyone in his group to be accountable and to use these experiences to make them better.
Saracens have created a side that sets the standard for so many, and the fact is that they are currently the better team.
That will not fill Saints with joy, especially as the teams meet again at Franklin's Gardens for the Premiership Rugby Cup final on Sunday, March 17.
But they will still know that on their day, they can compete with Saracens, as they did at the Gardens back in September.
And with their home form strong, Saints have plenty to be positive about ahead of back-to-back Northampton dates, starting with the visit of Bristol Bears on Saturday.
That game gives Saints a great chance to bounce back quickly.
And then they will be able to set their sights on Saracens again, using every minute of this weekend's game at Allianz Park to inspire them in the bid to secure some silverware.
How they rated...
Tried to give Saints some counter-attacking thrust, but Saracens snuffed him out quickly on several occasions... 5
Not an easy day for the Saints wide men as Saracens ran the show during the formative stages of the game... 5
This was another big chance for the young centre to show what he is made of but he was unlucky to be hit by injury
Has been a class act in recent months and continued to showcase his confidence here, causing problems for Saracens in the second half and kicking well from the tee... 7
Came in at late notice and it wasn't an easy day as he often got left in trouble on his wing as Saracens exploited Saints... 5
Had to switch from full-back to fly-half before the game started and though he took a little time to adjust, he did eventually grow into the game... 5
Was man of the match against Bath a week earlier, but this was a much stiffer test and he was hit with a yellow card and the concession of a penalty try for a no-arms tackle... 4
FRANCOIS VAN WYK
Showed his desire during his time on the field, making some big hits and carrying with force but Saints were outmuscled overall... 6
The hooker made 13 tackles on an eventful day but Saints made too many errors overall as the game got away... 5
Carried with plenty of force early in the game but suffered concussion early on and had to be replaced
Did everything he could to assert his physicality on Saracens but they met fire with fire to stop the lock having his usual big influence... 6
The lock, like many of his team-mates, made plenty of tackles but he wasn't able to get enough possession in useful areas to use his power effectively... 5
Put in plenty of effort once again but Saracens were too strong as a unit, dominating Saints at the breakdown... 6
Was honoured to be made skipper for the day and he put every ounce of passion possible into the occasion, even scoring with a tidy finish... 7
Topped Saints' tackle count as he flew around the field looking for work once again, with Saracens keeping him on his toes and winning the breakdown battle... 6
Replacements (who played more than 20 minutes)
LUTHER BURRELL (for Dingwall 20)
Was unfortunate to pay the price for Saints' persistent first-half offending and although he put plenty of passion into his performance, it wasn't to be enough... 5
BEN FRANKS (for Hill 20)
Made 16 tackles without missing one and really made a useful impact from the bench, adding some experience to help Saints get a foothold during the second half... 7
REECE MARSHALL (for Fish 52)
Etched his name on the scoresheet after coming off the bench and provided plenty of physicality... 7
COBUS REINACH (for Mitchell 57)
No try-scoring heroics from the scrum-half on this occasion but didn't do much wrong after coming on... 6
CHRON STAR MAN: Will Skelton (Saracens)