The Saints’ hopes of dethroning Saracens at Allianz Park were crushed in the final quarter, their ruthless hosts scoring 18 points during two sin bin spells to put a comfortable stamp on a game that was far from as one-sided as the scoreline suggests.
A calm and controlled first half had seen the two sides go in level, despite a strong headwind against the Saints and the visitors edged in front 12-9 shortly after the break. But in a game full of niggle and physical encounters, Alex Waller was suckered into an off the ball incident from which he saw yellow and Sarries never looked back, scoring almost immediately and pressing home their numerical advantage to the full.
Things had looked bright for the Saints up to that point and it was they who had opened the scoring in cool but dry Barnet. The afternoon’s first scrum ended in a penalty and from the resulting lineout, another Sarries infraction presented Stephen Myler with a simple three-point starter.
The stiff breeze predictably helped Saracens’ efforts and as they grew into the game, Alex Lozowski rewarded their territorial squeeze with a couple of penalties, only for Myler to hit back again after a patient string of phases on the home 10-metre line.
While neither side could carve out a clear cut chance to speak of, the intensity in the tight areas of the game more than made up for it and a gripping half remained level with the respective fly halves guiding over further penalties from range.
The switch around would suit the Saints and while Myler narrowly strayed with a shot from inside his own half, they would make the most of a Sarries penalty that missed touch moments later. Ahsee Tuala’s well measured kick upfield and the subsequent chase would eventually lead to a penalty when Richard Wigglesworth retaliated on Waller off the ball.
Myler’s fourth success of the day looked to have given them something to build on, but the turning point came when Waller himself was coaxed into a reaction. Jamie George’s attempted clearance at a ruck saw the hooker’s arm slip around the Saintsman’s neck, but his decision to lift and drive the Saracen into the ground would warrant a yellow card after a long TMO discussion.
To rub salt into the wound, it was George who made the most of a smart short lineout routine to score almost immediately and a further penalty try - again from a five-metre lineout - put Saracens all but out of reach shortly before Waller’s return.
Tails up, the hosts did what they do best and killed off the game in clinical fashion. Each time the Saints attacked brightly a turnover or penalty halted their charge and when Saracens returned to the red zone, Sam Dickinson took a yellow card for the team’s build up of pens.
Lozowski again clipped over the points and with the wind taken completely out of the Saints’ sails, the young fly half drove over another minutes from time to crush hopes of even a losing bonus point.
5mins SAINTS Pen Myler 0-3
10mins SAR Pen Lozowski 3-3
17mins SAR Pen Lozowski 6-3
24mins SAINTS Pen Myler 6-6
31mins SAINTS Pen Myler 6-9
37mins SAR Pen Lozowski 9-9
HALF-TIME SAR 9 SAINTS 9
43mins SAINTS Miss pen Myler
51mins SAINTS Pen Myler 9-12
55mins SAINTS Yellow Waller
56mins SAR Try George 14-12
66mins SAR Penalty Try Con Lozowski 21-12
71mins SAINTS Yellow Dickinson
72mins SAR Pen Lozowski 24-12
78mins SAR Pen Lozowski 27-12
FULL-TIME SAR 27 SAINTS 12
SARACENS - Goode; Ashton, Barritt (capt), Wyles; Lozowski, Wigglesworth; M Vunipola, Brits, Du Plessis, Itoje, Hamilton, Rhodes, Burger, B Vunipola
George, Barrington, Figallo, Brown, Wray, Spencer, Tompkins, Maitland
SAINTS - Tuala; K Pisi, G Pisi, Burrell, North; Myler, Dickson; A Waller, Haywood, Brookes, Lawes, Paterson, Wood (capt), Harrison, Picamoles
Clare, Ma’afu, Hill, Dickinson, Gibson, Groom, Mallinder, Foden