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Match Report: Northampton Saints 58 – 34 Saracens

A hat-trick from Courtnall Skosan, plus two tries apiece from youngsters Henry Pollock and Frankie Sleightholme, capped an impressive performance from Northampton Saints as they swept Saracens aside on Wednesday evening.

Joel Matavesi, Sleightholme (twice), Skosan, and Pollock all crossed before the break in the Premiership Rugby Cup clash to wrap up a bonus point for the men in Black, Green and Gold.

Saints did not let up in a harem-scarem second 40 with Skosan wrapping up his hat-trick with two more scores, before Pollock – still a Saints Academy under-18 player – added to his tally and Aaron Hinkley rounded off the scoring to secure a first win for Northampton in this year’s competition.

FIRST HALF

Saints shot out of the blocks as they enjoyed some early territory, and when James Grayson’s chip over the top was spilled by a Saracens defender, there was Matavesi to pounce and score a third-minute try.

Three minutes later and the hosts were over the whitewash again, as Alex Waller won a turnover in his own half and the ball was spun wide to Tom Litchfield. The centre showed all his gas to burst into space, before drawing the last defender and releasing Sleightholme who finished off with aplomb.

After missing his first, Grayson struck a sweet conversion through the uprights to take the scoreline to 12-0, but Saracens then hit back to send Francis Moore over in the right corner after some patient build-up play.

Northampton soon had their third though, as a Sleightholme break down the left took the hosts close to the line before Grayson’s delayed pass created the pass for Ramm to assist Skosan in the corner.

Sleightholme was in the thick of the action again moments later, collecting a neat cross-field kick from Grayson inside his own half before streaking 50 metres upfield and beating several players along the way. Saints looked for quick ball but Ollie Stonham cynically slapped it down and was sent to the sin-bin.

Northampton immediately took advantage of the extra man as, from the resulting penalty, Grayson kicked to the corner and Pollock burst off the side of the maul to score his first Saints try.

On 28 minutes, Saints were pinged on their own 22 and Samson Adejimi forced his way over at the back of the rolling maul – a sign of things to come from a Saracens perspective.

Shortly after, Brandon Nansen was held up over the line after an Aaron Hinkley carry took Northampton into the 22, but there was still time for Sleightholme to add his second before the break – the young wing exchanged a one-two with Pollock after a delicious offload out the back from Matavesi and scored in the left corner to send his side into the sheds 29-12 ahead.

SECOND HALF

Saints and Saracens scored four tries apiece after the interval in an end-to-half half of rugby that had the Gardens crowd in raptures.

Skosan had finished off his hat-trick before the 50th minute, first collecting Grayson’s inventive cross-field kick and rounding the final defender, before Callum Braley fizzed a pass across the visitors’ line for Pollock, who offloaded inside back to Braley and created the space for the Springbok international to score again.

Meanwhile, down the other end the relentless Adejimi had capitalised on two Saints infringements in their own half to show plenty of power and burrow over at the back of two more rolling mauls for a hat-trick of his own.

Remarkably, the hooker went over yet again on 65 minutes in similar fashion for his fourth, but Grayson responded with a penalty (won at scrum time) to keep Saints three scores clear at 44-29.

And on 70 minutes the fly-half sent another kick straight through the uprights to convert Pollock’s second maul score of the evening and take Saints past the 50-point mark on the night.

The final ten minutes saw Hinkley round off an industrious performance in the back row with a try as Northampton capitalised on a turnover just inside the 22, but Saracens replacement Oscar Wilson grabbed the final score of the evening on his debut for the Londoners.

Next up for Saints is a trip to Coventry on Sunday to face Wasps in the Gallagher Premiership, although the Premiership Rugby Cup side will be back in action the following Tuesday with Harlequins heading to cinch Stadium at Franklin’s Gardens.

LINE-UPS

SAINTS: Ramm, Skosan, Litchfield, J Matavesi, F Sleightholme, J Grayson, Braley; A Waller, Gradwick-Light, Heffernan, Lockett, Nansen, Sylvester, Pollock, Hinkley
Replacements: Bell, Mulhall, Prowse, Atuanya, Scott-Young, Garside, Kean, Thame

SARACENS: Elliott, Reynolds-West, Jackson, Hallett, Moore, Vunipola (c), Bryan; Flynn, Adejimi, Bello, Wardell, Pearce-Paul, Michelow, Knight, Stonham
Replacements: Isaacs, Wainwright, Judge, Eke, Nkwocha, Bracken, McInulty, Wilson

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