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Match report: Saracens 36 – 17 Northampton Saints

Northampton Saints’ winning run came to an end in north London as Saracens ran out 36-17 winners at Allianz Park.

The men in Black, Green and Gold found themselves facing a big first-half deficit after the opening 40 minutes, with Saracens scoring five tries to lead 29-3 – Hutchinson notching Saints’ only points from the tee.

But Chris Boyd’s side improved markedly after the interval, with Reece Marshall and stand-in skipper Lewis Ludlam scoring to close the gap and give Northampton plenty of positives to take into next weekend’s home clash against Bristol Bears.

The hosts started sharply, and despite David Ribbans and Heinrich Brüssow combining to make a fine hit on Will Skelton, Sarries found some space with Ben Spencer and Jackson Wray making their way up the pitch.

And with Saints forced to be narrow in defence, Saracens spread the ball to the left wing for Max Malins to find Sean Maitland for the first score of the afternoon – with scrum-half Spencer converting from the touchline.

Saints responded straight away however as skipper Ludlam forced a turnover and the hosts were penalised for not rolling away, allowing Hutchinson to ping a penalty straight through the posts to make it 7-3.

However, Northampton could not gather the restart cleanly and Malins was at the centre of things again, flipping the ball inside for Nick Tompkins to break through and score on the right.

The centre then turned provider with Saints losing Paul Hill and Fraser Dingwall to injuries in the same play, with Tompkins in space to put it on a place for David Strettle down the right wing.

Spencer was back on target with the conversion to make it 19-3, and on came Ben Franks and Luther Burrell to replace the visitors’ casualties.

Back-to-back penalties moved Sarries back into Saints territory, and despite another superb turnover from Ludlam which allowed Mitchell to clear, Burrell then saw yellow shortly after with referee Luke Pearce losing patience with Northampton’s infringements.

From the resulting scrum Saracens flipped the ball wide for Maitland to score his second of the game and secure a bonus point, before another breakdown penalty cost Saints as Sarries fired into the corner and drove over the whitewash through hooker Tom Woolstencroft.

Burrell looked to spark Saints into life after the break as he pounced on a loose ball, with Hutchinson and Furbank carrying up the field but the attack came to nothing with the ball stripped.

Ludlam’s tackle and subsequent turnover stopped Tompkins scoring a certain try on 50 minutes, but the hosts were awarded a penalty try soon after when Mitchell was adjudged by the TMO to have tackled Spencer without using his arms after the scrum-half’s tap-and-go penalty.

The game opened up from there however and a high tackle from Saracens allowed Furbank to knock a penalty into the left corner, and Saints’ pack forced Marshall over the line at the back of a driving maul.

A fine strike from Hutchinson made it 36-10 and Northampton’s hunt for a bonus point was on, with the side defending their own line heroically before putting a beautiful move together which Ludlam finished off.

Burrell made the break with Hutchinson displaying exemplary hands to keep the ball moving and finding the young flanker, who powered his way to the try line through sheer determination.

Hutchinson was again flawless from the tee with the conversion, but despite Tom Collins making a couple of lightning breaks in the closing stages, Saints could not bring the scoreline any closer and a frustrating contest ended 36-17.

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