A typical pre-season game is played out in the warm August sunshine, and while most of the crowd at Allianz Park had brought their jumpers and jackets with them this clash between two of the form teams of the past few seasons was played out in lovely, clear conditions.
From a Saints perspective it was good to see Ben Foden look for work in his first action since January, looking dangerous in attack and twinkle-toed to step past Ben Spencer to put in a good clearance kick in his own 22.
For the neutral, too, there was also the sight of Saracens flanker Will Fraser take to the field after overcoming his own injury troubles, and although it was Saints who got the first points on the board - Howard Packman rounding off a backs move run from a solid scrum deep in home territory - it was Fraser’s teammates who had the better of the opening quarter.
After Saints had failed to deal with the kick off Chris Ashton finished well in the right corner and Ben Spencer kicked five points to take Saracens into the lead. There was also the added setback of seeing Tom Collins be sent to the sin bin after mis-timing a run and make contact with Aaron Morris while the full back was catching a Stephen Myler bomb.
Saracens were also having the better of the tactical kicking battle, too, but when the visitors managed to put some phases of play together they looked dangerous.
Tom Stephenson showed superb awareness in a run down the right wing, selling a dummy and timing his pass superbly to Packman. The winger was pulled down just shy of the line, but Saints had plenty of men on the other flank and the ball was whipped along the line to Collins to score in the other corner.
The defence stepped up, too, Luther Burrell intercepting Baden Kerr to run unopposed to the uprights after Saracens had been forced onto the back foot by some good pressure. Two minutes before half-time the centre had his second score, showing the understanding that has been built up with Myler over the past couple of years by coming onto a lovely-timed pass from the fly half to go straight through the defence and over the whitewash.
Myler’s conversion was his last meaningful action of the day, with JJ Hanrahan coming on at the break for his first game time for his new club. Paul Hill was another half-time sub, and both of the new man had immediate impacts, the prop making a barnstorming run and Hanrahan extending the lead with a penalty three minutes after the resumption of play.
Nevertheless Saracens had the next try, Jackson Wray powering over from close range to give his team a boost, and as the home replacements settled in the quicker the Men in Black looked the more dangerous outfit.
However Hanrahan was adding something different to Saints’ attack, taking the ball to the line regularly and creating space for those around him. Jamie Gibson was the beneficiary of his fly half’s play just before the hour, crashing over from close range after Packman had had another run up the right wing.
The final quarter saw both benches be predictably emptied, with more new faces and Senior Academy youngsters be given their first senior action
SARACENS A Morris; Ashton, Streather, Tompkins, Ellery; Kerr, Spencer; Gill, Saunders, Du Plessis, Hamilton, Itoje (capt), Rhodes, Fraser, Joubert
Subs - Moran, Barrington, Alo, Gower, Brown, Wray, De Kock, Mordt, Griffiths, Earle, Gallagher, D Morris
SAINTS Foden; Packman, Stephenson, Burrell, Collins; Myler, Dickson (capt); A Waller, Hartley, Denman, Dickinson, Day, Gibson, Clark, Fisher
Subs - E Waller, Haywood, Hill, Woolford, Parkins, Nutley, Harrison, Ludlam, Kessell, Hanrahan, Hutchinson, Eves, Howard, Furbank, Tuala
REFEREE Greg Garner
6mins SAINTS Try Packman 0-5
9mins SARACENS Try Ashton Con Spencer 7-5
11mins SAINTS Yellow card Collins
14mins SARACENS Pen Spencer 10-5
25mins SAINTS Try Collins Con Myler 10-12
29mins SAINTS Try Burrell Con Myler 10-19
37mins SAINTS Try Burrell Con Myler 10-26
HALF-TIME SARACENS 10 SAINTS 26
43mins SAINTS Pen Hanrahan 10-29
47mins SARACENS Try Wray Con Kerr 17-29
58mins SAINTS Try Gibson Con Hanrahan 17-36
FULL-TIME SARACENS 17 SAINTS 36