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Special Saints see off Saracens

Travis PerkinsSponsored by Travis Perkins

"We were looking for a reaction, we were looking for a performance, we were looking for a win, and we got all three."

That was Jim Mallinder's assessment in his post-match comments to SaintsTV after watching his team cast aside their European disappointment with a comprehensive win over the reigning Aviva Premiership Rugby champions.

The vast majority of another sell-out Gardens crowd - aside from the 150-or-so visible and vocal Hertfordshire travellers - would have taken the 22-point final margin. But it says a great deal about how the Saints performed that there was a tinge of disappointment that the fourth try that would have earned a bonus point remained frustratingly elusive.

After suffering early scares courtesy of a searing David Strettle break and a powerful run from former South African captain Smit - who proved difficult to stop throughout the game - the Saints became increasing irrepressible during the first 40 minutes.

The first try came with nine minutes on the clock, and it was a peach. Mark Sorenson showed the defence a clean pair of heels down the left wing before George Pisi took play close to the line with his power and determination. The phases were worked into midfield and by the time play came onto the right-hand side of the pitch the defenders had run out and Lee Dickson was over for the score.

The scrum-half had earned a good ovation from the fans for his hundredth appearance, and his celebration showed how much the try meant. Ryan Lamb added the extras, and after he and his opposite number Owen Farrell exchanged penalties the former's next shot at goal gave his team clear water, turning a try into seven points.

The Sky Sports pundits had described Saints as being like a runaway train when they had things going their way, and at the end of the opening quarter the momentum was too much for Saracens to stop.

James Downey and Pisi were partnering in the centre for the first time, but they showed great understanding when the Irishman found the Samoan with a great offload. The sleight of hand caught Saracens' defence flat footed and Pisi turned on the afterburners to round the last man and score his second try in as many matches.

It wasn't just in attack where Downey and Pisi were excelling; their defence was outstanding too. It typified the attitude of the entire team. The black, green and gold shirts were everywhere, hassling Saracens into mistakes and stopping them in their tracks.

That said, the visitors had the next chance of points with a medium-range penalty, only to see Farrell - who was not being allowed to play his normal game by the hosts' aggression - miss the shot. Lamb showed the youngster how it was done by slotting a neat drop-goal, but things were going to get better for the Saints as half-time approached.

After a relatively slow start the pack had really built up a head of steam in all facets of the game and just past the half-hour they collected themselves for a rolling maul that proved unstoppable. The pile of bodies crashed over the whitewash, referee Dave Pearson consulted the TMO, and Phil Dowson was awarded the try.

Lamb continued his perfect night from the tee and the Saints went into the break with a 24-point lead and a standing ovation from the crowd.

After such a great first half the second proved somewhat anticlimactic. Saracens showed their intent by kicking their first penalty to the corner, but their night was summed up by Farrell missing touch and sending the ball over the dead ball line.

Saints' efforts meanwhile were typified by Jamie Elliott, who belied the massive size difference between himself and Jacques Burger by dumping the Namibian flanker with a great tackle.

Saracens kept on coming, with Smit making another burst to put his team on the front foot, but whatever they did they just could not find a way through the Saints' rearguard, which was remaining resolute.

The hosts did have their chances. A Lamb crosskick to Chris Ashton bounced unkindly for the winger and agonizingly into touch, and there were a few lineouts in good positions.

But while Lamb kicked a penalty on the first visit to the danger zone the fourth try just would not come. Instead the final score of the game went to Saracens, and while Ernst Joubert's last-gasp try took some of the gloss off the score there was no doubting that Saints deserved the win, and a place in Aviva Premiership Rugby's top four for the first time this season.



9mins SAINTS Try Dickson Con Lamb 7-0

12mins SAR Pen Farrell 7-3

15mins SAINTS Pen Lamb 10-3

20mins SAINTS Try Pisi Con Lamb 17-3

22mins SAR Miss pen Farrell

24mins SAINTS DG Lamb 20-3

33mins SAINTS Try Dowson Con Lamb 27-3


56mins SAINTS Pen Lamb 30-3

80mins SAR Try Joubert 30-8


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