Alex Goode’s brilliant first half try proved crucial as Saracens knocked Northampton Saints off top spot with a spirited 16-6 away victory.

Goode’s score, as well as three penalties from Owen Farrell, allowed the Men in Black to lead from the front and condemn Saints to their first home defeat of the season.

Saints started slowly, losing their own scrum and line out early on, and Saracens went ahead when Farrell impressively dispatched a penalty straight on from the half way line.

But despite a sloppy start, Stephen Myler drew the scores level from the tee and Northampton began to dominate with both Ken Pisi and Vasily Artemyev attacking out wide but without success.

The home crowd were given the perfect excuse to jeer former favourite Chris Ashton when, in the 20th minute, Artemyev found space but his kick and run appeared to be taken out by the feet of Ashton.

Much to the displeasure of the crowd referee Andrew Small decided a quiet word in the ear of the winger, and captain Steve Borthwick, would suffice and play continued.

Northampton continued to dictate too with Lee Dickson pulling the play from one side to the other and Ryan Lamb trying to exploit gaps with the boot.

Saints huffed and puffed, and came close when Lamb’s looping miss pass nearly allowed Myler to break through, but try as they might the Saracens defence stood firm.

Having been on the back foot for the majority of the opening spell, in the 25th minute it was Saracens who made the breakthrough.

Breaking away on the counter attack, Goode ghosted into the number ten spot, feeding in Joel Tomkins with a miss pass before getting it back to finish off a brilliantly worked try.

Tomkins had to produce a last-gasp tackle to stop Samu Manoa going over but otherwise the Men in Black were comfortable going into the break with a 10-3 lead.

The players faced a hail storm as they re-emerged for the second period and whilst both teams looked to stamp their authority on proceedings early on handling errors often disrupted attacking intent.

Lamb and Farrell traded a penalty each to take the score to 13-6 before Saracens’ Richard Wigglesworth slipped ten metres from his line while attempting a clearance - but Northampton failed to take advantage.

Not long after Ashton successfully chased down his own kick but with the line beckoning, he hacked the ball sideways rather than straight and Saints recovered to hold the winger up.

With just over ten minutes to play the faultless Farrell found the target again from the tee, extending Saracens’ lead to 16-6 and leaving Saints needing more than a try to rescue the game.

The hosts continued to probe and it took a strong covering tackle from substitute Charlie Hodgson to prevent Artemyev going through late on.

But Saracens held out for an impressive win, their fifth victory in a row, which takes them top of the Aviva Premiership for a few hours at least.


Saracens: Alex Goode, Chris Ashton, Joel Tomkins, Brad Barritt, David Strettle, Owen Farrell, Neil de Kock, Mako Vunipola, Schalk Brits, Matt Stevens, Steve Borthwick, Alistair Hargreaves, Kelly Brown, Will Fraser, Jackson Wray

Replacements: John Smit, Nick Auterac, Carlos Nieto, Mouritz Botha, Ernst Joubert, Richard Wigglesworth, Charlie Hodgson, Chris Wyles

Northampton: Stephen Myler, Ken Pisi, George Pisi, Dominic Waldouck, Vasily Artemyev, Ryan Lamb, Lee Dickson, Soane Tonga’uiha, Dylan Hartley, Paul Doran Jones, Courtney Lawes, Mark Sorenson, Phil Dowson, Tom Wood, Gerrit-Jan Van Velze, Tom Wood

Replacements: Mike Haywood, Alex Waller, Brian Mujati, Samu Manoa, Rhys Oakley, Martin Roberts, Tom May, Luther Burrell

Referee: Andrew Small