Sizzling Saracens off to a flyer


TWICKENHAM — Early season rustiness? Pah! Saracens started the new season at quite a gallop as their seven-try first-half showing sealed their campaign opener against Northampton as they ended up winning 55-24 at a sweltering Twickenham.

We may only be a couple of tackles in anger into this new campaign but the first 40 was as one-sided a match you will see. Saracens put on a showing of sheer brilliance to end this match as a contest and though Northampton rallied in the second 40, the contest was long over.

Saracens went on to score nine tries, some from close range, others from further afield but this was completely ruthless.

When assessing a performance of this quality, you try and find the remarkable under the sublime. It was perhaps best highlighted by their props Richard Barrington and Vincent Koch’s handling, maybe by the lines cut by the marauding outside centre Duncan Taylor, the control of Brad Barritt and Richard Wigglesworth or the outrageous Old Father Time-defying brilliance of Schalk Brits.

From one to 15, and the bench they were heroic. Sean Maitland scored a hat trick, with an exercise in finishing, and even had time to catch breath before dotting the ball down for one effort, such was the ease at which Saracens had obliterated Northampton’s porous, vacuous defence.

It was earlier this week that Jim Mallinder, the Northampton Saints coach, was assessing Saturday’s match. He talked of the intensity of Northampton’s preseason, how they were in fine fettle ahead of the opener. He also mentioned that because they are playing away for their opener, there “is slightly less pressure on you” but equally, they wanted to “get off to a flying start”.

Well, the only thing that remotely troubled Saracens here at Twickenham in the first half was the heat. Yes Saints had players missing, new signings Rob Horne and Cobus Reinach are still being brought up to speed, but Saracens were without the bulk of their fresh recruits and most of their Lions contingent.

In the first 40 Northampton lost the collision area completely and lacked any defensive organisation or exit strategy. They rallied in the second half as hot prospect openside Lewis Ludlam started to get into the game more and they managed to give the scoreboard a healthier façade, but the contest was long gone by that stage.

To just highlight Northampton’s frailties would do Saracens’ first-half performance a gross disservice. They were magnificent. The handling of their props was one area which marked them apart, but the reality is they were better in every single aspect.

The worrying thing for the rest of the Premiership? They still have Owen Farrell, Mako and Billy Vunipola to come back along with their new signings Christopher Tolofua, Will Skelton and Liam Williams who are still getting used to life at the club. It is a frightening prospect.

Seasons are long old beasts, players will still be feeling the effects of a never-ending season as one blends seamlessly into the next one, but Saracens have the depth to once again mount a multi-competition attack this season.

And all that without mentioning Maro Itoje, who played at blindside and made a mockery of those who feel he should concentrate solely on the second-row. In the modern game versatility is king, and he caused all sorts of mischief at the breakdown.

Challenges will come tougher than this for Saracens, but on that first-half showing, they have already cemented their status as title favourites. The sun shone at Saracens here at Twickenham, there was a jovial atmosphere in the crowd and you can imagine their supporters are already planning to be back here next May.

n