The World Cup this year means we’ve had a strange start to the season, with the Premiership Rugby Cup kick starting things. Saracens got off to a flyer at the Ricoh Arena, with the final score being Wasps 28 Saracens 50. I missed that one as I was at Edgbaston watching my County, Essex winning the T20 Blast Final.

That gave me very high hopes for the first home game of the season against Sale Sharks. However an error strewn performance on the part of Saracens and a good performance from the Sharks saw the result go the way of the visitors, with the score finishing on Saracens 17 Sale Sharks 36.

And so the third game in this run of cup games took Saracens to Franklin’s Gardens, the scene of the Final last year, won by Saints. Could they get revenge in this match?

There were a few changes to the starting XV for Saracens, most notably, Will Skelton starting at 4, Jackson Wray in the 8 shirt and Manu Vunipola starting at 10..

Both teams have some talented young players who’ve come through their academies in their set up, but there was a level of crossover, with Andy Symons starting his career at Saracens Amateurs. The Saints Scrum Half, Henry Taylor, moved to them from Saracens during the close season as did Reuben Bird-Tulloch who started on the bench.

The first half was a fairly even affair. Matt Gallagher back at Full-Back opened the scoring after 7 minutes for Saracens, Andy Symons hit back 7 minutes later. Henry Taylor got over the line for Saints before Rotimi Segun replied for Saracens. It was becoming something of a try fest and a second try for Symonds and one for Nick Tompkins made it Saints 21 Saracens 23 at half time.

There were six tries in the first half and five in the second, and it was Saracens who stormed ahead with some wonderful rugby. 24 year old Nick Tompkins who started his career at Flanker, moving into the Centre shone. He literally defies belief at times on a rugby pitch, he ‘punches above his weight’ time after time. He’s rapidly turning into a home grown replacement for Saracens captain Brad Barritt. At one stage as a Saracans fan I felt a small tremor of fear when Barritt left the pitch, but not anymore. Tompkins gave a Man of the Match performance at Franklin’s Gardens, receiving a well deserved accolade.

But before Tompkins got on the score sheet twice again, Ben Spencer entered the fray and got a try of his own. That must’ve been cathartic for the Saracens scrum half making his first appearance after being let down by Eddie Jones, the Saracens fans present were certainly thrilled for him!

Manu Vunipola sandwiched a try in between Tompkins second and third, starting at fly half, his game management was superb throughout and one of the differences from the Sale match.

Manu Vunipola in action

David Ribbans did give the Saints fans something to cheer in the second half with a try of his own. The final score was Northampton Saints 28 Saracens 54.

I had the benefit of ref link during the match and thought the officials worked really well together. With the most controversial incident coming in the 67th minute. Saints had been warned about holding a Saracens player round the leg in the ruck earlier in the match. Andy Symonds held onto the leg of one of the Saracens’ replacements Charlie Watson. In trying to free his leg his boot connected with Symons’ face. Play continued but the TMO called the referee’s attention to the incident. After some discussion a yellow was shown to Symons and a red to Watson. While I’m sure Watson won’t have intended to connect with Symons’ face a red card and a subsequent 4 week ban will have taught him to do something different if there’s a next time.

Saracens and Saints are in Pool A and move on to playing a team from another pool, with Harlequins visiting Allianz Park and Saints heading to key rivals Leicester Tigers. Table A looks like this –

  • Sale Sharks P3 W3 For 99 Against 55 Bonus Points 2 Points 14
  • Saracens P3 W2 For 121 Against 92 BP 2 Ponts 10
  • Wasps P3 W1 For 84 Against 106 BP 3 Points 7
  • Sainst P3 W0 For 78 Against 129 BP 3 Points 3

Round 4 is going to be interesting, with no pre-season to speak of for most teams and Round 1 of the Premiership only a week away we may see some strong teams fielded.

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