Owen Farrell's clash with England colleague Tom Wood described as 'handbags'
Saracens director or rugby Mark McCall dismissed Owen Farrell's clash with England team-mate Tom Wood as "handbags" as his young fly-half kept his nerve to kick his side to victory.
Farrell kicked four penalties out of four to seal a hard-fought 12-6 win at Northampton in sodden conditions.
In a tight, forward-dominated affair played in stark contrast to last week's World Cup final between New Zealand and Australia that was full of flair, Northampton were leading 3-0 when a late tackle from Wood saw Farrell retaliate by pushing the flanker in the face.
Northampton director of rugby Jim Mallinder felt the penalty should have been reversed, but referee Luke Pearson gave it to Saracens and Farrell drew the visitors level, landing the kick amid a cacophony of boos form the home crowd.
McCall said: "It looked like handbags to me, and not too serious. It was a brilliant away performance; we ended up dominating the game and controlled the last 25 minutes. We defended magnificently and I am chuffed to bits we got the win."
Mallinder was disappointed the Wood and Farrell clash did not result in a penalty for his side.
"That was clear for everybody to see," he said. "You can't go pushing people in the face, that is retaliation - that should have been reversed."
Neither side looked like scoring a try with line breaks at a minimum and McCall felt his side's defensive display was the decisive factor.
"We want to play, but sometimes you get games like today, where the ball is incredibly slow and slippy and you have to grind it out," said McCall. "It probably wasn't the best advert for the Premiership but that is the way the game went and our job was to make sure we won.
"I thought all of our English players were magnificent today, our young second rows were exceptional, George Kruis and Maro Itoje were truly brilliant and led the charge physically in the second half."
Saracens and England No 8 Billy Vunipola went off with a bang to the head, but McCall is hopeful he will be fit for the European Champions Cup clash with Toulouse next week.
It was 2014 champions Northampton's third defeat in their opening four games, and after scoring five tries in their only win against bottom side Newcastle, they have scored just one more in the three other games.
Mallinder said: "We are not a long way off. I know we have had a disappointing start, but we are not going to be pressing the panic button. We know what we need to do, and we can get better.
"We did pretty well at times today. It was a very closely-contested first half, and we were probably unfortunate to go in 6-3 down, there were some real crucial decisions that went against us. It was tight, and our scrum was putting them under pressure. We had a few opportunities, we got into their 22 at times, but lost the ball and in the second half it just seemed to go away from us.
"You have got to be really accurate when you play Saracens and you have to take your opportunities. They play in a certain way, but it is so difficult to beat, as we and other teams have found out."