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Heavenly Saints overwhelm Saracens

Saracens slumped to their heaviest defeat in four and a half years after England full-back Ben Foden helped Northampton overwhelm their Aviva Premiership title rivals.

Foden crossed twice to improve his chances of winning a place on the bench against Australia at Twickenham next Saturday as Saints romped to a 41-20 victory at Franklin's Gardens.

Luther Burrell, who was released by England last week, asked questions of Saracens' defence throughout and deserved his 64th-minute try, even if it did involve a forward pass.

The rout was completed by Jamie Elliott, Ken Pisi and man of the match Samu Manoa, the marauding American lock whose early ball-carrying was instrumental in Saints cruising into an early 17-3 lead that was never challenged.

Fly-half Stephen Myler kicked a penalty and four conversions in a memorable afternoon for Northampton against opponents that have developed into increasingly bitter rivals in recent seasons.

It was the second time in nine days that Saracens had been outmuscled, although Saints possessed far more guile than their last conquerors at Wembley last weekend, Toulouse.

The north London club appeared unstoppable earlier in the season and while they remain one point clear at the summit of the Premiership table, a second successive defeat and first in the league has pierced any air of invincibility.

Both teams were missing five players to England's training camp in Leeds, while Northampton also rested their giant Wales wing George North.

A warning of the carnage to come was evident after just 12 minutes when Saints ruthlessly exploited an opportunity started when Manoa caught a line-out.

Manoa charged upfield, Kahn Fotuali'i took the ball on and Saints poured into the large gaps around the breakdown as Saracens scrambled to recover.

Sam Dickinson powered forward until Elliott, having drifted infield off his wing, arrived to dart in under the posts.

Two last-gasp pieces of defending prevented Saracens from crossing with Elliott executing a try-saving tackle on David Strettle and Foden ripping the ball off England rival Alex Goode over the line.

The Premiership leaders were soon back under pressure, however, with the bulldozing Manoa leading the assault on their whitewash.

Burrell muscled his way upfield and when the ball was recycled Manoa made the most of some feeble tackling to charge over.

Saracens' problems extended to the set piece with their scrum taking a battering - of the five penalties they had conceded four had been awarded against their scrum.

Goode landed his second penalty on the stroke of half-time to slash the deficit to 17-6, but their fragile defence continued to haunt them two minutes after the interval.

George Pisi made ground with ease and Burrell, his centre partner, also made his presence felt five metres out until the arrival of Phil Dowson and Foden saw the full-back driven over.

Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall watched grimly as the rout continued unchecked with Foden scoring a second try to deliver the bonus point.

A poor missed clearance from Goode gave Saints the platform to attack, but it was the strength of Burrell that really did the damage.

The 25-year-old committed three defenders but was still able to release the ball to Myler whose kick ahead was touched down by Foden.

Saracens brought on James Johnston, Marcelo Bosch, Mouritz Botha, Neil de Kock and Jamie George in the 55th minute in an attempt to reverse their fortunes.

Inside centre Duncan Taylor capitalised on the quick thinking of Nils Mordt to give the visitors their first try, but moments later Saints ran in their fifth try.

George Pisi produced a marvellous offload to Ken Pisi and although the wing's scoring pass to Burrell looked forward, the try was given.

It was decided Kelly Brown had grounded the ball beneath a pile of bodies, before the final blow in a humbling afternoon for Saracens was delivered by Ken Pisi.


From Belfast Telegraph