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Saracens maintain perfect start to their title defence

Reigning Aviva Premiership champions Saracens preserved their 100 per cent record this season after hooker Jamie George's second-half try helped them see off Northampton 27-12 at Allianz Park.

England international George struck midway through the second period, which was followed by a penalty try, although Saracens were nowhere near as dominant as they had been during opening Premiership victories over Worcester and Exeter.

Fly-half Alex Lozowski added five penalties and a conversion, with Saracens crucially scoring 12 unanswered points while Northampton prop Alex Waller was in the sin-bin.

England internationals Owen Farrell (hip) and George Kruis (back strain) were again both absent for Saracens - Lozowski and Jim Hamilton deputised - while England skipper Dylan Hartley, who has been troubled recently by a sore back and went off at half-time against Bristol last weekend, was replaced in Saints' front-row by Mikey Haywood.

England head coach Eddie Jones was among the crowd, but a scrappy opening quarter delivered few attacking opportunities as two Lozowski penalties edged Saracens 6-3 ahead after Myler put Saints in front when home flanker Michael Rhodes was punished for not rolling away at a ruck.

Northampton's powerful runners Louis Picamoles and George North both made headway as Saints - winners on three previous Premiership trips to Allianz Park - did not take a backward step before another Myler penalty tied things up.

Saracens, despite having a gusting wind in their favour, struggled for continuity, and the kicking contest continued as Myler and Lozowski exchanged further penalties before the break, completing their respective penalty hat-tricks and securing a 9-9 interval scoreline.

The game had proved an expectedly ferocious contest up-front without threatening to boil over, although one split-second incident could yet develop as Waller appeared to rake his hand over Saracens wing Chris Ashton's face.

Referee Greg Garner saw Waller's movement and told the player it would be reviewed after the game, but Garner took no action on the pitch.

Northampton continued to play the game deep inside Saracens' territory, and Myler's fourth successful penalty edged the visitors back in front after home scrum-half Richard Wigglesworth was rightly punished after he pushed Waller in the back following a skirmish that involved both sets of forwards.

Saracens could not get a foothold in the contest, and their frustration began to show, but Saints were reduced to 14 men when Waller was adjudged to have tackled George dangerously and received a yellow card. Waller's immediate fate could now rest with match citing commissioner Mike Rafter.

And barely had Waller left the pitch than Saracens went ahead, making their temporary numerical advantage count via a smart lineout move that saw number eight Billy Vunipola send an unmarked George over to leave Northampton two points behind.

Northampton suddenly could not stem the tide, and when Saints collapsed a 66th-minute maul, Garner awarded a penalty try that Lozowski converted to set up a third successive Premiership victory, before Saints replacement Sam Dickinson was sin-binned for a technical offence.

And Saints' miserable second half continued right to the end, with centre Luther Burelll groggily leaving the field after a lengthy delay while he received treatment following a midfield collision with Saracens skipper Brad Barritt.

Lozowski, meanwhile, added two more penalties, meaning that he finished with 17 points as he continued to prove an admirable deputy for Farrell.


From Belfast Telegraph