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Venter forced to turn to plan B

Saracens rugby director Brendan Venter admitted unexpected weather slowed his team's plans in their 24-17 win over Northampton as well as the arrival of referee Dave Pearson.

A motorway traffic-jam left Pearson hurrying his preparations and meant the game started just short of five minutes late.

Venter said:"We did not show tactical sharpness in the opening 20 minutes, but I told the guys to take the Treviso game off the shelf, the kicking game that we used for that European game last season."

He continued: "We had trouble in the scrum at first, but the pack turned it for us against a very strong Northampton pack who have destroyed everyone ahead of them so far.

"We studied Dave Pearson's games so far and he does the same in every game, fair penalty awards and spread across the game. He is consistent and very, very impressive. And never underestimate how important it is for us to have a fit and available Steve Borthwick in the team in terms of both his tactical brain and leadership qualities."

Northampton rugby director Jim Mallinder left Watford with a very different opinion of Pearson.

He said: "We think Dave Pearson had a disappointing game. When you lose you tend to look at the referee more critically, but we'll look closely at the video before saying anything further.

"I do believe the two sin-binnings were harsh. Calum Clark just went in to make a tackle and Shane Geraghty also made a tackle and tried to roll away quickly. A penalty, yes, but hardly a yellow card. These sin-binnings are very important. But you need to control the ball to control the game and we didn't during the middle of the game."

Derick Hougaard sank Saints with a 24-point man of the match performance, kicking seven penalties and a drop goal as Saracens recovered from a scrappy start at Vicarage Road.

Shane Geraghty scored four penalties for Northampton and wing Paul Diggin earned them a losing bonus point with a late try but former Springbok fly-half Hougaard ensured that there are now no unbeaten teams left in the Premiership after four rounds.

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