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Northampton, led by Sleightholme and Mitchell, secure a win against Saracens.

Last year at this time, Northampton lost to Saracens after giving up a 22-point lead in the last quarter. However, this time they were able to hold on and prevent a similar defeat. With only a 13-0 lead as the game reached the hour mark, they successfully defended against the reigning champions in a match that became more intense in the last 30 minutes.

According to Phil Dowson, the director of rugby, the team was able to remain calm upon their return because they were not calm before. He believes it’s not about trying to erase the past, but rather learning from it. The players were able to handle the situation and the most important factor was their composed demeanor.

This week, Saracens made headlines for a different reason. Their captain, Owen Farrell, who also plays for England, has chosen to take a break from international play. This suggests that Farrell’s role is crucial to the success of his teams, despite criticism from many.

Maro Itoje, who has long been considered a potential England captain, assumed leadership, but Saracens struggled to overcome the chilly conditions and rise to the challenge presented by the opposing team. In the last quarter, Itoje and other experienced players stepped up to secure at least a bonus point. However, it was Courtney Lawes, a former England captain, whose impressive performance helped keep the reigning champions at bay.

Northampton were missing their team leader as well. The week started with the announcement of Lewis Ludlam’s injury, which added to the speculation of his move to southern France next season. However, the news about Farrell quickly overshadowed that. Mark McCall’s statement later in the week showed that the frustration over how Farrell was being treated by fans and various forms of media was deeply felt within the club.

To everyone’s surprise, Saracens began the game in a lackluster manner. Some of their England players were unavailable – Ben Earl due to injury and Elliot Daly and Jamie George taking a break. Jamie George was only brought onto the field in the second half.

Northampton had a slow start in the game, but they controlled most of the ball possession in the first 30 minutes. Fin Smith, who had just recovered from an injury, initially missed his attempt at scoring, but later successfully made two penalty kicks in the first half. As a result, Northampton went into halftime with a 6-0 lead, without showing much threat in the Saracens’ 22 or towards their tryline.

The Saints’ defense was exceptional when it was needed. Saracens intensified their attack as the first half came to a close. Repeatedly, they were compelled to make mistakes due to Northampton’s assertive defensive front, with Lawes and Alex Coles leading the way.

The Saracens team made a strong effort just before half-time, executing a well-organized lineout and drive from five meters away. Lawes played a crucial role in the play and his long arms were able to disrupt the entire effort. As a result, Northampton was awarded a penalty during the following scrum.

The situation for Saracens worsened in the second half when their opponents scored from a distance. It was an impressive try, with George Furbank, who was serving as captain, making the initial run on the left that was supported by Tom Pearson. As the ball was passed to the right, Fraser Dingwall made a clever kick to the wing, which was caught by Ollie Sleightholme who easily scored.

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The response was expected, although somewhat slow. Saracens chose to take three penalties and finally succeeded on their third attempt. Nick Tompkins, Billy Vunipola, and Itoje made strong plays, with Vunipola’s brother Mako, also an England player on the Saracens’ reserve team, passing the ball out wide to his cousin Manu who then found Tom Parton for a score at the 60-minute mark.

Manu did not successfully complete the conversion, however, that was not the biggest issue for Saracens. Northampton had also subbed in an England player, Alex Mitchell, who was skillfully released by some excellent passing from their reserve forwards. The English scrum-half smoothly evaded Alex Goode and scored.

Saracens were faced with a challenging situation of being behind 18-5 with less than 15 minutes left to play. As the champions, they were expected to thrive in this test. In response, they scored a try after five minutes. Itoje made a strong carry and Goode executed a skillful chip, resulting in Alex Lewington winning the race to the ball.

Manu Vunipola successfully kicked from the sideline, marking the end of the game. The Saints remained composed and were able to maintain their lead until the end.

Source: theguardian.com