Hougaard ends Saints’ unbeaten run

SARACENS (24) vs NORTHAMPTON (17)

SARACENS fly-half Derick Hougaard kicked 24 points to earn a hard-fought victory over Northampton and end the Saints’ unbeaten start to the season. Hougaard registered seven penalties and a drop-goal as Sarries overcame a sluggish opening spell by switching to a kicking game at a sodden Vicarage Road.

Shane Geraghty responded with four penalties for the visitors while Paul Diggin went over late on to secure them a losing bonus point.

But it was not enough to deny Saracens, and Saints director of rugby Jim Mallinder blamed referee Dave Pearson’s decision to sin-bin Geraghty and Calum Clark. “I do believe the two sin-binnings were harsh,” said Mallinder. “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.”

Saracens director of rugby Brendan Venter had nothing but praise for Pearson, who got the match underway almost five minutes late because he was delayed by traffic.

“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,” said Venter.

“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.”