- Owen Farrell has taken time away from rugby to focus on himself and his family
- Courtney Lawes put in a performance that will make England selectors miss him
- Tommy Freeman delivered a performance of international standard at centre
After stepping down from England duty, Owen Farrell was sitting in the stand with his son, Tommy, when he received a round of applause in the 10th minute.
The reality is that the No 10, who is recovering from a knee injury, would much rather have been on the pitch as he watched his team slip to defeat by Northampton.
Saracens missed the growl of their skipper on a day when Courtney Lawes, his former understudy to the national captaincy, stole the show.
In recent years, Northampton have not always backed up their style with steel. Their attack has earned more plaudits than their defence, but here they fronted up collectively and individually.
Every collision had bite. They dominated the rucks and Lawes set the tone with a performance that will leave England selectors wishing he had not retired from international duty.
Owen Farrell appeared at the StoneX stadium but only as a spectator with his young son
Northampton put Saracens to the sword with strong performance against the Champions
Scrum half Alex Mitchell grabbed himself a try and Saints’ offloading game worked well
For an hour, the champions were unable to score a single point. Their driving mauls were repelled and Saracens’ frustrations were clear when they saw a penalty reversed after a shove by Billy Vunipola.
Continuing his transition to the centres, Tommy Freeman delivered a performance of international standard, manhandling Nick Tompkins in midfield. His running game has been impressive, too, with Brian O’Driscoll comparing him to Welsh powerhouse George North.
‘Tommy was obviously disappointed not to go to the World Cup,’ said Northampton coach Phil Dowson. ‘He can play in the centres, at wing or full-back.
‘He’s definitely put his hand up and Steve (England head coach Borthwick) is talking about him.’
Fly-half Fin Smith will move up the England pecking order in Farrell’s absence and the youngster kicked six points to give Northampton a half-time lead.
He is unlikely to overtake Marcus Smith and George Ford for England’s No 10 jersey, but on yesterday’s evidence could pull the strings for their A team.
In the 53rd minute, Northampton bagged their first try. George Furbank spotted space around the ruck and glided behind enemy lines. Fraser Dingwall pinged a crossfield kick and Ollie Sleighthome scored on the wing.
Tom Parton replied with a Saracens try, but Northampton showcased their running skills in the final quarter.
Scrum-half Alex Mitchell was the beneficiary of their offloading game, sprinting between Alex Goode and Manu Vunipola to give his team an unassailable lead.
Alex Lewington’s late try secured Sarries a bonus point, but it was not enough to mask their frustrations.
Courtney Lawes put in a dominant performance as the engine room of Saints defence and attack
England selectors will be ruing the decision Lawes made to hang up his international boots
Bristol smash Gloucester in seven try romp
Bristol ran in seven tries in a 51-26 hammering that handed Gloucester a sixth straight loss.
Harry Randall crossed twice, with England’s Max Malins and Ellis Genge also going over.
Bath moved up to second after pulling away to beat Exeter 41-24 at the Rec.
Alfie Barbeary and Cameron Redpath scores, plus a Finn Russell penalty, took Bath 12-0 ahead but Henry Slade’s try, conversion and penalty drew the Chiefs within two points.
Ben Spencer and Stu Townsend traded tries as Bath led 20-17, but Joe Cokanasiga, Barbeary and Will Butt all crossed to seal the win.
Bristol crunched Gloucester at Ashton Gate in a one-sided game that saw them score seven tries
The Bears’ excellent attacking performance handed a struggling Gloucester side their sixth straight loss