Northampton 41-30 Saracens: James Ramm at the double as Men in Black brought back down to earth

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Saracens fell prey to the very red flag that boss Mark McCall ordered his side to beware, stunned into a 41-30 Premiership defeat at Northampton.

James Ramm bagged a brace in Saints’ five-try dismantling of reigning champions Saracens – to cement the Franklin’s Gardens side’s position at the top of the table.

England star Tommy Freeman sealed Saints’ handsome win, before Ollie Sleightholme added a punitive fifth score in a home triumph started by Alex Coles.

Saints secured a rare league double over Saracens, having beaten the north Londoners 18-12 at StoneX Stadium in December.

Saracens were all-conquering in last weekend’s 52-7 thrashing of Harlequins at Tottenham, claiming the London bragging rights in style on Owen Farrell’s 250th club appearance.

The Men In Black were all-consumed by Saints’ aggressive defence and open-field attack in the East Midlands on Friday night, however.

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Rugby director McCall had branded the comprehensive win over capital rivals Quins as serious red-flag territory, warning that his side must not believe they had cracked it in one week.

McCall insisted one win after the league’s resumption did not represent momentum, and will be frustrated to have been proven immediately right.

Sarries trailed 41-20 with two minutes to play, only for Alex Lewington to race in twice – crucially securing a four-try bonus point.

Theo McFarland and Ben Earl scrapped for charge-down tries otherwise for a Saracens side that never got out of second gear.

England fly-half Fin Smith landed a perfect 16 points from the boot for a Saints side that cemented their status as the team to beat in the league this term.

Saracens will remain in the play-off fight without issue, but McCall will certainly take umbrage with this loss and the manner of performance.

Northampton floored Saracens twice in the first quarter-hour, punishing the visitors mercilessly for a sluggish start.

First Fin Smith sent Coles coasting in after Saracens lost shape in defence.

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Then Ollie Sleightholme set off on a slalom break that almost sent him hareing under the posts.

Instead he popped off the ground, and the onrushing Ramm finished off smartly.

Two Smith conversions and a penalty later, and Saints led 17-0 at the tail-end of the first quarter.

Just when Sarries looked on the brink however, the defending champions hauled themselves off the canvas.

McFarland charged down Tom James’ attempted box kick on the edge of the Saints 22.

The Samoa lock then employed all the basketball skills of his youth to pluck the bouncing loose ball out of the air and dot down.

Farrell converted, added a penalty from a folded scrum six minutes later, and in a flash, Sarries were right back in the contest.

The Men In Black then botched two fine scoring chances, spurning the chance to take control before half-time.

Gonzalez wasted a fine move by popping to no one deep in the Saints 22, then Nick Tompkins mistimed his dummy line and collided with a Farrell pass intended for the second attacking wave.

 (David Davies/PA Wire)
(David Davies/PA Wire)

Saracens trailed 17-10 at the break, before a Farrell penalty was dwarfed by Ramm’s second try.

Saints full-back Ramm cut a neat line to flummox the visiting defence with a smart score, with the hosts eventually leading 27-13 after a second Fin Smith penalty.

Elliot Daly cut clear to press Sarries’ claims once more, and his own pressure after a cute chip eventually allowed Earl to charge down Ramm – and storm in for another opportunist score.

Saracens had cut Saints’ lead to 27-20, but then Lewington was sin-binned for a deliberate knock-on.

Saints took immediate advantage, with England wing Freeman ghosting home for the bonus-point try.

Smith’s conversion stretched Saints’ lead to 34-20 with 18 minutes to play.

Sleightholme raced in quickly for Saints’ fifth score, with Sarries poleaxed.

But then Lewington raced in twice in as many minutes right at the death, profiting both times from fine Theo Dan breaks.

Saracens will head home frustrated, but at least they were able to pinch a bonus-point.