Bitter-sweet return Jersey for Leigh Halfpenny as Scarlets

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Bitter-sweet return Jersey for Leigh Halfpenny as Scarlets lose at Toulon
Europe is supposed to be a different ball game from the English Premiership but for Northampton this was a disturbingly painful case of déjà vu. In many ways this record thrashing was even worse than the Saints’ 55-24 humiliation to the same opponents on the opening weekend of the domestic season at Twickenham, coming as it did in front of their own supporters on a night when they had hoped to re-state their own Champions’ Cup ambitions.

They reckoned without an outstanding Saracens team whose hunger for improvement shows absolutely no sign of flat-lining. Only a really good side win back-to-back European titles; only a great one storm to a hat-trick. On the evidence of this eight-try annihilation Saracens will take a serious amount of stopping even when they come up against opposition breathing far more fire and brimstone than the pallid Saints could muster here.
Quick, slick, direct, clever: Saracens ticked every available box and more. Even the supposed head-to-head contest between the incumbent England captain, Dylan Hartley, and the starting Lions hooker, Jamie George, was relegated to an irrelevant sideshow amid the onrushing one-way traffic, George ambling off after 51 minutes with his side already 36-6 ahead. The watching England coach, Eddie Jones, would have admired the defensive workload of Courtney Lawes but this Authentic Laken Tomlinson Jersey was otherwise not a pleasant night to be wearing green, black and yellow. “We thought we’d learned our lessons but clearly we haven’t,” said the Saints director of rugby, Jim Mallinder. “Sometimes you just don’t see these things coming. By half-time it was game over.”
Hartley’s captaincy skills may work wonders in an England context but he is not a miracle worker. This was his club’s worst home defeat in Europe and only their 60-13 defeat in Leinster last season has involved a wider margin. There was a similarly stark contrast in the fortunes of Wales’s two Lions wingers, Liam Williams and George North. Williams scored two well-taken tries, continuing his positive start since his move to London, while North was forced off prematurely with a concerning injury to his left knee.
On a clear, almost absurdly mild evening there was a glaring disparity in class right from the outset, with Saracens 17-3 up inside the first 22 minutes despite Owen Farrell missing an early penalty from in front of the posts. It was not quite as bad as at Twickenham, when Saints trailed 41-3 at the interval, but in terms of quality there was still a deep chasm between the sides.
The game was only 11 minutes old when the visitors went through 13 ominously slick phases before Williams cut a nice angle past North and Cobus Reinach to score with some ease. A driven lineout soon produced a second try for Brad Barritt and a sparsely attended Sunday matins service would have produced more noise than the Franklin’s Gardens congregation.
But the Saints’ woe was only just starting. A rare incursion into their opponents’ 22 by North ended with the Welsh winger prostrate on the turf after being tackled and dispossessed by Barritt. After lengthy treatment North resumed, only to collapse in a heap shortly afterwards with no one anywhere near him. He was helped gingerly away and looks a major doubt for Wales’s autumn Tests.
Only when Farrell upended Ben Foden, then caught an aggrieved Teimana Harrison with a raised forearm did Saracens find themselves remotely under pressure. Even then the French referee, Pascal Gaüzère, opted merely for a stern word and a penalty kicked by Stephen Myler. Otherwise it was almost embarrassingly one-sided, Williams cutting inside to collect his second try after a nice flick on from Marcelo Bosch, and Calum Clark taking advantage of the sin-binning of David Ribbans to secure a try bonus point from close range on the stroke of half-time.
The unsportsmanlike booing as Farrell lined up his attempted conversion offered a pretty clear indication of the prevailing local mood. In truth, though, their team was being brutally sliced and diced by opponents sending a serious message to those hoping to deprive them Authentic Laken Tomlinson Jersey of a hat-trick of European titles. There was another compelling illustration less than two minutes into the second half. A Authentic Laken Tomlinson Jersey little show and go by Farrell carved a huge hole in the Saints defence and slick support from Maro Itoje and Jackson Wray helped set up the outstanding Vincent Koch for a stretching score.


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