Worcester Warriors 17 Northampton Saints 18: Tom Vickers’ review and player ratings

Ben Nutley was Saints' key man at Worcester (pictures: Kirsty Edmonds)
Ben Nutley was Saints' key man at Worcester (pictures: Kirsty Edmonds)

It’s far from pretty right now, but it’s still pretty effective.

Saints fans who have witnessed the past four matches may not have enjoyed them much.

Ben Foden led Saints out on his 200th appearance for the club

Ben Foden led Saints out on his 200th appearance for the club

But they can at least seek solace in the results their side have achieved.

Because next Friday when they face Newcastle Falcons at Franklin’s Gardens, Saints will be bidding to make it five wins in a row.

By hook or by crook, they have got over the line in recent matches against Gloucester (twice), Newcastle and now Worcester.

They have found a way to win, which is what good teams do.

Alex Waller showed self-control

Alex Waller showed self-control

And they certainly had their hands over their eyes during the closing seconds at Sixways, as Calum Clark’s indiscretion allowed Jamie Shillcock to line up a last-gasp penalty.

But, unlike last season, when Tom Heathcote’s dramatic drop goal won it for Worcester late on, Saints survived.

And that winning streak remains intact.

Their performance was a mixed one.

Calum Clark (picture: Kirsty Edmonds)

Calum Clark (picture: Kirsty Edmonds)

Once again, the pack stood up to the test, with the likes of Jamie Gibson and replacement Ben Nutley excelling.

But they never really looked like scoring a try, instead using Stephen Myler’s assured boot to win it.

That is certainly acceptable, because winning matches isn’t all about playing stylish rugby and outclassing the opposition.

Sometimes, especially away from home, you have to tough it out, battle for every ball and ride your luck.

Kieran Brookes used his physicality

Kieran Brookes used his physicality

And that was certainly what Saints did at Sixways.

They will need to improve to beat a developing Falcons team.

And they will certainly need to be better to negotiate a difficult December, which starts with a local derby against Leicester and a Champions Cup double-header against Leinster.

In those matches, Saints will need to have more than just grunt and determination.

They will need speed, swagger and class.

But with players like Louis Picamoles and George North to return by then, they will have extra impetus.

Now those not on international duty need to keep fighting, and they just need to keep building confidence.

Because you cannot play an expansive game if you don’t believe in it.

At times at Sixways, Saints tried to open things up and the ball simply didn’t go to hand.

Things didn’t quite click, which has been the story for some time, but the character they have shown is creditable.

Especially when you consider their confidence could have been shattered by the crushing defeat at Castres last month.

Since then, Saints have won every game.

And for that, the coaches and players deserve some praise.

But they, like everyone who watches, will know, things will only get tougher and the obstacles will get steeper.

They need to take their late lucky break at Sixways and ensure it doesn’t go to waste.

And if they can back it up against the Falcons on Friday, they will be heading for the big derby day against Tigers at Welford Road in decent shape.

How they rated...

BEN FODEN

Led the team out on his 200th Saints appearance and though he defended well enough, he didn’t have much chance to get on the front foot in attack... 6

JAMIE ELLIOTT

Competed well for the high ball and looked sharp enough going forward, but this was a tough night for the backs... 6

LUTHER BURRELL

Tried to use his power to break down the door, but Worcester fronted up well, even if the home side did concede far too many penalties... 6

RORY HUTCHINSON

Another good experience for the young centre and he didn’t look out of his depth against a determined Worcester team... 6

JAMES WILSON

Had a couple of handling issues in the first half, but bounced back well enough before being taken off... 6

STEPHEN MYLER

His kicking ability was so important again, with every point vital to earn his team the victory on the road... 7

LEE DICKSON

Wasn’t on long enough to be able to make an impact and Saints didn’t get off to the best start... 5

ALEX WALLER

Worcester tried their best to wind the prop up, but he did well enough to resist it as Saints fought well... 6

MIKE HAYWOOD

The hooker has had a deserved rest during the past couple of weeks and he looked fresh here... 7

KIERAN BROOKES

The big prop always makes ground and he did everything he could to be a battering ram for Saints... 6

MICHAEL PATERSON

Has enjoyed a good start to the season and this was another strong showing from the second row forward... 7

CHRISTIAN DAY

His leadership qualities and composure always come in handy for Saints, and it was no different here... 7

JAMIE GIBSON

An important display from the flanker, who did well at the breakdown and made some good tackles... 8

CALUM CLARK

Was certainly fired up for this one, putting everything into it, but got involved in a couple of incidents that could have been avoided... 6

SAM DICKINSON

Was unfortunate to be forced off early on as he suffered a knee injury, ending his spell as skipper... 5

Replacements (who played more than 20 minutes)

BEN NUTLEY (for Dickinson 11) - CHRON STAR MAN

Made a huge impact after coming on and he showed great energy, getting around the field in defence and attack... 8

TOM KESSELL (for Dickson 22)

A good showing from the scrum-half, who helped Saints to up the tempo at times and also made some useful defensive interventions... 7