Northampton Saints slay Dragons to end losing streak

BACK IN BUSINESS - a gritty edge in the collision areas helped Saints end a four-game losing run at Newport-Gwent Dragons
BACK IN BUSINESS - a gritty edge in the collision areas helped Saints end a four-game losing run at Newport-Gwent Dragons

Saints slayed the Dragons 30-20 to end their four-match losing streak and soar to the top of LV= Cup pool four.

Second-half scores from Phil Dowson and Jamie Elliott and 20 points from the boot of Ryan Lamb did the business for Jim Mallinder’s men.

Tonderai Chavhanga threatened to pile on the misery for Saints as he notched a fine hat-trick but the Dragons really struggled during a torrid second half.

The RaboDirect PRO12 side had gone in 10-6 up at the break but failed to convert that lead into victory as they suffered their 10th defeat in 12 games this season.

For Saints it was a welcome morale boost ahead of the return to Premiership action, against London Welsh at Franklin’s Gardens on Saturday.

Mallinder had never lost five successive games as Saints boss and he and his men had been in desperate need of a pick-me-up.

Consequently, the director of rugby brought back the likes of Phil Dowson, Lee Dickson and Samu Manoa, who missed last weekend’s 31-30 defeat to Harlequins.

Saints had the added incentive of moving to the top of the table with a win against the Welsh strugglers.

And it was the away side who started on the front foot, showing plenty of ambition to win a penalty which Lamb booted into the corner.

But after Saints put the squeeze on and won another penalty, the fly-half failed to slot an easy kick from in front of the posts.

Lamb’s slow start continued as he fumbled the ball out of play, gifting the home side possession which they did little to earn.

The Dragons looked to have made the most of it as they crossed the line, but referee Luke Pearce pulled play back for a forward pass.

Saints soon made the most of the reprieve as they stole the ball in midfield and Lamb nailed the penalty from where his missed his first attempt.

The Dragons were struggling to string phases together, but they were handed a chance to level things up as Pearce penalised Saints at the scrum and Tom Prydie did the business.

But Lamb immediately restored his side’s advantage with another easy penalty and Saints continued to get on top at the breakdown, slaying the Dragons at every opportunity,

Still, though, the men in blue’s dominance up front wasn’t paying dividends as the backline continued to fail to find their way through.

Lamb’s passing was either sublime or ridiculous and after his ambitious delivery was fumbled by Dom Waldouck, Dragons held on to the ball and got the first try of the game.

Slippery customer Chavhanga was the grateful recipient as Lamb and Waldouck complained of an illegal obstruction in the build-up.

Prydie added the extras and the home side, having shown little during the first 36 minutes, boasted a 10-6 lead.

Lamb missed the chance to narrow the gap to just a point before the break as his penalty went wide of the upright and Saints as so often in recent weeks found themselves behind at the interval.

Brian Mujati was introduced at the break as Northampton looked to hammer home their advantage at the scrum, and it immediately paid dividends as the pack won a penalty.

Lamb slotted it in front of the posts, but after pulling his side back to within a point, the No.10 saw his chip in midfield gathered and Chavhanga surged through for his second score of the day.

Prydie missed the conversion and Saints were soon back on the attack, with their advantage up front telling in the form of a try for Dowson, after a maul had got him over the line.

Lamb kicked the conversion to put the away side ahead and he soon notched another penalty to stretch the advantage to four points.

Saints were squeezing the life out of the Dragons, who were coughing up penalty after penalty, and Lamb added yet another three points with 20 minutes to go.

The Welsh outfit just couldn’t cope with their English opponents and Nathan Buck was pinned and sent to the sin bin.

And Saints took advantage of the man advantage as Lamb finally got a chip pass right, sending it through for Elliott, who touched down for his first try of the season.

Lamb’s topsy-turvy game continued as he missed the conversion, but his side were well in the ascendancy at 27-15 up.

Again, back came the Dragons, showing their fire and desire as they opened up the Saints backline for Chavhanga to complete his hat-trick, though he looked to be in touch.

Prydie missed the conversion and Lamb showed him how to hit the target up the other end, landing a drop goal to put Northampton 10 points up with seven minutes to go.

And they held out to restore belief ahead of a six big weeks at home and abroad.

Dragons: Prydie, Harries, Leach, Smith, Chavhanga, D Evans, W Evans (J Evans 64); O Evans (Price 49), Gustafson (S Jones 56), Way (Buck 35), A Jones, Sidoli (Nimmo 56), I Jones (L Evans 56), Cudd, Brown.

Replacements: Robling, Dixon

Saints: May; K Pisi, Waldouck, Burrell, Elliott; Lamb, Dickson (Roberts 62); A Waller (E Waller 72), Haywood, Doran-Jones (Mujati 40); Manoa, Sorenson; Clark, Dowson (Nutley 65), van Velze.

Replacements: McMillan, Oakley, Armstrong, Collins.

Referee: Luke Pearce