Tom Vickers’ Leicester Tigers v Northampton Saints review and player ratings

Picture by Linda Dawson
Picture by Linda Dawson
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Jim Mallinder wanted Saints to take the game to Tigers on derby day - and he got his wish.

For long spells, the away side dictated proceedings, displaying the ever-increasing confidence among their phalanx of talented backs.

Saints went toe to toe with Tigers on their own turf. It wasn’t the first time, but on this occasion there was a real threat to the home team.

And, with 10 minutes to go, Mallinder’s men looked set to end a winless run at Welford Road which stretches back to 2007.

But, to their credit, Tigers came roaring back. That is, of course, what champion teams do. They don’t give up, even when the mountain seems too steep to climb.

Toby Flood showcased his class to take the game by the scruff of the neck in the final exchanges, just as Stephen Myler had been doing for prolonged periods.

And, in the end, Tigers had two points that looked hugely unlikely at various stages, especially when Alex Corbisiero burrowed his way over the line on 46 minutes.

Saints, though, can take great heart from the way they performed. They looked Tigers in the eye and refused to blink first.

The best illustration of that came during the first half when Myler turned down a kickable penalty, instead booting the ball to the corner.

Saints weren’t at Welford Road to say ‘thank you’ to Leicester for giving them the occasional three points.

This is not a Northampton team prepared to take the scraps, it wants to dine at the top table and feast on the best food its rivals have to offer.

Saints weren’t able to convert the lineout in a promising position, but, at 3-0 up, they had signalled their intent.

And, led by the likes of Courtney Lawes and Sam Dickinson, who put in gargantuan performances, they were to continue in that vain.

That was until Tigers eventually found their feet late on and begun to turn the screw, backed by the fervent home faithful.

Saints will know they should have seen the game out, and two yellow cards during the course of it didn’t do them any favours.

Luther Burrell and, with 10 minutes to go, Lawes were sent to the bin and, right or wrong, that is now seven yellow cards in five games this season.

Mallinder made a point of saying his side couldn’t afford to sustain sin-binnings at Welford Road.

And, although they coped well without Burrell, being shorn of man of the match Lawes late on undoubtedly had a big impact.

Lawes had risen to the task of calling the lineouts in the absence of Christian Day and, even though Tigers had Louis Deacon binned at the same time, his absence was vital.

The ability to stop sides scoring without men getting on the wrong side of the referee is something Saints must work on in the weeks and months to come.

Overall, though, Saturday’s showing elicited far more positives than negatives.

At the end of last season and the start of this one, Northampton have shown they can go to the toughest venues and push their hosts to breaking point.

Now they’ll need to do it all again in the Heineken Cup next weekend, when Castres, a side who beat Saints in the pool stages last season, provide the opposition.

In the grand scheme of the season, a win there is more important than one at Tigers.

Wins on the road in the short European format will be crucial with the pool Saints have been presented with - Ospreys and Leinster also lay in wait - and flaying the French would be a great way to start.

And if they can iron out those disciplinary problems and play to the level they did at Welford Road on Saturday, Mallinder will know his men have every chance.

How they rated...

BEN FODEN

Not quite at the level of his Premiership final performance against Tigers in May, but still provided good go-forward from full-back... 7

JAMIE ELLIOTT

Wasn’t able to influence the game as much as he did against Sale eight days earlier, but still played his part in a good backs effort... 6

GEORGE PISI

Managed to find some gaps in the Tigers defence and the smiling Samoan helped Saints gain territory in the process... 7

LUTHER BURRELL

A mixed afternoon for the big centre, who was hugely impressive for long periods, but was hit with a sin-binning and sustained a late injury... 7

GEORGE NORTH

Worried the Tigers fans, but was unable to get the try Saints desired as the bounce of the ball went against him and he knocked on with the line in sight... 6

STEPHEN MYLER

Was in control for long stages of the game and his passing and kicking from the tee was so accurate. Stood up to the challenge on derby day... 8

LEE DICKSON

Another really impressive performance from the scrum-half, who is having a fine season, continually inspiring an impressive backline... 8

ALEX CORBISIERO

Grabbed his first try for Saints and engaged in a titanic tussle with Dan Cole that was hard to call... 7

DYLAN HARTLEY

The skipper was typically secure in the lineout and made some big stops on onrushing Tigers attackers... 7

TOM MERCEY

Had his work cut out against Logovi’i Mulipola in the scrum but played his part in defence to ensure Saints only conceded one try... 6

SAMU MANOA

Big performance from one half of the ‘Bruise Brothers’. The American was impressive in defence and attack... 7

COURTNEY LAWES - CHRON STAR MAN

The second row behemoth appeared to be everywhere for Saints. He conducted the lineout well and was so effective at both ends of the pitch. Sin-binned late on... 8

TOM WOOD

Made some great carries and showed his England class in an all-action display that shook Tigers up... 8

PHIL DOWSON

Steady showing from the experienced back row forward. Always has an influence on his team-mates with some assured play... 7

SAM DICKINSON

This man just keeps getting better and better. Made some huge carries, brusing off Tigers players at will and was also a man mountain in defence... 8