Tom Vickers’ London Welsh v Saints view and player ratings: Saints almost there

SATISFIED - Saints director of rugby Jim Mallinder
SATISFIED - Saints director of rugby Jim Mallinder

Jim Mallinder was all smiles as he entered the press room at the Kassam Stadium on Sunday evening.

The Saints’ director of rugby sat down in front of the assembled media, eased himself back in his chair and fielded questions, maintaining a grin throughout.

It was the look of a man who knows the hard work of getting into the Premiership play-offs is almost done.

Not that Mallinder, understandably, would ever admit that.

In truth, Saints must surely make the top four this season. The comprehensive four-try win against London Welsh pushed them five points clear of fifth-placed Gloucester.

A Gloucester side who have shipped 10 tries in their past two games.

A Gloucester side who struggled badly at Sale on Friday night and eventually slumped to a 32-9 defeat.

And a Gloucester side who must host table-toppers Saracens before going to top-six-chasing Exeter Chiefs on the final day.

It’s never wise to presume, but you’d have to feel it’s a really tough ask for the Cherry and Whites to claim fourth from here.

For Saints it’s about keeping going until the play-off place is mathematically assured. And a win on Saturday against Sale could be key to achieving that.

In Oxford on Sunday, Mallinder’s men showed they would not go the way Gloucester had two days earlier.

They dominated from the off and had they not been so hungry for tries, they would never have fallen behind as they did during the first half.

Eventually the cavern in class between the two teams told and stars of the show Tom May and Luther Burrell took the game away from Welsh.

Burrell’s late score, which brought the bonus points to Northampton, was the icing on the cake.

And for Saints it was a continuation of a superb away record, which has seen them lose just three times on the road during this league campaign.

That form will be a real boost should Saints, as expected, book their place in a fourth successive Premiership play-off semi-final.

Now all that remains is for them to make absolutely certain and ensure Mallinder is still smiling come the second week of May.

How they rated...

BEN FODEN

Looked a lot more like his old self, proving a useful weapon going forward and showing his defensive resilience to stop a try during the second half... 7

KEN PISI

Hasn’t played much of late due to injury, but looked sharp on his return to the side and was able to find gaps in the home defence... 7

GEORGE PISI

Didn’t get any time to make a real impression as injury struck in the 22nd minute, giving May the chance to shine... 6

LUTHER BURRELL - CHRON STAR MAN

Star of the Saints show as he demonstrated his immense power and pace to put Welsh to the sword... 9

JAMIE ELLIOTT

Always looking for opportunities and made a couple of quick breaks which got Saints on the front foot... 7

STEPHEN MYLER

Missed all three of his conversions, but all were tough and he was steady enough in open play... 6

LEE DICKSON

The scrum-half was switched on from the start and made one searing run during the first half that got Saints going... 7

SOANE TONGA’UIHA

The big man helped Saints gain a large number of yards as he used his power to blast holes in the London Welsh rearguard... 7

DYLAN HARTLEY

The skipper never lets his side down and put in another dominant display on a good day for everyone of a Saints persuasion... 7

BRIAN MUJATI

Massive display from the prop, who steamrollered the London Welsh defence and played a huge part in Burrell’s first try... 8

COURTNEY LAWES

The human wrecking ball was in good form as he hunted Welsh down and kept them pinned back in their own half with a series of big hits... 7

CHRISTIAN DAY

Assured presence as always and ensured the lineout functioned well enough on a good day in the set piece... 7

TOM WOOD

Made a big impact in enemy territory, proving tough to tackle and leading Saints forward with some strong running... 7

PHIL DOWSON

One huge hit showed the flanker’s intentions as he helped to stop Welsh gaining any momentum... 7

SAMU MANOA

May have only been on the pitch for 40 minutes, but he did plenty during that time, including one superb sidestep which set up May’s second try... 7

Replacements (who played more than 20 minutes)

TOM MAY (for G Pisi 22)

Turbo-charged was the best way to describe the centre’s showing as he displayed devastating pace and determination to score two timely tries... 8

GJ VAN VELZE (for Manoa 40)

Didn’t have as big an impact as Manoa did during his 40 minutes, but certainly didn’t let the team down... 6

CALUM CLARK (for Dowson 54)

Hadn’t played since January due to a shoulder injury, but got stuck in and showed his desire to help Saints’ cause... 7

PAUL DORAN-JONES (for Mujati 54)

The prop is another who has been out of the matchday squad in recent weeks, but he showed no signs of rustiness in a steady display... 6