Tom Vickers’ London Welsh versus Saints view and player ratings

DOTTING DOWN - Ben Nutley goes over for his try for Saints against London Welsh (Pictures: Kirsty Edmonds)
DOTTING DOWN - Ben Nutley goes over for his try for Saints against London Welsh (Pictures: Kirsty Edmonds)

Sunday’s trip to the Kassam Stadium could have been viewed as a no-win situation for Saints.

Had they lost to winless London Welsh, they would have disappointed the hordes of fans who made an away-day feel like a home game.

London Welsh v Northampton Saints. NNL-141130-165513009

London Welsh v Northampton Saints. NNL-141130-165513009

Had they won, little praise would be afforded due to their opponents’ perilous Aviva Premiership position.

But credit has to be given where it is due, and this was a professional performance from Jim Mallinder’s men.

They did not ease their way into the game and allow London Welsh, who had taken the lead in a defeat to Leicester a week earlier, to get up a head of steam.

Instead, the visiting forwards took the game by the scruff of the neck, with Calum Clark’s early try ensuring no anxiety would set in.

London Welsh v Northampton Saints. NNL-141130-165445009

London Welsh v Northampton Saints. NNL-141130-165445009

Welsh pushed for a riposte, nearly scoring in the corner, but Saints’ defence was typically sturdy when it mattered.

And that laid the platform for them to put the game out of sight when the opportunity arose.

Seven tries, seven different scorers and a raft of early replacements; this was all Saints could have asked for as they prepare for a decisive December.

Back-to-back Champions Cup clashes with Treviso along with league battles against Leicester and Harlequins lie in wait in the coming month.

London Welsh v Northampton Saints. NNL-141130-165641009

London Welsh v Northampton Saints. NNL-141130-165641009

So it was important they weren’t blown off course at windswept Kassam.

In the end, November concluded with no slips, no slides and a place at the top of the Premiership pile intact.

The Exeter defeat aside, the autumn international period has been a huge success for Mallinder’s men.

They have continued to score points freely, ensuring they continue to lead the way in the league and in the LV= Cup.

London Welsh v Northampton Saints. NNL-141130-165630009

London Welsh v Northampton Saints. NNL-141130-165630009

They are the top scorers in the Premiership and have the best defensive record.

And on Sunday, it was easy to see why as backs and forwards linked up to devastating effect.

Welsh showed pride and fight, deservedly grabbing a couple of second-half scores.

There can be few sports more demoralising than rugby when things are going how they are for the Exiles right now.

Sticking your head into rucks could seem pointless.

Making big hits could appear unproductive.

London Welsh v Northampton Saints. NNL-141130-165540009

London Welsh v Northampton Saints. NNL-141130-165540009

But Welsh stuck with it and, at times, stretched Saints.

And it is to the credit of the green, black and gold that they made sure there was no sting in the tail.

The five points are vital and push Saints 10 clear of both Saracens and Leicester.

And that is a position they will savour ahead of a meeting with Tigers at Franklin’s Gardens on December 20.

So while it may have been viewed as a no-win situation, the five points Saints picked up at Welsh suggest otherwise.

They got what they needed and now they know there will be no let-up as they bid to live up to their favourites tag again in Italy next weekend.

How they rated...

BEN FODEN

Scored an eye-catching try by waltzing past a couple of home players in a wide position and was generally sound... 8

JAMIE ELLIOTT

Lively throughout, the winger got himself on the scoresheet and also set up a score for Nutley with a nice inside pass... 8

TOM STEPHENSON

Another strong performance from the youngster, who loves to carry the fight and who has been a good fit for the first team... 7

LUTHER BURRELL

A strong carry created a try for Myler and this man’s only disappointment will be that he didn’t etch his own name on the scoresheet... 7

JAMES WILSON

Definitely not a Jack of all trades, master of none - this man is exceptional in every position he plays in and his score and assist for Elliott’s try were highlights... 8

STEPHEN MYLER

Controlled the game well for Saints and managed to get his name on the scoresheet with a strong finish... 7

LEE DICKSON

Tried to get Saints into their stride and eventually succeeded as he turned in another sharp display... 7

ALEX WALLER

Saints definitely had the edge up front and this man enjoyed his 50-minute performance before getting a well-earned rest... 7

MIKE HAYWOOD

Continues to impress with his assured displays ensuring Saints have not missed influential skipper Dylan Hartley... 7

SALESI MA’AFU

A good day in the scrum and the popular Australian prop can be pleased with his afternoon, which lasted just 50 minutes as the props were given a breather... 7

SAMU MANOA - CHRON STAR MAN

A typically power-packed display from the big American, whose big carries and big hits put Saints on the front foot. Also added a try for good measure... 8

CHRISTIAN DAY

Influential as he made some important tackles to help earn momentum and steered his side around the park well... 7

CALUM CLARK

Yet another fine performance from the flanker, who has been brilliant in recent weeks and who grabbed himself a try on this occasion... 8

BEN NUTLEY

Stepped in at the last minute after James Craig was forced to withdraw and this was a good performance from the blond-haired flanker, who was on the scoresheet... 8

PHIL DOWSON

Relishes captaining the side and can be delighted with how things have gone under his stewardship, with this display again emphasising his importance to the team... 7

Replacements (who played more than 20 minutes)

ETHAN WALLER (for A Waller 50)

Saints were well in control by the time this man entered the field, but he helped continue the forward momentum... 6

GARETH DENMAN (for Ma’afu 50)

Provides good competition for Ma’afu and showed his desire to impress with another steady showing... 6

TEIMANA HARRISON (for Day 54)

Will be keen to break into the first team on a regular basis and always puts everything he has into it when he comes on... 6

DOM WALDOUCK (for Burrell 54)

Came into the game when the job was done, but always shows plenty of passion and this was no different... 6

SAM DICKINSON (for Manoa 56)

Picked up a yellow card in his first appearance this season, but will just be delighted to be back in action after a neck injury... 6

London Welsh v Northampton Saints. NNL-141130-165526009

London Welsh v Northampton Saints. NNL-141130-165526009