Tom Vickers’ Northampton Saints v Worcester Warriors review and player ratings

STAR MAN - GJ van Velze (Pictures: Linda Dawson)
STAR MAN - GJ van Velze (Pictures: Linda Dawson)
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When a player who is third choice in his chosen position comes into the team, scores twice and picks up the man of the match award, you know you’re in good shape.

That was the case for Saints on Saturday as GJ van Velze made his mark, once again demonstrating the incredible depth the squad now possesses.

In the process, he showed Worcester, the club he has agreed to join this summer, just what he is capable of.

But the crucial thing from a Northampton perspective was that once again it was a day when players stepped up and got the job done.

Van Velze can consider himself unfortunate to be in a position - at No.8 - where Sam Dickinson and Samu Manoa, in particular, have shone this season.

But when he gets a chance, the South African usually takes it. And he’s not the only one.

England Under 20s centre Tom Stephenson came into the side for his first Aviva Premiership start, showcasing how bright his future promises to be.

At the other end of the experience spectrum was Lee Dickson, who returned from the England camp and looked razor sharp.

Add to that yet more positive contributions from players coming off the bench, and things are looking pretty rosy at the Gardens.

Worcester, to their credit, scrapped hard, refusing to yield territory and doing their best to cause a sizeable upset.

But they were hampered by a lack of discipline that saw Jonathan Thomas sent off for striking Sam Dickinson in the face and Leonardo Senatore and Sam Betty sin-binned.

They couldn’t afford such absences on an afternoon when they were always likely to have their work cut out.

Wayne Barnes would have hoped for a quiet afternoon as he refereed a Saints game for the first time since dismissing Dylan Hartley in last May’s Premiership final.

But it wasn’t to be, as he dished out more cards than a casanova on Valentine’s Day.

Warriors boss Dean Ryan wasn’t delighted with the performance of the officials after the game, but the pressure Saints were able to build put them in a tough position.

And it cannot be denied that the best side prevailed.

Worcester did emerge with credit and their application was emphasised by a final 10 minutes which saw Saints starved of the score which would have brought the bonus point.

But, as Jim Mallinder pointed out, for his team it was all about claiming another win, and Northampton remains the name at the top of the table.

It’s now 10 wins in a row for Mallinder’s men, nine in the Aviva Premiership, which is a fine record at the best of times.

But when you consider the list of absentees currently includes Messrs Corbisiero, Hartley, Lawes, Wood, Burrell, North, Day and Foden, it’s even more significant.

Fans of Saints used to look at the Six Nations period with trepidation, now they view it with excitement.

It’s a chance to see those players who haven’t had much game time, but who can consider themselves unfortunate on that score.

Van Velze is one of those and his ability and attitude serves to illustrate the abundance of quality in the current Saints squad.

They will certainly need it if they are to maintain their current run, but this group should expect to do just that in the coming weeks.

How they rated...

JAMES WILSON

Made some nice breaks once again and is an important figure in relieving pressure, with his booming boot a useful feature of the side... 7

KEN PISI

Made one great hit in the first half that got Saints going, but didn’t get too much possession on another day dominated by the forwards... 6

GEORGE PISI

Showed a few more glimpses of the flair that has been coming to the surface as the season has gone on... 7

TOM STEPHENSON

A really strong showing from the youngster on his first league start. Made plenty of ground in the first half with some powerful running... 7

JAMIE ELLIOTT

Not too many opportunities to get on the scoresheet, with his best chance thwarted by a good saving tackle from Chris Pennell... 6

STEPHEN MYLER

Another great day with the boot for the fly-half, who landed all six of his kicks. Controlled the game well, too... 8

LEE DICKSON

Sharp showing from the scrum-half, who looked hungry before being replaced early in the second half... 7

ALEX WALLER

Dominated in the scrum once again, helping Saints get some real forward dominance that they used to good effect... 7

MIKE HAYWOOD

Fairly steady in the lineout once again and plenty of aggression at the breakdown, helping Saints keep Worcester under pressure... 7

SALESI MA’AFU

Again helped his team control the set piece and showed plenty of aggression around the park before being replaced... 6

SAMU MANOA

Such a great option to have in the side as he gains ground with almost every carry. Wasn’t able to totally dominate as he has in recent weeks, but still did well... 7

SAM DICKINSON

Started at lock for the first time in Saints colours and did nothing wrong, making some more big carries and some good hits... 7

CALUM CLARK

Energetic showing from the flanker, putting plenty of effort into every maul and again excelling at the breakdown... 7

PHIL DOWSON

The skipper carried his Saints forward and was unlucky not to get a try, just being held up short of the line in the second half... 7

GJ VAN VELZE - CHRON STAR MAN

Grabbed himself a couple of tries and also did well calling the lineout in an extremely impressive all-round display against the team he will join this summer... 8

Replacements (who played more than 20 minutes)

KAHN FOTUALI’I (for Dickson 52)

Added something different to the mix, fizzing the ball about and keeping Saints on the front foot with his immense intelligence... 7

GARETH DENMAN (for Ma’afu 53)

Played his part in a huge forward push during the second half as Worcester failed to deal with Saints’ power game... 7