Tom Vickers’ Saints v Tigers view and player ratings: Gardens form a real concern

Tom Wood's influence was limited as the Tigers pack hit their straps (picture: Linda Dawson)

Tom Wood's influence was limited as the Tigers pack hit their straps (picture: Linda Dawson)

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Saints’ home showings this season have mystified many people - including director of rugby Jim Mallinder.

After Saturday’s demolition derby against Leicester Tigers, which saw the away side win 36-8 in Northampton, Mallinder was asked for an explanation.

But he couldn’t quite put his finger on what’s been going wrong on the Gardens turf.

“No, I can’t,” said Mallinder when asked whether he could understand his team’s home failings. “Franklin’s Gardens is good, the crowd are good, they get behind the team.

“We’ve improved over the last few weeks against Irish and Bath here, but we’ve come down to Earth with a big bump today.”

What makes Saturday’s showing so strange is that away from home, Saints have been stubborn, resilient and full of desire.

Only London Irish, in an anomalie of a game at the Madejski Stadium, Saracens, by a point at stadium:mk, and Leicester, in a gritty Welford Road battle, have prevailed against the travelling Saints in the league.

But at the Gardens, teams have found it much more to their liking. Though losing, the likes of Exeter, Worcester and Bath have all pushed Saints all the way.

Gloucester upset the apple cart with a win last month, while Saracens, Leicester and Quins shut the door in Saints’ faces.

They have known that if they get ahead early and keep the pressure on, Saints will eventually crack and run out of ideas.

That is what Tigers did on Saturday, as they followed Sarries and Quins in putting in a streetwise showing.

While Northampton’s players were punished for disciplinary misdemeanors and basic errors, the Tigers roared to rack up the points.

And in the second half they truly made their supremacy pay to claim a record win against their rivals.

It’s not a crime to struggle against good sides. It happens to the best. Leicester were smashed by Saracens at Welford Road. Harlequins were hammered by Saracens at Copthall.

But the worry for Saints is that they’ve yet to show they can actually beat one of those teams.

It’s now 10 games since they did; you have to go back to last January to find their 24-3 win against Harlequins at the Gardens.

On that occasion, they showed they were the home team. They showed they had the players to make the most of attacking situations and they showed they had the defence to stand up to the best.

On Saturday, they showed nothing of the sort.

But, there are reasons to remain positive. Saints are still fourth in the standings and if they do make the play-offs they are likely to be away from home, something Mallinder acknowledged as a positive.

But when the campaign reaches its conclusion, you can be sure the boss and his team will sit down to work on how to get the better of the best sides at the Gardens next season.

How they rated...

BEN FODEN

Not an easy day for the full-back as he didn’t really have the players around him to allow him to push on... 4

JAMES WILSON

Made a few good takes and always tried to test Leicester, but didn’t have much joy on a tough afternoon... 4

GEORGE PISI

Was one of the better Saints players as he tried to get a grip on proceedings, but was always going to find it tough against a good Leicester midfield... 5

TOM MAY

Didn’t have his greatest game and despite showing desire, he couldn’t get a foothold in the game... 4

JAMIE ELLIOTT

Never threatened to repeat the try-scoring heroics of his previous two games at Franklin’s Gardens... 4

STEPHEN MYLER

Got the try for Saints, but opted to kick the ball away too much and never really had enough front foot ball... 5

LEE DICKSON

Set up Myler’s try, but was unable to hit the same tempo as a week earlier at Wasps, as the pack was nullified... 4

SOANE TONGA’UIHA

Tried as hard as he could to get Saints on the front foot, but the opposition were just too strong on this occasion... 5

DYLAN HARTLEY

The captain made a huge hit in the first half, but his influence was unable to filter through to his team-mates... 5

TOM MERCEY

Had made a massive impression a Wasps a week earlier, but found this much tougher and was replaced early in the second half... 4

COURTNEY LAWES

Suffered a sin-binning during the first half and faded away after making a good start to the game... 4

CHRISTIAN DAY

Was a fairly steady presence as usual, but the lock was unable to help Saints stem the Tigers tide... 4

SAMU MANOA

The big man is used to having a huge impact on proceedings, but Tigers got to grips with him and stopped him dominating... 5

PHIL DOWSON

Always put his head in where it hurt and took a knock for his troubles as he refused to give up the fight... 5

TOM WOOD

The England man made a couple of good surges, but his influence was limited as the Tigers pack hit their straps... 5

Replacements (who played more than 20 minutes)

BRIAN MUJATI (for Mercey 48)

Came on at a difficult time as Saints were struggling to compete with their opponents, but tried to make a difference.. 4

GJ VAN VELZE (for Dowson 55)

Like Mujati, did his best to have an influence, but Saints were already on the back foot with the Tigers well in control... 4