Bristol Bears 40 Northampton Saints 45: Tom Vickers' review and player ratings

Andrew Kellaway produced a fine performance that included his first Saints try (pictures: Sharon Lucey)
Andrew Kellaway produced a fine performance that included his first Saints try (pictures: Sharon Lucey)

Saints put on their own production of Jekyll and Hyde at Ashton Gate on Saturday, thrilling and spilling as they held their nerve to beat Bristol.

Chris Boyd's boys were porous defensively but rapier-sharp in attack as they scored six tries and conceded five in a hugely entertaining Gallagher Premiership game.

Even though Bristol refused to go quietly at any point, for the majority of the match you felt Saints were in control of it.

When their hosts levelled things up at 17-17 during the first half and then had a try chalked off, the away fans would have barely believed what they were witnessing.

Because Saints had been so dominant in possession and territory during the first period, but a failure to make tackles was costing them dear.

In attack, they looked dangerous every time they went forward.

Lewis Ludlam was congratulated after scoring a key try before the break

Lewis Ludlam was congratulated after scoring a key try before the break

But in defence, they looked vulnerable every time Bristol got the ball.

Thankfully for Saints, they were the stronger side between the 22s, putting together some eye-catching moves.

And what they will be even more grateful for was the promising signs their summer recruits showed.

Taqele Naiyaravoro was a constant nuisance for Bristol, bouncing defenders off his sizeable frame all day long.

Taqele Naiyaravoro left plenty of Bristol players behind

Taqele Naiyaravoro left plenty of Bristol players behind

Andrew Kellaway, like Naiyaravoro, got off the mark in Northampton colours at Ashton Gate, impressing after his early introduction in place of Piers Francis.

And though he did miss one early tackle that led to a Bristol try, Dan Biggar once again displayed how valuable he will be to this team in the times ahead.

Perhaps it was no surprise that Saints, with a back line containing Naiyaravoro, Kellaway, Francis and Cobus Reinach, four former Super Rugby players, enjoyed the sunshine.

It was a far cry from the rain-soaked battle at Bath last weekend, when backs moves were at a premium.

Cobus Reinach showed his delight at Alex Waller's second-half score

Cobus Reinach showed his delight at Alex Waller's second-half score

And the attacking game Sam Vesty is trying to shape showed green shoots of promise.

Of course, at the other end, things were not quite so rosy, with Bristol's ambition paying dividends at times.

The home side were gifted a couple of scores as well as earning a few more.

But in the end, they could only salvage two points from the match as they lost at home for the first time since returning to England's top division.

This first away win of the season was just what the doctor ordered for Saints, especially going into the gargantuan derby tussle with Leicester Tigers at Twickenham on Saturday.

As Boyd said after the game, there are still plenty of fires to put out for this unpredictable Saints team.

But with every win comes added belief in the new game plan that is being implemented.

And the ambition Boyd's side showed, especially when booting kickable penalties to the corner early on at Bristol, reinforces the point that there will be no shortage of entertainment provided by this Saints team this season.

If they can tighten up defensively and stop making the kind of errors, especially from restarts, that have cost them on several occasions this season, they will be a force to be reckoned with.

And every Saints supporter will hope that rings true when Tigers provide the opposition in the biggest game of the season so far next weekend.

How they rated...

AHSEE TUALA

When Saints are in full flow in attack, the Samoan is usually at the heart of it, but this was actually quite a quiet display from the full-back... 6

TAQELE NAIYARAVORO

Didn't have the greatest day defensively, but he was so fun to watch when he got on the front foot, brushing Bristol players aside at will and scoring his first Saints try... 7

LUTHER BURRELL

Battled on even after picking up an injury and this was a really impressive response from the centre, who had been left out of the squad for the game at Bath a week earlier... 8

PIERS FRANCIS

Didn't have long enough to really have a say in the game as he was forced off after sustaining a head injury

TOM COLLINS

A really lively showing from the wing, who was a constant thorn in the side of Bristol and showed great awareness and execution to tee up Kellaway's try in the corner... 8

DAN BIGGAR

Missed one key tackle early on but kicked really well from the tee and helped to create numerous openings for his team... 7

COBUS REINACH

Like Naiyaravoro and Biggar, he had the occasional tough moment in defence, but he was effective going the other way, keeping the tempo high for his team... 7

ALEX WALLER

Used his power to pick up a try at a key time for his team and provided another performance full of passion... 7

DYLAN HARTLEY

A big display from the hooker, who was full of energy, carrying well, making his tackles when he needed to and also forcing a key first-half turnover... 8

EHREN PAINTER

There weren't too many scrums for this man to get stuck into, but he enjoyed his work around the park, popping up to grab his first first-team try... 7

DAVID RIBBANS

Another impressive display from the lock as he worked hard and made sure the Saints pack remained steady... 7

COURTNEY LAWES

Was a force to be reckoned with in attack, doing some good work to set up Ludlam's score, but did take a knock during the second half... 7

JAMIE GIBSON

Made 15 tackles in a typically hard-working display that once again showcased how important he is to Saints... 7

LEWIS LUDLAM

Finished his try extremely well and this was another strong showing from the flanker, who continues to improve... 8

TEIMANA HARRISON

Made a massive 22 tackles, not missing a single one, and also featured in attack as he showed how influential he can be once again... 8

Replacements (who played more than 20 minutes)

ANDREW KELLAWAY (for Francis 12) - CHRON STAR MAN

A really good display from the centre as he came into the action early and had a real say, making his tackles and looking sharp in attack as he scored his first Saints try... 8