Northampton Saints 15 Leicester Tigers 23: Tom Vickers' review and player ratings

It is very rare that an east midlands derby disappoints.

Sunday, 7th October 2018, 8:06 pm
Updated Sunday, 7th October 2018, 8:14 pm
Tom Wood made his first appearance of the season but Saints couldn't beat their local rivals at Twickenham (pictures: Kirsty Edmonds)

Even when Saints have been beaten in them before, there has at least been a large amount of entertainment and plethora of talking points.

But at Twickenham on Saturday, there was very little to shout about.

Tigers, who had lost both league meetings between the teams last season, could at least smile at the fact they had claimed a gritty success in tricky conditions.

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And the rugby world could reflect fondly on a day when a sizeable amount of funds were raised for retired centre Rob Horne, whose presence warmed the heart.

But Saints, who had been so desperate to put on a show for their popular Australian, could not look back on their showing with any real glee.

A porous first-half performance put them on the back foot.

And though they scored just before the break, the 20-10 half-time deficit proved far too much to overturn.

Fraser Dingwall made his Saints debut

Time and again they knocked loudly on the Tigers door.

And they did manage to get over the line on three occasions.

But there was a feeling that they could have done more. Much more.

Powerhouse wing Taqele Naiyaravoro was one of a number of frustrated backs.

Dan Biggar didn't have a good day from the tee

Naiyaravoro barely touched the ball on the wing, where you would have fancied him to make hay, even though the sun wasn't shining.

And Saints simply did not gain the rewards that their abundance of possession and territory merited.

Tigers defended stoically, as is to be expected on derby day.

But Saints did not shut the back door in the same manner, conceding a couple of soft first-half tries that came when they were trying to advance.

Saints scored three tries but did not get anything from the game

Once again, the high ball brought nothing but despair as Saints struggled to gain any aerial dominance.

Whenever the ball was hoisted high by either side, hope seemed to drain from Saints.

On a day made difficult by relentless rainfall, the ball and the victory so often slipped from their grasp, just as it did in the monsoon at The Rec a couple of weeks ago,

Saints could have got a draw against Bath, but they never looked likely to finish level with Leicester.

Dan Biggar was unable to slot any of his kicks from the tee and even when he got his kicks from hand in the right area, the runners either were not there or could not make the take.

It was so frustrating for a Saints side who had shone in attack at Bristol seven days earlier.

Saints' struggles with the high ball continued

And it was so frustrating for Horne, who would dearly have loved to watch his former team-mates grab a win, just as they did against Leicester on the day his life changed for ever.

It wasn't to be, and Saints are now left to reflect on a slippery start to league proceedings.

They have been consistently inconsistent so far, as is probably to be expected considering the avalanche of changes that were made at Franklin's Gardens during the summer.

But as was said after the game at Bath a couple of weeks ago, they can't wait too long to start stringing wins together.

Worcester's thumping success against Bristol on Sunday showed, once again, that so many Premiership teams are in peril this season.

So many are looking over their shoulders.

And Saints' performance against Tigers only dampened excitement rather than anxiety.

It is too early to be worrying about tables and form just yet, but when the cup action of the next few weeks comes to an end, Saints will have to step things up significantly.

They will face more rain-soaked days in a league where the sun rarely shines.

And they really must find a way to navigate the Premiership storm if they are to steer their ship from danger in the months to come.

How they rated...


Came in for his first start of the season and was a real plus point as he handled well, kicked well and looked very lively... 7


Was forced off with what appeared to be a left knee injury after just 33 minutes and Saints had not started the game well so it was a disappointing day for the Samoan... 5


Was wearing the 13 shirt that Rob Horne donned with such class and spirit last season and Saints' new Aussie didn't let his team down... 6


Like Kellaway, he wasn't able to get his hands on the ball as much as he would have liked and the tricky conditions did not help the centre to shine... 6


Wasn't able to get in the game at all as he stayed wide for long periods and Saints couldn't, or wouldn't, get the ball to him... 5


Did not have a good day from the tee, missing all of his kicks and though he did some good things in open play, taking the aerial route didn't work, which wasn't all his fault... 5


Could not get the kind of tempo Saints needed in the game as the ball came away from the breakdown too slowly... 5


Is always up for the derby-day fight, but Leicester were strong in the scrum and stopped Saints' forwards getting a real grip on the game... 5


The hooker showed plenty of desire as he looked to push Leicester back, but Saints could not get much momentum... 6


Was not able to replicate his derby-day heroics of the win at Welford Road back in April as Tigers took Saints on up front... 5


One of Saints' better players on the day, the lock continued his strong start to the season with a good performance that was capped with a try... 7


Came in at late notice after Courtney Lawes was forced to withdraw with a back spasm and though he carried well, he did make the odd passing error... 6


Etched his name on the scoresheet against his former club and got through plenty of work on derby day... 7


Has enjoyed a decent start to the season, having been given plenty of opportunities by new boss Chris Boyd, and he didn't do too much wrong here... 6


Desperately tried to drive his team on with his trademark desire and tenacity, but Tigers stood tall for long spells... 7

Replacements (who played more than 20 minutes)

TOM COLLINS (for Tuala 33)

Injected some much-needed spark into proceedings as he kept the Tigers defenders on their toes in the second half... 6

CHRON STAR MAN - Jonah Holmes (Leicester Tigers)