Northampton Saints 35 London Irish 7: Tom Vickers' review and player ratings

On the day Saints celebrated the contribution of a family who have brought so much joy to Franklin's Gardens, it was fitting that the team put smiles back on the faces of the fans.

By The Newsroom
Sunday, 14th February 2016, 7:00 am
Updated Wednesday, 17th February 2016, 7:49 am
Lee Dickson rounded off an impressive display with Saints' fifth try (pictures: Sharon Lucey)
Lee Dickson rounded off an impressive display with Saints' fifth try (pictures: Sharon Lucey)

Jim Mallinder’s men simply steamrollered London Irish with a combination of forward power and backline panache.

It was by far their best display at the Gardens this season and an apt way to officially open the Barwell Stand, with former chairman Keith Barwell and many of his relatives in attendance.

A number of ex-players, the likes of Bruce Reihana and Budge Pountney, also received a warm ovation prior to kick-off.

And then came the fireworks - of the pre-match variety - as the new stand was christened in style.

There hadn’t previously been many on-pitch pyrotechnics in front of the structure which has replaced the Sturtridge Pavilion, but Saints finally produced some on this occasion.

In the process, they banished memories of a succession of stodgy encounters during the formative stages of the current campaign.

It was hard to believe that many of the Saints players who lined up against Irish had done so against Wasps little more than two weeks earlier.

(L-R) David Powell, Ella Bevan, Phoebe Barwell, Ben Barwell, Henry Barwell, Allan Robson and Tony Hewitt in front of the new Barwell Stand

On that occasion, the men wearing green, black and gold were a shadow of their former selves, surrendering three tries in the opening 30 minutes on their way to a 24-11 defeat.

But this time, Saints were the ones finishing the game before the break, grabbing three scores in the first 37 minutes.

The backs put the forwards in position and they ruthlessly punished Irish, with James Craig and Alex Waller going over either side of a penalty try.

Jamie Elliott and Lee Dickson then finished the job in the second period, scoring two of the best tries seen at the Gardens this season.

Luther Burrell was a key man for Saints

There hasn’t been much competition, as Northampton had only scored seven times in as many matches at their regular abode prior to this game.

But on Valentine’s Day weekend, they finally had their mojo back and you could almost see the confidence coursing through the veins again.

Saints had allied belief with style in their dramatic 27-23 win at Harlequins a week earlier, cutting the gap to fourth to just seven points.

And they narrowed it to just two with this performance, which was saturated with elan.

Harry Mallinder had another fine game for Saints

If two men have encompassed Saints’ upturn in form during the past two weeks it is Luther Burrell and Lee Dickson.

Both had borne the brunt of some criticism during tricky times for their club, but both have bounced back superbly.

Dickson has eliminated a lot of the box kicks which irked fans in favour of getting his team’s running game going with ball in hand.

While Burrell has been back to his bulldozing best, putting Irish on the back foot from the off and ensuring Saints took the game by the scruff of the neck.

Both men were similarly influential in the win at Harlequins, and their rebirth will delight the Saints coaches.

It has certainly delighted the Saints supporters, many of whom were on their feet when Dickson dived over for his team’s fifth try.

Academy product Reece Marshall made his Premiership debut

Aside from Harry Mallinder’s last-gasp try against Glasgow Warriors, it was the first time you got a real sense of enjoyment at the Gardens this season.

It was a real feeling that the fans had got what they came for and their ticket price had been justified.

It was the kind of performance those supporters have come to expect.

And that owes much to the Barwell family, whose shrewd stewardship of the club has made it one that is used to winning.

The players showed they were up to the task on Saturday and now they will look to push on in the pursuit of a seventh successive shot at the end-of-season play-offs.

And you never know - the Barwell Stand could just host a few more celebrations in the weeks and months to come.

How they rated...


Was the last-gasp hero at Harlequins and he was once again impressive here, providing plenty of cut and thrust... 7


A really lively display from the winger, who finished the chance he got superbly and who also created Alex Waller’s try... 8


This man is getting back to his best and Irish simply couldn’t handle him at times as he flew forward with relentless abandon... 8


Continues to impress with a great all-round game. Is assured with ball in hand, carries well and also kicks superbly... 8


Great for Saints to have this man back. This was his first start of the season and he’s clearly relishing his return to the side... 7


A flawless display from the fly-half as he finished the day with a 100 per cent record from the tee and pulled the strings with ball in hand... 8


It was a close call for Chron star man between this man and Burrell as they were similarly influential. He set up one try and scored another in a fine display... 8


Was a powerful presence throughout his time on the field and crowned a big performance with a deserved try... 8


Showed some great awareness to get the ball away quickly, keeping moves ticking over, and his set-piece work was good once again... 7


Is getting stronger week by week and he will look to step it up even further when he goes back to face former club Newcastle Falcons next weekend... 7


A towering display from the lock, who did some good work at the breakdown and who opened the scoring... 8


So assured, this man is a must in the Saints team as he steadies the ship so well and is vital for set-piece security... 7


Found himself in the sin bin late on, but he had done more than enough by then, working really hard once again... 7


England’s loss continues to be Saints’ gain as this man put in another huge performance to propel his team to victory... 8


The big No.8 got his hands on the ball a few times and he was useful in pushing Irish back to gain Saints some ground... 7

Replacements (who played more than 20 minutes)

TEIMANA HARRISON (for Dickinson 50)

Did some good work at the breakdown as ever and helped Saints defend against a few determined surges from Irish... 6

REECE MARSHALL (for Haywood 55)

A Premiership debut for the hooker, who is clearly a big talent and who is highly rated at the Gardens... 6

JJ HANRAHAN (for Myler 55)

The game was won by the time the Irishman came on and he took one for the team with a late sin-binning when Irish were on the charge... 5

ETHAN WALLER (for A Waller 55)

Had to do some defensive work as Saints had already got the job by the time the prop made his way onto the pitch... 6

(L-R) David Powell, Ella Bevan, Phoebe Barwell, Ben Barwell, Henry Barwell, Allan Robson and Tony Hewitt in front of the new Barwell Stand
Luther Burrell was a key man for Saints
Harry Mallinder had another fine game for Saints
Academy product Reece Marshall made his Premiership debut