Dragons 39 Northampton Saints 43: Tom Vickers' review and player ratings

There have been some strange experiences during the past 12 months - and this was up there with the weirdest of them.

Sunday, 4th April 2021, 4:28 pm
Updated Sunday, 4th April 2021, 4:30 pm
Tom Collins scored a dramatic winning try for Saints against the Dragons

Because Saints, shorn of so many key players, looked down and out not once, not twice, but three times at Rodney Parade on Saturday evening.

They slipped 22-3, 32-17 and 39-24 down to a Dragons team that is vastly improved from the ones that put together a six-game losing streak against Saints over recent years.

Saints were stung by three yellow cards in the process and they played with 13 men for 10 minutes of the match as Alex Coles and JJ Tonks were sin-binned during the same Dragons move.

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That looked to be that, with the Dragons looking forward to a home quarter-final next Saturday.

But Saints had other ideas - and how.

They mounted the most stunning of late recoveries, roaring back from 15 points down and taking the lead with a sensational al breakaway try two minutes from time.

They held their nerve and saw the game out to earn a memorable win in Newport.

The members of their bench could take a bow because they influenced the game in exactly the right manner.

Alex Waller Sam Matavesi, James Fish, Henry Taylor, Ahsee Tuala, Tom Collins and debutant Oisin Heffernan all had a say late on.

It once again displayed the immense depth of this squad as Saints were stretched to the limit with the likes of Courtney Lawes, David Ribbans and Dan Biggar out.

But there is no substitute for character and heart.

And that is exactly what Saints showed here.

They had a set piece shocker in the first half, gave away countless penalties, three yellow cards and made myriad errors, but here they were late on, still swinging and eventually landing the knockout blow.

Saints are never boring - and this team is never out until the final whistle blows.

As it turns out, they are still very much in when it comes to this season’s Challenge Cup.

And if they continue to show this kind of spirit, who says they can’t go all the way?

If they do, they will look back on this night in Newport very fondly indeed.

How they rated...

HARRY MALLINDER

Wasn't really able to get into the game as the Dragons piled the pressure on and he will have been frustrated not to have been able to play a part in the revival... 5

OLLIE SLEIGHTHOLME

Yet another fantastic finish from the wing, who kickstarted Saints in the second half, having found himself sin-binned in the first... 7

FRASER DINGWALL

Continues to impress at centre, showing physicality and hunger to win the ball back at every turn... 8

RORY HUTCHINSON

Quite a quiet showing from the centre, who couldn't really weave his magic on this occasion... 6

TAQELE NAIYARAVORO - CHRON STAR MAN

It was a close call between this man and Harrison for star man but he just edges it because he not only scored two tries but also played a key role in two others that came at vital times... 9

JAMES GRAYSON

Racked up the tackles and the points from the tee, providing a calm presence late on amid the maelstrom... 7

ALEX MITCHELL

As Chris Boyd said after the game, there were some really good moments and some not so good parts of Mitchell's game, but his try was spectacular and he was electric at times... 8.5

NICK AUTERAC

Found himself on the wrong side of the referee, with official statistics showing he conceded four penalties on the day... 5

MIKE HAYWOOD

Had a tough time at the lineout in the first half but you can't blame it all on the hooker. Was replaced with Saints struggling during the second half... 5

EHREN PAINTER

Made plenty of tackles for his team and held his own at scrum time before being replaced in the second half... 6

ALEX COLES

Was hit with a yellow card during the second half but aside from that he carried really well for his team and made a huge amount of metres... 7

ALEX MOON

Got through plenty of work in the Saints engine room and he could be pleased with his overall performance... 7

JJ TONKS

Was one of three Saints players carded on the day, but it was a largely innocuous incident and he did okay otherwise... 6.5

SHAUN ADENDORFF

Never shies away from the physical side of the game and had his work cut out against an imposing Dragons back row... 6.5

TEIMANA HARRISON

How good is this guy? He topped the charts for tackles with five more than any other Saints player, carried hard, punched above his weight yet again and scored a try... 9

Replacements (who played more than 20 minutes)

JAMES FISH (for Haywood 53)

Hasn't featured for a while but staked his claim with a good showing off the bench here, carrying well in Dragons territory... 7

ALEX WALLER (for Auterac 53)

Saints welcomed his leadership late on and he really helped them regain their balance after being rocked by the Dragons... 7

AHSEE TUALA (for Mallinder 56)

A real impact from the Samoan as he not only intervened to stop a Dragons try but also provided one for Saints, running and offloading brilliantly for Harrison to dot down in the corner... 8

SAM MATAVESI (for Adendorff 58)

Got stuck in as he carried hard and tried to keep hold of the ball during some of Saints dominant drives late on... 7

TOM COLLINS (for Sleightholme 59)

A fantastic cameo from the speedy wing as he helped to set up a try for Naiyaravoro with a long pass out wide and then kept his composure with a brilliant finish to win the game for Saints... 8