Leicester Tigers 22 Northampton Saints 14: Tom Vickers’ review and player ratings

Tom Stephenson scored Saints' try at Welford Road (pictures: Sharon Lucey)
Tom Stephenson scored Saints' try at Welford Road (pictures: Sharon Lucey)

Not bad for a second team, eh?

A freshened-up Saints side gave Leicester a real scare on Saturday, producing a performance that full-strength squads of years gone by would have been proud of.

Phil Dowson and James Craig (right) fought for Saints

Phil Dowson and James Craig (right) fought for Saints

Much was said about Jim Mallinder’s selection, with some questioning his decision to make 12 changes from the previous week’s 46-0 win against London Welsh.

But there was no way he could take risks with irreplaceable players such as Stephen Myler, Courtney Lawes and Samu Manoa against a brutal Tigers team.

Instead, he threw men with a point to prove into the Welford Road collosseum.

And Mallinder couldn’t take anything but positives from a gladiatorial performance that deserved plenty of credit.

Howard Packman impressed on his Premiership debut

Howard Packman impressed on his Premiership debut

Exeter, who missed out on the play-offs on points difference after Tigers and Saracens wins, may feel aggrieved.

But Saints simply couldn’t afford to put their own title chances on the line to do the Chiefs a favour.

And there is no guarantee that those left out would have toppled a Tigers team who desperately needed the win.

What could have happened was a beating, with key components of the team beaten up.

James Wilson kicked three penalties for Saints

James Wilson kicked three penalties for Saints

Saints were never going to line up the deckchairs, light cigars and take sips from a pint glass while Leicester ran through them at will.

No, the men Mallinder fielded were always going to give this a real go.

And that was exactly what they did, deservedly leading 9-8 at half-time before Tigers found their feet in the second half.

Some men who will be leaving the club this summer, the likes of Phil Dowson and Dom Waldouck, put everything on the line for their side.

Dom Waldouck gets stuck into Niall Morris

Dom Waldouck gets stuck into Niall Morris

And others who will be sticking around but may not play again this season, scrappers such as James Craig and Tom Collins, were similarly committed.

Then there were others like Mike Haywood, who put in a mammoth shift, and Sam Dickinson, who are desperate to stake their claim for starting spots in the play-offs.

The balance was right and had Premiership debutant Sam Olver managed to land a conversion with six minutes to go, who knows what may have happened.

Tigers were tense and their nerves would have been shredded had Saints got to within six points.

As it was, Richard Cockerill’s men got the win they deserved, celebrating their passage into the play-offs by the skin of their teeth.

Saints had no such issues and now their returning stars will be asked to show rest can bring reward against Saracens in the semi-finals this weekend.

But those whose last game of the season came last Saturday can be proud that they have done all they could to give the club the best possible chance of success.

How they rated...


Wasn’t able to have as much of a say as in the man of the match display against London Welsh a week earlier, but did okay... 6


Always looked for action, making darts infield and proving important in defence, with one tackle on the far more sizeable Logovi’i Mulipola a particular highlight... 7


Showed plenty of his trademark desire, searching for openings in the Tigers rearguard and also doing well in defence... 7


Scored a typically elegant try and always kept the Tigers on their toes with his impressive footwork... 7


Tried to find opportunities to use his pace as he attempted to put the Tigers on the back foot... 7


Did what he needed to with the boot, landing three penalites, and put his body on the line for the team... 7


Kept things ticking over well during a first half when Saints had plenty of possession and territory... 7


Carried well and is looking like he is getting back into the kind of form that makes him a vital player for any team he is named in... 7


A huge performance from the teak-tough hooker, who won penalties at the breakdown and whose Samu Manoa-like hit on Julian Salvi was one of the game’s highlights... 8


Was under real pressure in the scrum during the formative stages of the second half and was sent to the sin bin... 5


Admitted a couple of lineout calls could have been made better, but the big lock was a presence around the park... 6


Made some big tackles and really put himself about to stop the Tigers in their tracks on a few occasions... 7


Always gives it his all and the skipper was a real influence on a Saints performance that deserved plenty of credit... 7


Loves a tackle and made plenty as he relished the chance to impress in front of a sizeable Welford Road crowd... 7


Always impresses and this was no different as the powerful No.8 stamped his mark on proceedings... 7

Replacements (who played more than 20 minutes)

KAHN FOTUALI’I (for Dickson 48)

Came on at a time when Tigers were getting on top and didn’t get the kind of possession he usually thrives on... 6

HOWARD PACKMAN (for Elliott 48)

Was making his Premiership debut for Saints and he proved to be a thorn in Tigers’ side... 7

ALEX WALLER (for Corbisiero 53)

Did little wrong in his cameo and will now fight it out with Corbisiero for the starting spot against Saracens... 6

BEN NUTLEY (for Harrison 56)

Made a big turnover with Saints down to 13 men, again showing his worth with a decent display... 6