London Irish 22 Northampton Saints 42: Tom Vickers' review and player ratings

If Chris Boyd had a nap on his way over from New Zealand to Saints back in 2018, days like the one he experienced on Saturday might have been what he dreamed of.

By Tom Vickers
Sunday, 27th March 2022, 2:12 pm
Updated Sunday, 27th March 2022, 2:14 pm
Conor Carey congratulated Tom Collins after the Saints wing scored a stunning solo try against London Irish
Conor Carey congratulated Tom Collins after the Saints wing scored a stunning solo try against London Irish

The sun was out, a talented group of homegrown youngsters were doing their thing and, most importantly, Saints were making their way to a convincing away win.

It really was the stuff of fantasy as Boyd's swashbuckling side came at London Irish from all angles, scoring six tries in their best showing of the season so far.

It kept their Gallagher Premiership play-off dreams alive as they put a huge dent in Irish's aspirations.

And how sweet this success was for a Saints side who have shown glimpses of this kind of performance but failed to really string it all together at times.

They not only showed great skill and composure, but they also displayed character after falling 8-0 down early on.

It would have been easy to feel under pressure, knowing a defeat would effectively extinguish their top-four flame for this season.

And with Irish playing in front of plenty of raucous and fuelled-up home fans on their St Patrick's Day celebration, you feared the intensity could become too much for Saints.

But instead of going into their shell, they came out fighting, and firing.

They scored two tries in quick succession as they showcased the razor-sharp counter-attacking game that almost earned them a win at Gloucester in their previous Premiership away game.

And that poured petrol on the fire ahead of the second half, which Irish started with 14 men due to the sin-binning of Rob Simmons.

The lock could easily have seen red as his shoulder seemed to make contact with the head of Rory Hutchinson at the breakdown.

It was an offence similar to the one Api Ratuniyarawa was dismissed for against Irish in January 2020.

And Saints may have felt hard done by that Simmons' absence from the game was only a temporary one.

But if they had any fury with that decision, they only channelled it in positive fashion.

Saints came out of the blocks at lightning-quick speed at the start of the second half, creating early opportunities that Courtnall Skosan and Ratuniyarawa just failed to convert.

You wondered whether that might cost Saints, with Simmons' sin-bin time ticking down.

But Boyd's side kept coming, forcing another Irish player, Nick Phipps, into the bin, and he gave away a penalty try in the process.

And from then on, the black, green and gold powered home, scoring six tries in total - four of which came in the second half - as they showed they can be a force to be reckoned with.

Their international stars were back to bolster the squad, and their presence was so important here.

As is always the case for Saints, if their pack can at least get parity, they can thrive because they have the backs that can do damage.

And how the likes of Courtney Lawes and Lewis Ludlam laid the platform for Tom Collins, Rory Hutchinson and Co on this occasion.

It was one of those dazzling away displays that we have seen from Boyd's side when the confidence has been flowing.

Think of wins at Leicester, at Lyon and now at London Irish.

Saints are more than capable when they put it all together.

The challenge now is to do that for another five league games and see if that can propel them into the play-offs.

Playing like this, you wouldn't bet against them.

But consistency has often been spoken about by Boyd, his coaches and the players during the Kiwi's tenure.

Saints know if they can finally find some, then the sky is the limit, and Boyd can keep dreaming for a little while longer.

How they rated...

GEORGE FURBANK

Starts off so many attacks for Saints and his running game caused problems for London Irish all afternoon. Even a late sin-binning couldn't blot his copybook... 8

COURTNALL SKOSAN

The only frustration for Saints on the day was that this man appeared to suffer a hamstring injury late on. Up to then, he was playing really well, with his run and pass presenting a try to Mitchell... 8

FRASER DINGWALL

Ran a superb line as he combined with centre partner Hutchinson to score, and this was another impressive showing from the talented centre... 8.5

RORY HUTCHINSON

What a day for this man as he helped to set up a couple of tries with long and short passes while also etching his name on the scoresheet with a fantastic finish... 9

TOM COLLINS - CHRON STAR MAN

The speedy wing is in the form of his life right now, beating defenders for fun, leading counter-attacks from everywhere and adding tries, too... 9

DAN BIGGAR

A big all-round display from the Wales star as he not only delivered with the boot but also did well in attack and made a crucial intervention to stop Irish scoring at a key time... 8

ALEX MITCHELL

The heartbeat of Saints' attacking game, the scrum-half put in another electric performance that proved too hot for London Irish to handle... 8.5

ALEX WALLER

Looked like he really enjoyed this one, striving to get involved at every turn and showing he could more than mix it... 8

SAM MATAVESI

Finished the game playing in the back row again as he continued to enhance his huge reputation with another massive showing... 8.5

PAUL HILL

Celebrated his 150th Saints appearance in style as he thundered into collisions and also looked to get his hands on the ball in attack... 8

DAVID RIBBANS

The second row powerhouse was at it again with another physical performance that Irish had trouble dealing with... 8

API RATUNIYARAWA

A monstrous 80 minutes from the Fiji lock, who led a few breakaways with some clever pieces of awareness and whose physicality proved so key... 9

COURTNEY LAWES

There's not really much more to say about this man other than he is and continues to be a Saints legend. Some of his passing here was sublime, not to mention everything else he offered... 9

LEWIS LUDLAM

Made his return from a rib injury and looked like he'd never been away, carrying the fight to Irish time and time again... 9

JUARNO AUGUSTUS

Constantly wanted to get on the ball and charge at Irish, using his power to blast holes in the home defence... 8.5

Replacements (who played more than 20 minutes)

NICK AUTERAC (for Waller 53)

Certainly got stuck in, making 10 tackles during his time on the field as London Irish started to see a bit more of the ball late on... 6

TOM JAMES (for Mitchell 55)

Saints were starting to take their foot off the gas a little late on and they were affected by Skosan's enforced departure meaning this man saw less of the ball than he would have liked... 6

TOMMY FREEMAN (for Biggar 55)

A welcome return to Premiership action for this young man who got the chance to make a few inroads here... 6

ALEX MOON (for Ribbans 58)

Came into the game at a time when it was already won and there wasn't as much of a chance to carry the fight to Irish late on... 6