Harry Mallinder was sent off as the Wanderers fell to a 22-16 Aviva ‘A’ League defeat at Worcester Cavaliers on Monday night.
The Saints centre was red-carded on 24 minutes for taking out Matt Perks in the air, with the incident reminiscent of the dismissal of Ulster’s Jared Payne against Saracens last season.
Mallinder had kicked the winning points in the opening ‘A’ League game of the campaign, at Gloucester.
But on this occasion his absence was to cost the Wanderers as they saw their lead disappear with the Cavaliers mounting a second-half charge.
Howard Packman’s try and the assured boot of Will Hooley had taken the Saints second string into a 16-12 lead, but holding out with 14 men proved too big an ask.
Though the result didn’t go the way of the Northampton side, there were still plenty of positives on the night.
Mike Haywood, who had not played since having shoulder surgery at the end of last season, completed 40 minutes on his return, while new signing Joel Hodgson made his first appearance in green, black and gold.
Matt Williams, who sustained a broken leg in the win against London Irish in April, joined Hodgson in emerging from the bench in the second half.
And there were also first outings of the season for Ben Nutley and Tom Mercey on a productive evening at Sixways.
Wanderers: Collins; Packman, Waldouck, Mallinder, Skelcey (Hutchinson 64); Hooley (Olver 50), A Day (Hodgson 50); E Waller (Hobbs-Awoyemi 40), Haywood (McMillan 40), Denman (Mercey 40); Woolford, Onojaife (WIlliams 62); Dowson (c) (Nutley 50), Harrison, Dolan.