Northampton Saints 29 Worcester Warriors 10: Tom Vickers' review and player ratings

In a normal year, winning against Worcester at Franklin’s Gardens four games into the league season wouldn’t mean too much.

By Tom Vickers
Sunday, 27th December 2020, 4:30 pm
Updated Sunday, 27th December 2020, 4:34 pm
Rory Hutchinson
Rory Hutchinson

But this has been far from a normal year.

For Saints, as for so many, it has been a largely torrid 12 months.

It didn’t start badly.

Courtney Lawes

Covid-19 wasn’t really on our radar when we welcomed in 2020 and Saints were winning games on a regular basis.

In fact, they won their first three matches of the year.

But then their form completely deserted them and Covid swept the globe.

Saints had won just twice since January and not at all since August by the time Worcester came to the Gardens on Boxing Day.

Dan Biggar

The black, green and gold were staring down the barrel of a full calendar year without a home Premiership win.

And they were facing the prospect of 13 successive defeats in all competitions.

But in recent weeks, you started to feel that barren run was about to end.

It should have ended at Bristol.

Mike Haywood rounded things off with the bonus-point score

And it certainly should have ended against Bordeaux.

But late losses added yet more salt to Saints’ already gaping wounds.

The prospect of a defeat to a Worcester team who won at the Gardens during pre-season was almost unthinkable.

And to Saints’ delight and sheer relief, it didn’t unfold that way.

Instead, they shrugged the sizeable monkey off their back and pushed on.

After roaring into a 10-0 lead, they were hit by a setback.

But this time they didn’t let it affect them.

Instead, they struck an immediate riposte, led by the superb Dan Biggar.

Big players come alive in big games - and that was what Biggar did here, dragging his team forward by the scruff of its neck.

He set up Alex Mitchell for a lovely score and then returned from the sin bin in the second half to add one of his own.

The celebrations said it all.

Biggar punched the air and let out a roar that echoed around the eerily empty Gardens.

He was soon mobbed by his team-mates, and they were able to rejoice once more before the end as Mike Haywood dived over in trademark fashion for a bonus-point score.

A maximum haul for Saints and, crucially, that winning feeling finally returned to Northampton.

There was no getting carried away from boss Chris Boyd during his post-match interviews, and rightly so.

There is still so much work to be done.

But the first step is the most important and how good it feels for Saints to have finally taken it.

This was the ideal end to a far from ideal year.

And now Saints must make sure 2021 is a much more enjoyable experience.

How they rated...

GEORGE FURBANK

The full-back is looking far more confident now, getting back in the groove that got him into the England squad and this was an all-action showing... 8.5

MATT PROCTOR

A strong display as he carried the fight from the wing and then at centre, holding on to the ball well and defending when he had to... 7.5

FRASER DINGWALL

Battled through a stomach bug to start and made a key intervention to stop Melani Nanai scoring during the first half before being withdrawn at the break... 7

RORY HUTCHINSON

The belief is starting to flow again for the centre, who is back to pulling the strings in the same manner he was when Saints were flying... 8

AHSEE TUALA

Was eager to get involved and he popped up with the ball out wide on a few occasions, giving his side some thrust... 7.5

DAN BIGGAR - CHRON STAR MAN

A hugely eventful evening for the fly-half as he scored, set one up and was also sin-binned. He led by example throughout and drove his team on superbly... 8.5

ALEX MITCHELL

Scored one, set one up and made some important last-ditch tackles in a sparky showing for his side... 8

ALEX WALLER

Enjoyed the battle with his brother and although a couple of decisions didn't go his way at scrum time, he showed plenty of desire, being denied a try by the TMO... 7

SAM MATAVESI

Teamed up with Ribbans to ensure the lineout functioned much better on this occasion and he was also eager to steal possession at the breakdown... 8

PAUL HILL

Won an early scrum penalty and showed plenty of hunger to get involved, having a little push and shove with former team-mate Ethan Waller... 7

DAVID RIBBANS

Another massive showing from the lock, who has been one of the players of this short, difficult season for Saints so far. Came so close to scoring... 8.5

NICK ISIEKWE

Has had a real impact since joining the club and finally he got the reward of a win for his immense efforts... 8

COURTNEY LAWES

Yet another big shift from the England star as he continually piled into traffic and made some huge hits to set the defensive tone... 8.5

LEWIS LUDLAM

Was a real nuisance for Worcester as he continually threatened to steal possession and his energy levels were impressive... 8

TEIMANA HARRISON

Stole some ball at the breakdown and showed plenty of ferocity when he got the chance to have a run... 7.5

Replacements (who played more than 20 minutes)

TAQELE NAIYARAVORO (for Dingwall 40)

Spoke recently about how he has been slimming down to improve his defensive work and it really showed here in a cameo full of appetite... 7.5

FRANCOIS VAN WYK (for Waller 57)

Is really pushing for more starts with some strong showings from the bench, and this was another one... 7

MIKE HAYWOOD (for Matavesi 57)

Popped up with the bonus-point score and was eager to get involved in the action at every opportunity... 7

OWEN FRANKS (for Hill 57)

Didn't do much wrong in a steady showing as he used his experience to help Saints shut Worcester out... 6.5

SHAUN ADENDORFF (for Harrison 57)

Carried brilliantly during this cameo, making plenty of metres for his team as he displayed strength and desire... 7.5