Northampton Saints 44 London Irish 26: Tom Vickers' review and player ratings

Fast, furious, fantastic. Friday night lights at Franklin’s Gardens was pretty fun.

Piers Francis scored for Saints during the second half
Piers Francis scored for Saints during the second half

Saints and London Irish took turns in trying to out-dazzle each other, with backs having a field day and forwards racing around frantically from start to finish.

It was some spectacle, though one that both defence coaches may look back on from behind the sofa at their respective training bases.

Saints missed an abundance of costly tackles, allowing Irish to squirm from their grasp on several occasions.

But Piers Francis was a microcosm of the overall performance.

Here was a man, usually his club’s defensive leader, who missed a couple of tackles that led to tries.

It was so unusual to see from the England centre, who was visibly frustrated with himself.

But as Rocky Balboa one said: “It's not about how hard you hit. It's about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward.”

Both times Francis found himself floored, he got back up stronger, winning the restarts and getting his team on the front foot again.

Not only that, but he capped an all-action showing with a hot-stepping finish in the second half.

Saints, like Francis, just kept coming off the ropes and landing crucial punches.

Eventually, it was too much for Irish to handle as they shipped six tries to their razor-sharp hosts.

Not that Saints were dancing on the streets around the Gardens after the game.

Instead, they were told in no uncertain terms that the defensive aspects of this display must not be repeated next time out.

Because otherwise, as boss Chris Boyd firmly put it, they will ‘get murdered at Leicester next weekend’.

But despite keeping his side grounded in the aftermath of this eventful evening, Boyd will at least be able to reflect on some ruthless play in attack.

The Academy is producing some serious talent, with the likes of Alex Mitchell and Ollie Sleightholme scoring tries for fun right now.

And if Saints can find a way to shut the door at the other end, they can be a real force to be reckoned with in these final six games of the regular season.

Strap yourselves in - it promises to be quite a ride.

How they rated...


Couldn’t get hold of Ben Loader before he scored in the second half but always looked to make inroads when running from deep... 7


Scores pretty much every time he plays, grabbing two scores here as he yet again displayed his incredible finishing prowess... 9


Celebrated his 50th Saints appearance with a try and is cementing his place in the side... 8


Eventful evening doesn’t quite sum it up for this man, who missed a couple of key tackles but more than made up for it all over the field, also scoring a try... 8


Looked lively, as ever, keeping Irish on their toes with his tidy footwork and speed... 7


Ran the show for Saints with some pinpoint passing and plenty more as he once again showed his immense talent... 9


The scrum-half can’t stop scoring and he was the catalyst here, playing a part in the first try before scoring two of his own with fantastic finishes... 9


Got stuck in as he carried hard and looked to use his power where possible... 7


Made his first Premiership start of the season and was hungry for action, helping to link play and keeping the lineout steady before being forced off with concussion... 7


Happy to get hold of the ball to try to help Saints keep the pressure on and did a decent job... 7


Looked to have suffered a bad injury at one point after a trademark carry but picked himself up and powered on in another big display... 8


Put in a huge shift for his team, ploughing through tackles and carries when called upon... 8


A menace at the lineout and so influential around the field, using his huge reach to stop Irish in their tracks... 8.5


This guy is in great form right now, with his energy levels just amazing as he powers around the pitch like a player possessed... 9


Started the game in frenzied fashion, tearing around the pitch and tearing into Irish in typical fashion... 8.5

Replacements (who played more than 20 minutes)

SAM MATAVESI (for Haywood 47)

Usually has an impact on the game, and he was involved here, thundering around the pitch during this cameo... 6.5

ALEX WALLER (for Auterac 47)

Showed off his passing game during the move that led to Francis's try and seemed to enjoy himself... 6.5


Looked hungry when he got the chance to carry and relished the chance to keep Saints going forward... 6.5