Saints pack turn on the power as Mallinder’s men see off Worcester
Saints mauled Worcester Warriors at Sixways to keep their Premiership play-off hopes alive.
A crushing forward effort proved key as Jim Mallinder’s men bounced back from back-to-back defeats with a 27-18 win.
Samu Manoa and a penalty try, both from great work at the set piece, as well as the boot of Stephen Myler, who landed 17 points, ensured a defiant win.
Saints kept their heads despite sin-binnings for returning England men Dylan Hartley and Courtney Lawes in either half.
Worcester were also hit with indiscipline as former Northampton flanker Neil Best saw yellow in the second period.
And his absence proved costly as Saints used their momentum up front, with maul after maul, to seal a crucial win.
Worcester, who struggled in attack throughout, could only respond through six penalties from Saints target Andy Goode.
After the disappointing defeat to Gloucester a week earlier, Northampton had put the smiles back on the faces of their supporters.
While Worcester’s fans greeted the final whistle with discontent, booing before heading for the exits.
Both sides had gone into the game desperate for a morale boost; the Warriors had lost their past three games, while Saints were without a win in two.
It was the home side who started the brighter and they almost had a try inside two minutes but wing Josh Drauniniu was stopped at the last by a fine tackle from Ben Foden.
The Warriors did get on the scoreboard moments later, though, as Saints were penalised and Goode sent the ball through the uprights to make it 3-0.
The fly-half had clearly brought his kicking boots as he smashed a superb effort over from inside his own half soon after and Saints were struggling to catch their breath at 6-0 down.
A quick response was needed and Myler provided it, halving the deficit with a penalty from just inside the Warriors half on 16 minutes.
The Worcester players could be heard urging discipline in their own ranks as Saints were awarded another penalty, which saw Myler level the scores.
The away side were starting to stamp their authority on proceedings, but the Warriors hit back with a penalty to go 9-6 up.
Again, Myler retorted with a third penalty of a game that was turning into a fly-half duel.
Neither side could have been happy with how things were going on the discipline front and after Saints tried to be too ambitious in attack the Warriors won another penalty.
And Goode was not giving his potential suitors and respite as he belted another effort over to make it 12-9.
Eventually a Saints player was going to pay for the penalty count and it was to be skipper Hartley who saw yellow, having failed to heed an earlier warning.
This time, though, Goode could not deliver the three points his team wanted.
Still, the Warriors were eager to press on, but the Saints pack weren’t giving them an inch, as they won a kickable penalty from a determined driving maul.
But Myler, for the first time in the game, failed to land the penalty and his side remained three points and a man down.
The No.10 was again off target seconds later as a stamp from Warriors scrum-half Jonny Arr saw a penalty reversed and Myler’s extravagant effort from out wide fell short.
The second half was shaping up to be a huge 40 minutes in Saints’ season, and, with Hartley back from the bin, they put the pressure on at the scrum.
The Warriors cracked and Myler was handed his sixth chance to register from the tee, landing his fourth three-pointer of the afternoon.
A chorus of ‘Oh When the Saints’ could be heard in a corner of Sixways as parity was restored.
Warriors threatened to get the first try of the game as full-back Errie Claassens raced towards the line from halfway, but the Saints back three did their job to hold out.
James Wilson and Jamie Elliott hadn’t seen a huge amount of action in the final third, but they were earning their weekly wage with sterling defensive efforts.
It was good away-day rugby from Saints as they shut the door at one end and showed panache at the other to win a penalty.
The steady Myler again looked assured as he put his side ahead for the first time in the game, at 15-12.
But the issue of discipline is one Saints just can’t seem to escape from at the moment, and it again reared its ugly head on 57 minutes as Lawes was binned for a late hit on Goode.
The Warriors fly-half picked himself up and dusted himself off to land the penalty and draw the scores level again.
Foden then made a fine stop on former team-mate Jon Clarke, who was steaming towards the line before hitting the wall.
And Saints bit another chunk out of Lawes’ time in the bin, with a fine scrum that earned a penalty.
The next set piece saw Northampton again on top, winning another penalty, but Myler’s tee kick hit the inside of the post and bounced out.
The Warriors were starting to feel the strain and Best joined Lawes in the sin bin to take away his team’s man advantage.
Saints made the most of it as their forwards again got stuck in with a maul and Manoa seized his chance to dot down.
Myler missed the kick, but Goode was not about to do the same at the other end, landing his sixth penalty from seven attempts.
Saints needed to show their steel, with 10 minutes remaining, and their dominance up front was striking as they gained yard after yard through driving mauls.
And when Myler kicked to the corner, the visiting pack turned the screw, forcing referee Greg Garner to award a penalty try.
Saints’ No.10 added the extras and the Sixways faithful headed for the exits.
Worcester: Claassens; Drauniniu, Grove, Clarke, Lemi; Goode, Arr; Mullan, Lutui (Shervington 51), Murray; Percival, Schofield; Best, Betty, Kvesic.
Replacements: Jones, Andress, Gillies, Abbott, Hodgson, Gray, Matavesi.
Saints: Foden; Wilson, G Pisi, May (Waldouck 78), Elliott; Myler, Dickson; Tonga’uiha (A Waller 60), Hartley, Mercey (Doran-Jones 54); Lawes, Sorenson; Manoa, Dowson (Nutley 78), van Velze (Oakley 78).
Replacements: Haywood, Roberts, Lamb.
Referee: Greg Garner