Tom Vickers’ London Irish v Northampton Saints review and player ratings
There are 36 player profiles in the first team section on the Saints website - yet 20 of those men were missing at the Madejski Stadium on Sunday.
The likes of Dylan Hartley and Tom Wood starred for England on Saturday, George North scored for Wales, Kahn Fotuali’i registered for Samoa and others, like Stephen Myler and Luther Burrell, were rested.
No matter, Jim Mallinder simply made use of the men who were left, blending them with a number of Senior Academy stars to conjure up a potent mix that left London Irish reeling.
Saints dished out a Berkshire battering, surging to a 39-18 LV= Cup win, their fifth successive victory in all competitions.
It was a comprehensive triumph full of purpose and panache, two qualities in short supply in the Irish camp.
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And it was another showcase of the immense talent pool now at Mallinder’s disposal as many of the players who were part of the 33-6 win against Gloucester eight days earlier impressed again.
One of them, young wing Howard Packman, got his first senior try, showing good awareness and great speed to put the finishing touches to a fine breakway score.
Ethan Waller continued on his steep upward curve, proving a menace in the tight and the loose as he also scored for the first time in the Saints first team.
Glenn Dickson, one of the more senior members of the side at 27, booted 24 points, missing just one of his 10 kicks from the tee and controlling the game well.
But the star of the show was Ben Nutley, who produced his finest display in Saints colours, setting up Packman for the first try and writing his own name on the scoresheet late on.
Nutley was superb in attack and defence and has used pre-season, during which he was a standout figure, and the LV= Cup to stake his claim.
He will surely get more game time in the coming weeks as he looks to push the likes of Phil Dowson and Calum Clark all the way for a starting spot.
It appears to be his time and if Sunday’s showing is anything to go by, Northampton have got plenty to look forward to from the former Luton Town youth team goalkeeper.
He is a glowing example of the grit and determination currently swelling the Saints squad, which almost appears to have three tiers.
Even players like Alex Waller and Mike Haywood, men learning their trade and providing good back-up for Alex Corbisiero and Hartley, were given the week off.
But their deputies, Ethan Waller and Ross McMillan, stepped in and excelled.
Put simply, there is an incredible depth to this Northampton group.
The LV= Cup team was asked to maintain the momentum gathered by wins against Ospreys, Saracens and Irish, and they’ve more than done that.
The 72 points scored are a demonstration of the success during the past two weeks.
Some international stars return for the game against Newcastle Falcons this week, and now it’s their turn to keep the pace.
How they rated...
Wasn’t the busiest day he’ll ever have defensively, but contributed plenty to the plethora of attacking moves... 7
Acted as a makeshift scrum-half during Alex Day’s sin-binning and put in a sturdy performance to stop Irish making too many yards during the first half... 7
Looked really up for this one and was a good counter-attacking option as he made ground and managed to find gaps... 7
The stand-in skipper was impressive, giving his team plenty of go-forward and doing well going the other way, too... 7
Scored his first try for the Saints first-team, showing good speed and awareness to support Ben Nutley before diving over the line... 7
A really good day for the fly-half, who landed nine of his 10 kicks. Stepped up a notch from the performance against Gloucester eight days earlier... 8
Got himself sent to the sin bin by taking one for the team, stopping Darren Allinson taking a quick tap penalty. Good otherwise, though... 7
The young prop continues to improve and this was a top showing. Blasted holes in the Irish defence, stood tall in the scrum and scored. A great first start... 8
Didn’t let his team down at all and was steady in the set piece as Saints put pressure on Irish for long periods... 7
Was once again a key component of Saints’ scrum dominance as Irish were forced to have a rethink at the break... 7
This man has been impressing for the Wanderers on Monday nights and he has brought that form into the LV= Cup... 7
Showed his leadership skills by keeping the youngsters alongside him going and driving them forward with some impressive power... 8
BEN NUTLEY - CHRON STAR MAN
A sensational showing from the flanker, who set up the first try, scored the third and was everywhere. A real first-team contender now... 9
Set up Waller’s try with a tidy offload and was generally strong as Saints turned the screw, leaving Irish with few answers... 7
GJ VAN VELZE
A great man to have in the team, as he continually wants to get involved and plays his part in attack and defence... 7
Replacements (who played more than 20 minutes)
TOM MERCEY (for Ma’afu 57)
Saints didn’t lose anything in the scrum when this man came on and he will be pushing Ma’afu for a Premiership starting spot in the next couple of weeks... 7