Tom Vickers’ Saints v London Irish view and player ratings: That’s smiles better!

It was no wonder a broad grin adorned the face of Jim Mallinder as he headed into the Franklin’s Gardens press room on Saturday evening.

By Tom Vickers
Sunday, 3rd March 2013, 12:06 pm

The director of rugby had just seen his side put in their most compete performance of the season to systematically dismantle London Irish.

For a director of rugby it couldn’t get much better, as every area of the team functioned how he would have hoped in the lead up to the game.

Saints excelled up front and in the backs as they ripped Irish apart, during a second-half super-show.

It was fitting that the tries were shared between the big men and those who buzz around them, and there were standout performances all over the field.

In the forwards, Soane Tonga’uiha resembled a human steamroller, powering through Irish wing Marland Yarde for a superb score.

Samu Manoa was typically unstoppable, and skipper Dylan Hartley conducted operations with a performance full of fire and desire.

In the backs, Jamie Elliott once again showed why he is one of the hottest prospects in the Aviva Premiership, scoring his third, fourth and fifth tries in just two games.

The 20-year-old academy graduate was given great supply by his team-mates and proceeded to display how deadly a finisher he can be.

His showing was supplemented by another assured 80 minutes from James Wilson, who is getting better game by game, while Ben Foden was sparky once again.

All in all, Saints were as impressive as they had been embarrassing in the reverse fixture, when they slumped to a 39-17 defeat. They eventually won the aggregate battle.

However, a note of caution must be sounded. Although, Mallinder’s men are now back in the top four, tougher days are to come.

London Wasps and Leicester Tigers lie in wait like a pair of dangerous predators at the end of March, and they will provide stern examinations of Saints’ play-off credentials.

And there are also tricky fixtures against teams fighting for their Premiership lives, London Welsh and Sale, as well as a trip to champions Harlequins before the season’s out.

But if Saints can maintain the level of performance they showed on Saturday, Mallinder could have more reasons to smile come the end of the campaign.

How they rated...


Another good performance from the full-back, who seems to be getting better with each passing game. Revelling in the dry surfaces... 7


A real asset to Saints and is making the No.14 shirt his own, combining well with Ben Foden and Jamie Elliott. Fine offload for Elliott’s second try... 8


Must be desperate to get in on the try-scoring action as he hasn’t dotted down for a while, but his work rate can never be doubted... 7


The wily campaigner is a big plus in Saints’ midfield engine room and he again provided some much-needed panache... 7


The Bedford-born wing has really stepped up to the plate during the past two weeks and his confidence will be sky high after a fine hat-trick... 9


Steady from the tee once again and was always looking to create for his fellow backs. Kept things ticking over... 7


Plenty of spark from the scrum-half, who is showing real appetite at the moment. Didn’t give the opposition a second’s rest... 7


Back to his rampaging best and his superb try, which saw him steamroller Irish winger Marland Yarde, was trademark Tonga’uiha... 8


The skipper had a massive influence on proceedings once again, and he has surely done enough to impress England boss Stuart Lancaster... 9


Didn’t make as big an impact as some of the other forwards, but was steady nonetheless and never looks out of place... 6


This man is surely leading the way for Saints’ player of the year prize and he was in unstoppable mood once again... 9


So important to how the lineout functions and it’s always a boost for Saints when he’s in the side... 8


The England man might not have had the best of times against France a week earlier, but he was superb here, having a huge influence on a fine win... 8


Mr Reliable was at it again as he drove his team forward with another powerful and unflustered display... 7


Got his name on the scoresheet and it was richly deserved as the South African enjoyed one of his better days in a Saints shirt... 8

Replacements (who played more than 20 minutes)

BEN NUTLEY (for Dowson 51)

This young man has flourished in recent weeks and he had some very good moments during this game... 7

BRIAN MUJATI (for Mercey 51)

Played for the first time since the penultimate day of last year and wasted no time making an impact, playing his part in a massive maul for van Velze’s try... 7

DOM WALDOUCK (for May 55)

Threw himself in where it hurt straight away and was in typically combative mood to help Saints continue their second-half dominance... 6

ALEX WALLER (for Tonga’uiha 59)

Came on at a time when Saints had done what they needed to do to win the game, but put in a steady display nevertheless... 6