Saints thump Leicester to assert number 1 spot

Saints thump Leicester to assert number 1 spot

A second-half surge for Northampton Saints saw the men in Black, Green and Gold strengthen their position at the top of the Gallagher Premiership standings, as they swept Leicester Tigers aside in front of a sold-out cinch Stadium at Franklin’s Gardens.

There were just four points in it at the break as a converted Julian Montoya try and Handre Pollard’s penalty saw the visitors head into the sheds 10-6 to the good – with George Furbank slotting two penalties in response for Northampton.

But it was largely one-way traffic as Saints found their groove after the break, running in five scores through Curtis LangdonRobbie SmithGeorge Hendy and Tom James (plus a penalty try).

Leicester’s Jasper Wiese crossed once in response, but Tigers had Solomone Kata red-carded for a high shot on Fraser Dingwall, and Fin Smith took the hosts to the 40-point mark with a sumptuous drop-goal towards the end of the match.


Like any classic East Midlands Derby, the opening exchanges were scrappy and full of bite as both sides felt each other out. 

Tigers had the first real chance of the game after Dan Kelly’s break, but after the ball was whipped wide, Jamie Shillcock went on his own instead of passing to the winger outside him, and Tom Seabrook did superbly to rip possession away from Leicester’s fullback.

However, Saints found themselves a man down with just nine minutes on the clock as Elliot Millar Mills was yellow-card for a high tackle on Ollie Chessum. The hosts paid the price immediately, as Leicester kicked to the corner and the lineout drive was too powerful to stop. Montoya came up with the ball, Pollard added the extras, and Tigers held the advantage.

Northampton responded quickly when Alex Moon gathered the kick-off, and the hosts earned themselves a penalty. Furbank opted for the posts and nailed the three-pointer to cut Tigers’ lead to four.

Pollard restored Leicester’s seven-point advantage moments later though with his first penalty of the game, as Saints were adjudged to be off their feet at the breakdown.

The men in Black, Green and Gold began to go through the gears soon after though, and thought they had their first try just before the half-hour mark when Alex Mitchell sniped around a ruck and dived over – but referee Christophe Ridley adjudged the ball to be held up.

Two minutes later, Northampton did make a dent in the lead as Tigers were penalised for being offside and Furbank made no mistake from the tee. It was then Leicester’s turn to go down to 14 men as repeated offside infringements saw Wiese sent to the sin bin.


Saints enjoyed the perfect start to the second 40, as Alex Moon punched a hole through the heart of Leicester’s defence, and as the ball was spun wide it landed in the hands of Langdon – and the hooker charged into the corner spectacularly for a vital try to send the hosts in front for the first time.

Furbank’s conversion drifted just wide, but the lead grew further two minutes later as Dingwall’s linebreak saw him link up with George Hendy to take the ball into Tigers’ 22.

Saints continued to make ground with a combination of big carries and quick ball, and looked certain to score when Furbank and Seabrook found themselves in a two-on-one. However, Shillcock deliberately knocked-on Furbank’s pass and earned himself a yellow card, while Northampton were awarded a penalty try to the delight of the sold-out Gardens crowd.

With 25 minutes left to play, Leicester fought back with a well-worked set play off the top of a five-metre lineout which released Wiese to power his way over the line.

After Pollard added the extras, there was one point in it, but on the hour-mark Tigers were down to 14 men for the third time in the game – and this time the colour of the card was red. Kata’s dangerous high shot on Dingwall saw the centre sent off, and from the resulting penalty, Robbie Smith burrowed his way over the whitewash at the back of a rolling maul.

The hosts had found their rhythm now, and had the bonus-point score when replacements Fin Smith and Tommy Freeman combined to put the latter through a gap, and the England wing made it into the 22 before passing outside to Hendy who finished with aplomb.

The winger was shown a yellow card shortly after for a cynical offside offence, but that didn’t hamper Northampton as they ran in their fifth from deep inside their own half.

Leicester fumbled the ball and Saints pounced as James Ramm linked up with Furbank to move up to halfway. Ramm offloaded to Juarno Augustus who in turn found Freeman, and while he was cynically tackled off the ball after grubbering down the line, that didn’t matter as Tom James gathered the loose ball and dived over to score.

Fin Smith then added the cherry on a well-iced cake with a drop goal a minute before time to bring the men in Black, Green and Gold to the 40-point mark. The victory sees Saints maintain top spot in the Gallagher Premiership with three rounds left to play.


SAINTS: Ramm, Hendy, Litchfield, Dingwall, Seabrook, Furbank, Mitchell; A Waller, Langdon, Millar Mills, Moon, Mayanavanua, Coles, Ludlam (c), Augustus.
Replacements: R Smith, Haffar, Davison, Lockett, Graham, James, F Smith, Freeman.

TIGERS: Shillcock, Steward, Kelly, Kata, Hassell-Collins, Pollard, van Poortvliet; Cronin, Montoya, Cole, Wells, O Chessum, Carnduff, Reffell, Wiese.
Replacements: Clare, van Wyk, Hurd, Hatherell, Cracknell, Youngs, Cokanasiga, Brown.

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