By St Martin
September 23 2012
4 from 4 and a bonus point so why the long faces…..well…........This Saturday Northampton Saints welcomed the Warriors of Worcester to Franklins Gardens in the 4th round of the Aviva Premiership with Saints looking to continue their winning start to the season.The Gardens were bathed in autumn sunshine and I was regretting my earlier pessimism when opting for jeans rather than shorts.
Saints 37 Warriors 31
Saints made some changes to the team that dogged out an away win in Bath last Friday, notably our Courtney started his first match this season and James Wilson was making his Saints debut due to the long term injury to Ben Foden. Just before the game commenced we spied from D block Ben with the aid of crutches making his way in front of the Churches and the Churches duly awoke and gave him a generous round of applause as he passed by.
Before the game commenced both teams lined up and a minutes silence was held in memory of the Ulster and Irish Centre Nevin Spence who along with his father and brother died so tragically in a farming accident the previous weekend, all our thoughts are with the good people of Ulster at this time.
The game began with a kicking duel that eventually resulted in a penalty to Worcester on the Saints 10m, we all know the accuracy and power that Andy Goode possesses and it was no surprise to see the penalty despatched and the Warriors led 3-0. Saints immediately from the kick off set about the Warriors and the pressure resulted in a penalty to the Saints, number 10 this week Stephen Myler duly slotted between the uprights and the score was level 3-3. The Warriors kick off was then pouched initially by Wilson and the Saints duly moved up field through a kick to touch then stealing Warrior ball at the line out. Eventually the Saints won a penalty in the shadow of the Churches which Myler converted confidently, Saints now led 6-3 with just over 10 minutes having passed by.
Saints were now taking complete control, first Wilson made an excellent break almost resulting in a try but unfortunately the ball was lost in contact due to some desperate Warrior defence, shortly afterwards the Warriors try line was finally breached and it was the deft footwork and power of Luther Burrell securing his second try at the Gardens, Myler converted from the touchline. Burrell then added another try soon after which was almost a carbon copy of the one he scored against Exeter with a strong run and excellent fend and Saints with 24 minutes gone now led 20-3 with Myler once again showing impressive accuracy with the boot. The Warriors were now getting a little desperate, this typified by a penalty to the Warriors just outside the Saints 22m line from which Goode tried the cross field kick to David Lemi who as the shortest player on the pitch unsurprisingly was not able to beat Ken Pisi to the ball. Yet more solid work from the Saints pack saw them take the ball up field through a mixture of scrum penalties, line out wins and strong ball carrying. A steal from the scrum saw Oakley feed Dowson whose astute inside pass found Vasily Artemiev who out sprinted the Warrior defence resulting in a much deserved first try of the season. This time Myler just missed the extras from out wide…bring on Lamb I heard someone shout and Saints led 25-3. The end of the half saw the Saints soak up some Warrior pressure but the defence held firm and Saints duly headed for the changing rooms and a well earned slice of orange with a 25-3 lead.
Half time came and went firstly with my regular check of the tote, will I ever win? Probably not but hope springs eternal, then the regulars around me musing if Saints were to gain the bonus point try sooner or would they stutter and keep us guessing til the latter stages of the match, this was to be answered sooner than I imagined.
Saints started the second half well and duly swept down the slope, pressure from both scrum then line out eventually told, the ball was spun to Myler from a ruck, he in turn headed for the posts and although stopped short he was able to free his arms and pop the ball up for Courtney Lawes to seal the bonus point try. Myler converted and Saints led 32-3. Although now only 10 minutes into the second half the inevitable Saints substitutions started with the skipper and Tiny heading to the bench for a rest possibly with thoughts of Wasps on Friday on Jim’s mind. George Pisi then had to leave the field with an injury that looked to me like a reoccurrence of a leg injury that resulted in him missing the Bath game, I hope I am wrong and it was merely a precaution. Saints however continued in the same vein and 10 minutes later the 5th Saints try was scored, this time Mike Haywood’s opportunistic pickup at a ruck and dot down in the corner saw the score now 37-3 in Saints favour. Myler missed the conversion out wide and then headed straight for the bench as he, Dickson and Day were substituted.
At this point we wondered what sort of a score Saints were going to rack up, well in an agonising last 20 minutes Warriors then turned the tables completely scoring 4 tries, all of which were from second half substitutes, the Warriors coach may have an interesting team selection next week. Firstly scrum half Johnny Arr (very apt as apparently this week we had “talk like a pirate day”…whatever next!). Then the impressive and elusive winger Drauniniu scored, quickly followed by the Warriors powerful centre Matavesi as he then crossed the try line also. Both were converted and Saints lead was now only 13, the score being Saints 37 Warriors 24 with 6 minutes remaining. Unhappy murmurs could be heard all around the ground now apart from a group of Warriors supporters nearby who now had found their voices. A trademark tackle by Courtney Lawes on Andy Goode was greeted with rapturous applause but this was to be Saints last moment of glory as it was the Warriors supporters who would be cheering at the end as the replacement prop Hayes was driven over following a Warriors line out 5m out. Fortunately the clock had run out meaning the Saints were the victors but Andy Goode had the opportunity if the conversion was to go over to collect a losing bonus point to add to the try bonus point they had already gained. The kick was missed however Sir in his infinite wisdom decided the kick should be retaken due to Saints encroachment before the kick was taken. Andy Goode forever the pantomime villain in this parish duly took this opportunity and as the ball passed through the sticks he turned and waved to the Tetleys who I am sure waved him on his way!
Final Score Saints 37 Warriors 31 (and Saints go top of the table for a brief while)
On reflection a bonus point win is not to be dismissed so easily but Jim and Co will have plenty of talking points to go over in the Monday morning debrief…oh to be a fly on the wall for that one.
My Man of the Match goes to Luther Burrell, a star in the making.
Finally a shout out to Nick and David who unfortunately or fortunately however you look at it, cannot attend Fridays match as they have to be in Germany, apparently its work related (lederhosen and Steins more likely). I for one will be expecting a complete 80 minute performance under the Gardens lights as we look to cement ourselves at the right end of the table.