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Tigers v Northampton Saints AP Match Preview

By ChrisC
January 4 2016

Nine Million.                                                                                                              All these bicycles that are supposed to be in Bejing, according to Mike Batts song for Katie Melua, are not a fact though, maybe because they’re here or in Spain.

Mike Batts song for Katie Melua, [are not a fact though]. 

Cyclists love the mountains in Spain with great peletons of them filling the roads.  These are the hardcore padded Lycra shorted, pointy helmeted variety which also fill the main roads here in the Peak District during the summer months.


As they visit the shops and restaurants the towns echo to the clip clop of their special shoes which force the wearers to adopt a gait akin to that shown on road sign warning as to the presence of old folks.


We welcome the cyclists in spite of the long tail backs of traffic that follow the peletons.  Best not be in a hurry as it’s a safe bet that there’ll be these cycling collectives interspersed with cars towing caravans, motor homes, lorries and buses slowing progress to a crawl.  But all are welcome and our local economy benefits greatly from their presence.


Less welcome though are off road cyclists whether using motor or pedal powered machines with their big knobbly tyres causing enormous damage to the green byways that crisscross the Peak District, the controlling authority of which is closing the worst affected green lanes against further depredations by these selfish visitors.


Some paths have long ago been surrendered as they’ve became impassable to pedestrians with the surfaces so rutted and despoiled they turn an unwary ankle when dry and cover one in mud when wet.  Others have been converted to be officially “multi-user” which in bureaucrat-speak means they’re a bit wider and better surfaced with pedal power formally permitted.


The three of us were using one of these newly converted pathways during the Christmas-New Year holidays – after all we are “users” are we not? 


As we strolled along admiring the scenery, chatting and watching our dog sniffing around we were suddenly assailed by a bellowed “OI - BIKE!!!!” as three individuals riding abreast came tearing up behind us and slid to a halt; “mind out” they shouted “and get that (expletive deleted) dog out the way”.


Having hurled more expletives over their departing shoulders they cycled on and a little further down the path I saw our tableau repeated with another pair of walkers whose children had been happily engaged while proudly playing with the new bicycles that Santa had clearly delivered a few days earlier, so pristine were these miniature velocipedes.


This time though the young father, a man of some bulk whom I suspect could be a lock for one of the local rugby teams and rather more physically imposing and confrontational than I, grabbed one of the cycling hooligans and, yanking him from his steed, then engaged him in a full and frank discussion as to the danger his high speed posed to the small children and the offence his profanities had given. The lock’s young wife sanguinely looked on.  Suitably abashed our mobile yob remounted and, with his colleagues, slowly and quietly set off in single file.


By now we’d arrived at the location of the fracas and our dog was being fussed by the mother and children – “why don’t these fools have bells” my new friend asked.  I had to confess he had a point – why is that?


There’s room for everybody and life is so much pleasanter when there’s politeness.


The marvellous thing about rugby has always been that, unlike soccer, regardless of which team an individual supports there’s always a respectful camaraderie between the groups of supporters even when it’s a local derby.


It’s many years ago since I last went to Wolverhampton’s Molineux to see Wolves play West Brom., and on that occasion the riot police were deployed to keep the respective groups of supporters apart.


There’ll be no such action required at Welford Road this weekend when Northampton come to town and in spite of our sport being otherwise much changed for the worse this largely benign interaction between supporters remains a welcome constant.


The Premiership cycle for 2016 began with a New Year’s Day meeting between Northampton and Exeter at a soggy Franklins Gardens where, even though the home side dominated territory, possession, the scrum and the line out against an Exeter team that was so far off the boil as to be barely simmering, the hosts only managed to squeeze out a five point victory, the sole try coming from a Saints’ first half rolling maul.


Mr Doyle certainly didn’t much like Exeter’s style of play and for periods they could do no right in the Irishman’s eyes that most certainly were not smiling.


The positives for the Northampton team and their connections is that it was a victory, they scored a try and fourth spot in the Premiership is within their grasp, a victory at Welford Road seeing them leapfrog Tigers. 


Twenty-four hours later Tigers travelled to Barnet to meet up with the league leaders: Saracens who played well but the match was still a big disappointment as it caused me to break not one, but two of my New Year’s Resolutions:  not to drink as much wine and not to swear as much.  However it was another abject, incompetent refereeing performance that saw me break the first two promises and now here’s a triple failure with the year still in its swaddling as I again criticise a referee.


The terrible irony is that Saracens were good enough to win without the sixteenth man that Mr Garner provided.  All referees will make mistakes so I really tried to find positives in this latest chaotic performance but there was simply no aspect of the game where he didn’t make glaring and, in Tigers’ case, costly errors. And these weren’t mere punctilios he got wrong.


It is therefore my fervent hope that the match referee for the forthcoming Leicester vs Northampton match sanctions the sides equally. 


 It’s clear that Thacker, as energetic, skilful and committed as he was, will give way to Tom Youngs who’ll surely be back in Tigers’ #2 shirt next time. Youngs can do everything that the youngster can do but has the heft to make his presence felt to greater effect and, with Ghiraldini at last slated for his return after being injured in the World Cup, there’ll at last be some strength in reserve.


Dan Cole, who’s still not at his best, should and be hoping against hope that the opposing loose-head will not be permitted to bind on the front of his shirt this week, thus impeding his progress and pulling him to ground as was the case last time out. Cole being Yellow Carded and Tigers conceding a score as a consequence


Ayerza should also be back and he’ll be hoping this week’s referee will not give the Northampton tight-head free rein to bind on his shoulder and continually bore in, in the same way as did those of Saracens  while Garner studiously ignored the expostulations of the world’s top loose-head at his opponents’ transgressions.


I was impressed with the Saints’ front row against Exeter, Mike Haywood really standing out (as compared to up) and, unless it’s a consequence of rotation, Hartley being preferred will be on reputation not on any lack of form from his understudy.


The Waller siblings also impressed and with twenty year old Paul Hill, who’s joined from Yorkshire Carnegie, having to stand in for the injured Brookes it showed the value of solid squad men.  In theory, with what could reasonably be expected to be West’s first choice props both unavailable, Saints’ front row could have been excused if they’d struggled against a usually impressive Exeter front row but not a bit of it and they’ll give the Tigers’ all international trio a good workout, although in the end the home side’s heavy horse should prevail, but given my earlier caveats.


Ed Slater and Tom Croft were both forced from the plastic at Allianz Park as the Tigers’ #6 shirt starts to take on a worrying reputation with Williams, Croft and Slater all crocked at the end of last Saturday’s encounter.  Tigers having, in the past year, lost two players to knee injuries when playing on these plastic surfaces


Slater’s injury sounds as if it’s the more serious while hopefully Croft’s is passing and he’ll be available for selection for this weekend and continues looking to recreate his magic.


I also have everything crossed that O’Connor has just been having a couple of weeks off after a gruelling year or so of non-stop top class rugby and that there’s nothing more sinister afoot for he’ll be needed in the trenches against Saints to try and boss the tackle area in which endeavour he could be helped if Wood is still sidelined. 


If he’s fit then I’d expect to see Croft once again in the Tigers’ blind side berth but if not then the abrasive Fitzgerald will do just fine. 


Pearce put in a rumbustious shift against Saracens but got himself lost a few times and unlike McCaffrey or indeed Crane, who’re very much part of the collegiate when at #8, Pearce, and for that matter Fonua, do rather seem to plough their own furrow a bit much for my liking.


A back row of O’Connor, Croft and McCaffrey would be a dynamic combination giving the visitors something to think about at the breakdown before Pearce made an appearance later on.


At lock Kitchener is looking back on form and if Fitzgerald is required elsewhere then Barrow will be able to continue with his highly satisfactory debut for his new club – incidentally just how did his shirt managed to get ripped from his body at Allianz Park? 


As I watched Victor Matfield playing for Saints I was left to curse the bad timing that has denied us the chance of seeing Brad Thorn and Matfield locking horns like two old scarred and gnarled bull Elephants.


As it is the iconic Springbok was eventually forced from the fray last week to be replaced by the highly influential Christian Day who, for some reason, seems to have escaped the attention of the England selectors – well so far!  Day pretty much got the better of Parling so if, as I think, he starts this weekend it’ll be interesting to see how Kitchener goes against the ex Sale man who remarkably is now in his eighth season at Franklins Gardens after a brief dalliance with Stade Francais.


Another refugee from the north west is Paterson who always impressed me whenever I saw him in Sale colours but Saints will want the aggression and athleticism of Lawes somewhere in their starting  mix so if he’s not at lock maybe erstwhile Tiger Gibson will have to give way.  The ex London Irish and Tigers flanker put in a good display in every sphere of operation against Exeter so it’d be a big call to omit him.


Tom Wood has been sidelined for a while so twenty-two year old Kiwi Teimana Harrison has seized his chance and done so with some success.  He’s a fantastic carrier of the ball as well as sharp around the breakdown and with Dickinson likely to continue at #8 I’d like to see the Tigers light(er) cavalry take them on to test their opponents pace and expertise around the tackle area.


Overall the two packs look evenly matched on current performance but, as we saw at Allianz Park, it’s now too often depressingly the case that the outcome of the set piece and breakdown will depend on the mores of the match officials.


Sport really shouldn’t be like this – the referee shouldn’t be such a factor, he really shouldn’t.


Sam Harrison got a start against Saracens and had an unhappy time of it behind a disrupted scrum and with a referee who refused to protect him at the breakdown in the same way as he did Wigglesworth.  I expect to see Ben Youngs start after his cameo last weekend and as Fotuali’i was forced off against Exeter, with what looked a nasty injury, Dickson will probably start and join Youngs in the new reality show designed for players in their position to be called “So You Want to Conduct the Halle”.


As I’m truly expecting a backlash from a disgruntled Tigers’ pack I can foresee it having an edge and perhaps affording Youngs a better platform especially if the match officials, unlike Mr Garner, stop players collapsing over the tackle area as if victims of a hidden sniper atop  the grandstand.


Whenever I hear J J Hanrahan referred to in commentary I have a burning desire to log on to Coral and place a bet on his mount – he just sounds like he should be a jockey rather than an excellent fly half.  The ex Munster man, who appeared over sixty times for the province, put in a solid and well judged performance against Exeter, much as one would expect from Stephen Myler both players being calming presences.  The recent pattern has been for the two fly halves to have a couple of games each in rotation and if this continues to be the case then the Irishman will start again next Saturday.


There wasn’t much to lift the spirits of Tigers’ supporters last weekend but I gained some solace from the reappearance of Owen Williams and, especially given the circumstances, Freddie Burns putting in a good display and being the pick of the Tigers. Even when he was wrongly sanctioned for a short kick off he didn’t falter.  He picked his way through the famed Saracens’ defence on a couple of occasions as if treading on eggshells and if Smith or maybe even De Villiers replaces Bai, who looked slow to support him, then a few opportunities may surface.


Luther Burrell is still trying a tad too hard and the accuracy and appreciation of what’s going on around him, which marked him out as a cut above being just another bullocking inside centre before Lancaster, Farrell and Catt got into his head and spoiled him, has still to return after the psychological abuse he sounds to have suffered at the hands of the England coaches and as a consequence there’s a distinct lack of concatenation in Saints’ back play at the moment.


If Burrell precipitously rushes out of the defensive line then that’s where chances may exist for the hosts.


George Pisi looks likely to be partnering Burrell in the centre for Saints and looking to perform his “they shall not pass” act on the returning Betham.  There could be a few high tackles around from the Samoan if Betham gets in a position to weave his spells and mixes elusive running with pace.  I am of course assuming that the missing Tuilagi will still be – well; missing!


There was no sign of Samoan international Ashee Tuala who joined Saints last season from Counties Manukau or the ever hard working Elliott in the Saints’ squad for the Exeter match but George North was there having his ninth start of the season which has thus far produced a solitary try and an equally solitary Yellow Card to his name but as much as he looked for work and as much as he looked dangerous the big Anglo-Welsh star didn’t get much to work with to add to his try scoring tally.


Partnering the British Lion was Tom Collins making his twenty-seventh appearance and who more than earned the right to keep the shirt for this weekend. This lad apparently came through from minis at Northampton so it’s a bit of a fairy story that sees him in his beloved club’s first team.  He did little wrong and lots right on New Year’s Day.  An elusive and speedy runner, good in defence and can kick a bit too.  Smashing stuff.


Like North Tigers’ Goneva was well marshalled by the opposition defence even though they couldn’t shackle his South Seas compatriot “Teflon” Veainu who, in spite of everything, still ducked and weaved and made lots of ground.  Sadly Mr Garner took agin him so he picked up a few penalties one of which was so undeserved and risible as to draw gasps from the TV commentators who opined that Mr Garner had also got this decision wrong.


 I hope that this week we see the terrific Tongan on the wing with Thompstone bringing his defensive prowess back to the collegiate in denying North as Goneva doesn’t always look the most precise of defenders and that’s one thing that’s definitely needed when George North’s in full cry – miss the tackle or be found wanting in technique and Mr North’s gone and the scoreboard rattles up five points.


Ben Foden is blessedly staying fit and has eschewed some of his fancy excesses of days past to become a really good, sound and virtually bomb proof full back.  That said it’s ditto for Matt Tait who I hope to see back in the Tigers’ #15 shirt.


Sport is cyclical and whereas in the past few years Saints have been able to do little wrong in the Premiership this term, when things haven’t always gone according to plan, they’re showing real character to get into pot winning territory.


Tigers meanwhile will be sore at the events of last Saturday and their embryonic team will be determined to set matters straight this.


The wheel is turning for both teams but I see Tigers holding on to their home record this time around.

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Tigers v Northampton Saints AP Match Preview (IP Logged)
04/01/2016 19:06
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Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 2016:01:12:23:09:43 by Tiggs.

Re: Tigers v Northampton Saints AP Match Preview
GT1 (IP Logged)
04/01/2016 19:30
Can I add here that BT are showing this match free to air - []

Re: Tigers v Northampton Saints AP Match Preview
daktari (IP Logged)
04/01/2016 20:02
Thanks Chris, I am praying we get anyone but Mr Wigglesworth and Monsieur Cheval Derriere. I suspect it will be one of the RFU upcomers like Luke Pearce or Mathew Carley.

Re: Tigers v Northampton Saints AP Match Preview
tigersimon (IP Logged)
04/01/2016 20:13
Thanks Chris, time for a Waynetta show?

Re: Tigers v Northampton Saints AP Match Preview
Stopsy (IP Logged)
04/01/2016 20:42
Many thanks Chris, I'll be watching how your predictions unfold through my fingers from the new stand.

Re: Tigers v Northampton Saints AP Match Preview
St Saltaire (IP Logged)
04/01/2016 21:32
Chris - an excellent preview and very fair. It's a pity that we can't bring in a French referee for this one - they seem to have a better appreciation of the scrum and less of a 'look at me' attitude. This should be a tight one and I fear that we may be playing you with our now customary 14 man side used on these occasions.

Re: Tigers v Northampton Saints AP Match Preview
Johns (IP Logged)
04/01/2016 22:05
Chris thank you for another excellent preview.

Re: Tigers v Northampton Saints AP Match Preview
Saintsteward (IP Logged)
05/01/2016 07:56
Saints fan in peace - great preview. We come in hope, not anticipation, but always an enjoyable day at Welford road whatever the result. See you on Saturday.

Re: Tigers v Northampton Saints AP Match Preview
Flinstone Saint (IP Logged)
05/01/2016 13:02
Excellent preview again Chris.


Please sponsor me for Saints with Heart []

Re: Tigers v Northampton Saints AP Match Preview
05/01/2016 16:14
I still struggle to comprehend why when arbiters are so arbitrary they are not told to get on their bikes, instead of pedalling the same old same old

But then I also struggle to see why replacing nine million Pekinese bicycles with the smog of 9 million cars made sense

Well, I do sort of, for in Beijing there was a short-term profit motive, but blind obedience to an incompetent officer class is no longer vital, is it?

Maybe we plebs are just wrong

A Tour de Force from Tigers on Le Weekend would do justice to a fine preview from Chris, and augur well for our Tour de France, as we freewheel over the winning line, victorious in Lyon

''It [the NHS] will last as long as there are folk left with the faith to fight for it'' Aneurin Bevan

Are you faithfull?

Re: Tigers v Northampton Saints AP Match Preview
Eif Jones (IP Logged)
06/01/2016 03:21
Visiting my daughter in Nottingham, we went walking near the Trent, a long term problem re cyclists had been sorted by making the footpath pedestrian only. Try recommending a similar solution to your local authority.

Re: Tigers v Northampton Saints AP Match Preview
Paul Flatt (IP Logged)
06/01/2016 08:34
We all deserve better than Wayne King. But as ever, we get Wayne King.

"History first repeats as tragedy, and then as farce".

"Your days are numbered. Use them to throw open the windows of your soul to the sun. If you do not, the sun will soon set, and you with it."

-- Marcus Aurelius, Roman Emperor 161-180 A.D.

Re: Tigers v Northampton Saints AP Match Preview
Neil-H (IP Logged)
06/01/2016 09:45
Eif Jones
Visiting my daughter in Nottingham, we went walking near the Trent, a long term problem re cyclists had been sorted by making the footpath pedestrian only. Try recommending a similar solution to your local authority.

Footpaths are pedestrian only.. bridleways are for all to use...

N Chris, as a keen mountain biker for many years, I apologise for the donkeys you met.. sadly there donkeys on the walkers side, as you say we should all get on... and we do have bells!

You mention about some of our players and where are they... pinched from our site, heres the list of those that first team squad members that currently out

Wilson..just returned from injury, played one A team game
Stephenson and Elliott.. out for no idea???
Tuala...injured, probably close to return
Howard..would have played last night if a wanderers game, would been first game back
Corbs and Brookes...long term
Matfield...nose but I suspect he'll be OK, might miss Sat
Clark...a couple of weeks more but how match fit will he be?
Wood...could play this week
Nutley...been out for ages, probably a while yet
Fisher...about to return
Craig returned in the last Wanderers game

Enjoy the game and may the best team win!

Re: Tigers v Northampton Saints AP Match Preview
HerbieSaint (IP Logged)
06/01/2016 10:04
Super preview Chris - I thought your comments on Luther Burrell were absolutely spot on. Very much looking forward to this one!

Re: Tigers v Northampton Saints AP Match Preview
Beef (IP Logged)
06/01/2016 10:13
A very enjoyable and informed preview - it could go either way, it's up to the emperor in the middle

Terrace 'B' next to Mav, Shaddo, AB, Jeremy and Spud.

Re: Tigers v Northampton Saints AP Match Preview
riverlodge (IP Logged)
06/01/2016 12:43
Very good preview.

Particularly like the "..conduct the Halle" audition comment for our Mr Dickson and your Mr Youngs.

Re: Tigers v Northampton Saints AP Match Preview
nottsaint (IP Logged)
06/01/2016 13:03
Its a shame you met some mountain bikers who were idiots...
unfortunately some humans are idiots, some of these ride bikes, some drive cars, most are football fans, some support tigers, some support saints...

however, your complaints about damage are unjustified, there are many scientific studies into this, and all conclude that bikers do less harm than hikers, feel free to review the following papers.

This is nicely summarised in this article:

(1) Bjorkman, Alan, “Off Road Bicycle and Hiking Trail User Interactions: A Report to the Wisconsin Natural Resources Board,” Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources: Bureau of Research, (1996)

(2) Chiu, Luke and Kriwoken, Lorne, “Managing Recreational Mountain Biking in Wellington Park, Tasmania, Australia,” Annals of Leisure Research, (in press)

(3) Crockett, Christopher S., “Survey of Ecological Impact Considerations Related to Mountain Bicycle Use on the Edwards Field Trail at Joseph D. Grant County Park, 1986, Santa Clara County (CA) Parks Dept. (1986)

(4) Gander, Hans & Ingold, Paul, “Reactions of Male Alpine Chamois Rupicapra r.rupicapra to Hikers, Joggers and Mountainbikers,” Biological Conservation, (1996), 79:107-109.

(5) Goeft, Ute and Alder, Jackie, “Sustainable Mountain Biking: A Case Study from the Southwest of Western Australia,” Journal of Sustainable Tourism, (2001), 9(3):193-211.

(6) Herrero, Jake, and Stephen Herrero, “Management Options for the Moraine Lake Highline Trail: Grizzly Bears and Cyclists,” (2000)

(7) Papouchis, Christopher M. & Singer, Francis J., & Sloan, William, “Responses of Desert Bighorn Sheep To Increased Human Recreation,” Journal of Wildlife Management, (2001), 65(3):573-582.

(8) Spahr, Robin, “Factors Affecting The Distribution Of Bald Eagles And Effects Of Human Activity On Bald Eagles Wintering Along The Boise River, 1990,” Boise State University, (1990)

(9) Taylor, Audrey R. and Knight, Richard L., “Wildlife Responses to Recreation and Associated Visitor Perceptions,” Ecological Applications, (2003), 13(4):951-963

(10) Thurston, Eden and Reader, Richard J., “Impacts of Experimentally Applied Mountain Biking and Hiking on Vegetation and Soil of a Deciduous Forest,” Environmental Management, (2001), 27(3):397-409.

(11) Weesner, Meg, in Cactus Forest Trail Environmental Assessment, Saguaro National Park, Arizona, National Park Service 2003

(12) Wilson, John P. and Seney, Joseph P., “Erosional Impacts of Hikers, Horses, Motorcycles and Off-Road Bicycles on Mountain Trails in Montana,” Mountain Research and Development, (1994), 47(1):77-88

Re: Tigers v Northampton Saints AP Match Preview
daktari (IP Logged)
06/01/2016 13:24
Looks like you have angered the mountain bike police.

Re: Tigers v Northampton Saints AP Match Preview
06/01/2016 15:01
We walk a lot of footpaths & bridleways, most of which are mud

When it rains the paths tend to get wet, and the mud soft

If horses, bikes of any kind, or motor vehicles use it then ruts will appear and stay when the ground hardens .. walking boots cause much less damage but even then, if the ground is soft enough, less deep ruts will ensue

''It [the NHS] will last as long as there are folk left with the faith to fight for it'' Aneurin Bevan

Are you faithfull?

Re: Tigers v Northampton Saints AP Match Preview
fair_weather_fan (IP Logged)
06/01/2016 18:28
Thank you Chris G for a comprehensive expostulation of evrything possible in the future, but dare I say it a bit otiose?

I restrained myself from a tirade on here against the policing of last saturday's game here, where the offside law was again flouted for 80 minutes by Exeter, being caught only for the most blatant (waldrom) and for beign ahead of the kicker (everyone) but ever for the defensive line offsides that ruin the game. So I was most amused to read a tirade that boils down to - we never do anything bad at scrum time, but the opposition cheats constantly. This the Tigers we're talking about. Spent half an hour giggling on the floor about that. [:wor kid:]

Re: Tigers v Northampton Saints AP Match Preview
Connorman (IP Logged)
06/01/2016 18:34
To return to the preview...

I echo the views above, a most excellent preview, thank you, Chris. To pick up this point:

"This lad apparently came through from minis at Northampton so it’s a bit of a fairy story that sees him in his beloved club’s first team"

Yes, Tom learned his rugby at Old Northamptonians (ONs) and Northampton School for Boys (NSB ) - both here on the Billing Road in the heart of town. We're mighty proud of him! A shining example to many others who are hoping to follow in his (very fast) footsteps.

Re: Tigers v Northampton Saints AP Match Preview
Rich W (IP Logged)
06/01/2016 20:44
Thank you Chris G for a comprehensive expostulation of evrything possible in the future, but dare I say it a bit otiose?

I restrained myself from a tirade on here against the policing of last saturday's game here, where the offside law was again flouted for 80 minutes by Exeter, being caught only for the most blatant (waldrom) and for beign ahead of the kicker (everyone) but ever for the defensive line offsides that ruin the game. So I was most amused to read a tirade that boils down to - we never do anything bad at scrum time, but the opposition cheats constantly. This the Tigers we're talking about. Spent half an hour giggling on the floor about that. [:wor kid:]



Re: Tigers v Northampton Saints AP Match Preview
Yorkie (IP Logged)
06/01/2016 23:01
Thanks Chris for another great read.

Re: Tigers v Northampton Saints AP Match Preview
SAINT_aitch (IP Logged)
08/01/2016 17:59
Fine read. Marvellous!

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