By Eddie P
March 12 2012
A perfect day for rugby at the sun-soaked Gardens played out in front of a crowd of 10,377. From the kick off it was clear that whilst both sides were shorn of some international stars, they were no less hungry for a victory and a shot at the season’s first piece of silverware next Sunday. The travelling Scarlets fans were, as normal, in fine voice despite a 4am start to their Sunday morning!
Saints 27 Scarlets 12
The opening exchanges were reasonably even and fairly scrappy for the most part with Saints trying to open the game up and Scarlets trying to break it down. The welcome sight of Tom Wood returning to Saints’ back row gave the home fans confidence that the lineout and the defensive line would be secure but it turned out to be a successful Scarlets lineout inside the home side’s 22 that gave the away faithful hope as Dominic Day crossed the whitewash after eight minutes. The decision was referred upstairs and the TMO confirmed what those of us in block H already knew, that Jimmy Craig and Digger had held D. Day up and no try was awarded.
From then on the traffic flowed rather more towards the Sturtridge Pavilion and with Saints’ possession count rising the try seemed inevitable. It was the power of the Saints’ pack on the march from a driving lineout that opened the scoring as the away side were overrun by a powerful shove. When the ensuing pile was dispersed it was Alex Waller who came up with the ball in hand for his fourth try in the green, black and gold. A comfortable looking Stephen Myler, who seems to be flourishing with his current run in the starting line-up, duly converted his try.
Scarlets will watch the video of today’s game and be left to rue some poor handling errors that let them down on a day when you couldn’t ask for better weather. Northampton were far from perfect though and the two Stephen’s, Messrs. Myler and Jones, exchanged a pair of penalties each (Jones in quieter conditions than Myler due to a handful of idiots who had taken on more ale than they could cope with) giving us a half time score of 13 – 6.
The second half began in a similar fashion to the first with the first score coming from the faithful boot of Stephen Jones. It was Saints who went in search of the moment to kill off the game and they looked for a gap from one side of the field to the other. Eventually the men in green found some breathing space as George Pisi carved through the middle making space for Scott Armstrong to get the ball down in the corner. Again we went upstairs to confirm that the ball was down before Armstrong was dragged into touch and again the TMO confirmed what that corner of the ground already knew. The try went unconverted (after yet more abuse of the kicker from the visiting fans) and left the score at 18 – 9. Scarlets took the opportunity to make several changes after a successful Jones penalty and moments later, as Myler restored the nine point lead, Soane Tonga’uiha was introduced and the tie felt over as a contest. Myler and Ryan Lamb put away a penalty each and the match finished 27 – 12 with the only other moments of note being a yellow card for each side. James Downey for tackling the player without the ball and Dominic Day for being perpetually offside. The score line perhaps does not portray how dominant Northampton Saints were over the course of 80 minutes, having had the lion’s share of possession without looking overly threatening. That said, Saints won the first half 13 – 6 and the second 14 – 6 and the history books will show that it is Northampton that go through to face their old foe in a ground which is equidistant from either base (in the wrong direction) and smaller than both of their own.
The visiting sky experts awarded the man of the match award to Tom Wood and few would argue although my personal opinion would be that Stephen Myler couldn’t have been far behind after a solid kicking display and some great defensive effort. In the set-piece Christian Day was looking nearly back to his impeccable best after his injuries and, on today’s display, has once again shown to be an essential cog in the green machine.
All of a sudden the Low Value cup, as it has been branded by some, is now a one match shoot-out for a place among Europe’s elite next season. But more importantly than that, it is a chance to put one over on the old enemy and come home with a pot!
The view of Sky Man of the Match, Tom Wood.
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