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News: Saints go top - worsening Warriors Woes

By Casual Saint
February 17 2014

In my spare time I coach one of the less successful junior rugby sides in the county and as such have much experience of taking positives after losing yet another rugby game.  To apply this to Worcester they at least got a good look at their signing for next season after GJ van Velze rounded off a Man of the Match performance with a brace of tries to make the difference between the two sides.  From a backs coach perspective they also scored the best try of the game but I suspect that will be little comfort to players and fans when they consider the Premiership table today.

Avivia Premiership Round 14

Northampton Saints v Worcester Warriors

Franklin's Gardens, Saturday 15th February, KO 3pm

Northampton Saints 30 - 14 Worcester Warriors 


Matters meteorological have been to the forefront of everyone’s minds this week, so it was with a feeling of relief that I arrived at the Gardens to see that the conditions should not have an undue influence the game. The sky was battleship grey but no rain was falling and whilst a strong wind was blowing it was at least coming from the West so should not favour one side in particular.

Both teams ran out and Saints took up their preferred end, backs to the South Stand.  Everything was set, we just needed the ref.  Mr Barnes had to come back to the Gardens at one point this season and it was a sense of relief that today was the day.  We would finally be able to draw a line under the events at HQ last May.  I was at Twickenham that day and lost my sense of perspective as much as the next man and probably said and thought things that in retrospect were utter rubbish.  Since then team has grown and developed a harder edge that has enabled them to put together an impressive run of wins and I for one was prepared to give Sir the benefit of the doubt. Having said all of that Mr Barnes’ appearance was met with a chorus of pantomime boos which made me smile.  But seriously that’s it, it’s over now folks, lets move on.

The first half was a cagey affair, given their situation it was understandable that Worcester played like a team that did not want to lose. The problem was at times Saints played like a team that did not want to win.  This was most marked when a number of catch and drive opportunities from attacking line outs were either successfully disrupted by Worcester or resulted in penalties for holding onto the ball when Saints lost control of the maul.  They also failed to add any points during a yellow card period for Senatore after he was sent to the bin for preventing Dickson from taking a quick penalty.

Worcester scored early and late in the half, both through the boot of the excellent Chris Pennell.  The first kick opened the scoring after 5 minutes, Sir penalising the Saints front row for their lack of binding in the first scrum of the game.  The second kick ended the half, Pisi G penalised for a dangerous tackle on Pennell who then brushed himself down to slot the 3 points.

In between these scores Worcester did not threaten the Saints line, Saints defending with patience and organisation which provided a regular supply of turn-over ball through the half.  Dickenson was impressive as a stand in second row, looking comfortable in the line out and making impressive yards with the ball in hand.  His short combinations with Manoa kept Saints on the front foot whilst Dickson looked lively behind the pack, mixing up the play and keeping the tempo high.  The best chance of the half came after 15 minutes, Manoa and Dowson linking with off loads to set Elliot free on the left who was denied by a last gaps cover tackle from Pennell.

 The wind may have been swirling round the Gardens but Steven Myler had remembered his kicking boots and maintained a regular supply of points from penalties.  12 minutes after the Worcester defence was off side at the ruck, 20 minutes for some non sense off the ball and 24 minutes after an infringement at the scrum.  The days when a Saints kick at goal seemed a pointless endeavour unless it was in front of the posts seem a very long time ago now.  Myler’s quite confidence and consistency of the tee cannot be under estimated in these nervy games.

9:6 at half time and the smell of banana skin was still in the air.

Jim must have spent the half time break finding a collection of hats and mounting them on any wheels he could find. Saints came out a faster and harder team and dominated the second half to the extent that the crowd was baying for a bonus point at the end, which I am sure any online betting provider would have offered generous odds on at half time.

Saints applied the pressure from the start and when Chris Pennell’s touch finder went out on the full they camped themselves in the Worcester 22.  Manoa went close (in fact I’m sure it might have been worth a second look by the TMO) before a series of penalties and illegally stopped mauls tried Mr Barnes’s patience who awarded a penalty try on 44 minutes.

All the good work was sadly undone at the restart, Elliot’s loose clearance kick was shipped into midfield by Worcester, Grove sent a lovely grubber through the Saints defence and Lemi won the race the touch the ball down.  You have to respect David Lemi, not matter what the situation he always seems to find a way to get 5 points for his team.

I am sure there were some choice words under the sticks as Saints upped the tempo another notch and squeezed Worcester until they cracked.  The scrum achieved total dominance regardless of the put in and a steady supply of penalties followed.  Saints camped inside the Worcester 22 as they repeatedly kicked penalties to the Church’s side only for the subsequent catch and drive to be illegally sacked by Worcester.  Finally it all boiled over.  Worcester looked to have won a penalty to lift the pressure only for a roar of displeasure from the crowd persuaded Barnes to have a chat with his linesman.  Putting his neck on the line he suggested the TMO look at an incident that took place a whole 2 yards in front of him.  After the obligatory multiple replays out came a yellow card for Dickenson ..... queue roar of disbelief from the crowd .... and a red card for Thomas for one of the more obvious punches on Dickenson.

Penalty reversed, kick to the corner , maul illegally sacked, same old same old. This cannot continue for much longer and Betty now sees yellow to pretty much fill the naughty step.   Worcester are now treading on egg shells when it comes to defending the driving maul and there is nothing they can do to stop Van Velze being driven over.  Myler slots the extras, and on 55 minutes its 23:11.

The game is at a balance, either Worcester steady the boat or its going to be a 50 pointer.  At this stage they were reminding me of some of the 3rd teams I played with and against.  Poor discipline and looking to turn every situation into a scuffle.  Credit to them they steady the boat and when Clarke is caught on the wrong side Pennell kicks the penalty to start to claw them back towards a bonus pont.

Saints by now are looking very comfortable both defending and with ball in hand.  Worcester are back to 14 but are looking tired and the gaps start to open around the pitch. Mieres is brought on for Warwick and sees 2 of his kicks charged down.  The second one is recovered and kicked to the corner but Drauninlu does fantastically well to avoid the on rushing Elliot and clear to touch.

Its only a matter of time, a lovely inside run by Pisi K opens up the Worcester defence, the ball goes wide and it looks like Stephenson, whose has had an impressive debut, has butchered a 3 man overlap.  The support arrives quicker than the Worcester defence though and Van Velze is over for his second.

10 minutes to go and suddenly the bonus point is very much on.  Saints are attacking in waves and with a bench worth of replacements on the pitch there is plenty of fresh blood.  The most noticeable impact of this comes in defence though.  Worcester get their hands on the ball and as the Saints defence opens O’Donnell  goes clear up the middle.  He opts to take the contact with Autagavais who sits him down with a massive hit. Wrong option methinks.

5 minutes to go ... and Saints are back in the Worcester 22.  Again a series of penalties are kicked to the corner but Worcester hold out.  Saints look to have blown their final chance as the ball runs free but they are awarded one last scrum as time runs out.  It results in a penalty and another scrum, again another penalty and the script is written ... penalty try coming, 5 points, thank you very much. The crowd are the loudest all day ..... but the ball spills out the side of the scrum.  Elliott cannot squeeze over and after a couple of phases its a penalty to Worcester.  The ball is booted out and that’s that.

A hard fought game? A banana skin avoided ? A point squandered ? Pretty much depends on who you chattered to in the bar afterwards.  I’ll settle for 4 points and top spot in the league.  Well played lads.


Tom Stephenson and Alex Waller say.....



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News: Saints go top - worsening Warriors Woes (IP Logged)
17/02/2014 00:23
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St Marlowe
Re: News: Saints go top - worsening Warriors Woes
St Marlowe (IP Logged)
17/02/2014 00:26
Thanks CS - a really good summation of the match!

David L

What if there were no hypothetical questions?

- Live wrong and preposterously

Flinstone Saint
Re: News: Saints go top - worsening Warriors Woes
Flinstone Saint (IP Logged)
17/02/2014 08:58
Hmmm. A hard fought game and a banana skin avoided for me I think. Many thanks for an excellent write up CS. Much appreciated.


Please sponsor me for Saints with Heart []

Re: News: Saints go top - worsening Warriors Woes
SAINT_aitch (IP Logged)
19/02/2014 10:58
Excellent match report. Just as I saw it. Thanks.

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