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News: Tigers Prowl Premiership Perimeter

By Ben_d
March 30 2014

The City of Leicester is currently locked in a debate over the final resting place of Richard III but there will be no confrontation over the ultimate destination of Sir Richard de Cockerill given the tenacity and durability of the city’s Tigers The Civic reception and Cathedral is booked. Saints once again came second to a side that seems impervious to defeat when it comes to the East Mids Derby.

Aviva Premiership Round 18

Saturday March 29th

Franklin's Gardens KO 3:15

Northampton Saints 16 v 22 Leicester Tigers


Cut it any which way you like, and point to any of a number of the grandstanding decisions made by Lord Barnes of Cheltenham but Northampton were outclassed for three quarters of this encounter and did well to stay in touch given the dominance of the visitors. Saints season isn’t unravelling because they will make the playoffs but they are rapidly approaching the pointy end of affairs with a crisis of confidence and a distinct lack of momentum, Malinder’s end of match and very public consultation with Wayne Barnes confirmed the angst.    

So Tuilagi was probably guilty of deliberately knocking the ball in to touch in the last play of the game but in all honesty had Saints achieved parity or better from any ensuing penalty it would have been tantamount to nominating President Putin for a Nobel Peace Prize.

Saintly optimists will point to the home side’s two tries to Leicester’s one and also the 8 points unused by the boot of a young and enthusiastic Hooley. Yet the encounter never felt that close, Northampton were always hanging on.

A warm spring sunshine and a vibrant of atmosphere permeated the assembled onlookers and a sincere dollop of mutual and lubricated respect was in evidence on the terrace. Leicester set to with immediate effect and put the Northampton defence under severe scrutiny. Yet somehow Northampton were the first to worry the scorer, early nerves settled for Hooley? Yes and no. Tigers were quickly back in the box seat though driving headlong for the south stand before the Wayne Barnes show took precedence and the referee marched the length of the pitch to review the highlights and full screen footage of absolutely nothing! With the Captains duly reprimanded for their sides being a bit feisty at scrum time, Leicester wrestled back control and Anthony Allen was immediately sent crashing over in the corner. Tigers established a lead that was never to be relinquished.

To compound things Northampton seemed to be struggling with themselves as well as the men in white and with Leicester’s superior kicking keeping Saints on the back foot Luther Burrell, shorn of his international confidence promptly offered Owen Williams a further opportunity to extend the lead. 3 - 10 with barely the first quarter complete and Northampton had very little on which to hang their hat and a mounting deficit to reel in.

The next three points lead to personal consternation on my particular patch of cement and aggregate as Goneva after an enterprising break appeared to get isolated. Wayne Barnes however decided that Saints failed to release in the tackle rather than the Fijian holding on? Who would want to be a referee? Leicester greedily accepted the West Countryman’s generosity and Williams confidently extended the lead to 10 points.

Thirty minutes gone and the home fires had nearly been dampened to a point beyond re-ignition. Saints needed the fuel of possession, and the spark that was Fotuali’i to begin to compile an effective blaze but the Hooley radar had been set to dither in the intervening period between penalties and the young lad couldn’t convert.  

The war was becoming attritional and more woe for Saints as the skipper Hartley was forced to retire just before halftime. He was closely followed by Ma’afu but not before the Aussie had exposed a grumpy Ayerza.

Northampton maintained the pressure and extricated a penalty and a lineout in the dying seconds of the first half. This was Northampton’s most consistent period yet, and they were rattling the bars of the Tiger cage to some effect, with Wood and Dowson threatening to breach the try line, but it was Fotuali’i who sought out an imperceptible chink in the Leicester defence and rolled over the line to secure a much needed five points, it was what the game needed and it was a shame that the extras couldn’t be added which would have reduced the deficit to only three points on halftime. Stubbornly the gap remained set at five.

Tigers started the second half with all the determination of the first but with Northampton’s best defensive patterns set in place the visitors couldn’t find a way through. It was all in the wrong half of the pitch for the home side though, who struggled to break out, and when they did Hooley failed to get the scoreboard ticking again, albeit a more speculative three pointer than the earlier attempts.

Williams however doesn’t spurn his opportunity as the Saints scrum shows signs of weariness and Barnes acquiesces. Northampton stung into action then put together their best passage of play so far as North, who had been quiet for most of the game combined with Fotuali’i. Elliot just failing to cling on to the potential scoring pass. Saints are rewarded however as Hooley’s replacement Wilson is given the chance to split the sticks, but Tigers remain annoyingly out of reach as almost immediately they are rewarded with an opportunity to restore the advantage.

The cavalry arrive and Northampton re-jig their back line once more to see if they can epilate a whisker or two from the nose of their opponents, but the all the plucking is being done by Williams who takes two more penalties with the blessing of Pope Barnes. The knockout blows pretty much delivered, Northampton raise themselves from the canvas for one last time and heartily deliver a spirited last ten minutes, Dickson adds some much needed urgency and the gaps start to appear. Achingly though the early season accuracy has vaporised and tiredness results in the nanoseconds previously taken to distribute perfect ball turning into millennia. The glaze going matt in the spring furnace.

Saints were now toe to toe with the timepiece as much as the visitors but the task is beyond them, and with Youngs illegally killing a superb North break from halfway the Tigers nine effectively puts the clock forward long before British summertime gets around to it.

Waller secured the last points of the game with Tigers down to thirteen but it was all too late to have any influence on spoils.

Northampton fight on in the Amlin Thursday night at Sale, and then have the small matter of an away trip to Saracens in the league. Thick and fast is the common cliché expounded when it gets to the hyperbole used at this end of the season. Tigers look very comfortable in their current pelt thank you very much; and Northampton? Well to take the shortest distance between two points has never been their style.  


Jim Mallinder says:


Courtney Lawes and Phil Dowson:-


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News: Tigers Prowl Premiership Perimeter (IP Logged)
30/03/2014 18:41
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Re: News: Tigers Prowl Premiership Perimeter
SaintMaul (IP Logged)
30/03/2014 19:08
If we rest our 1st 15 for the Amlin I can see a steel in the squad that can bring them back. If we tire our players further we'll suffer the same end of year burnout. We are not playing like we did early season and the run in is not easy with Sarries and Bath away. However, a home semi is still in our hands and we have some quality personnel which is why we achieved 13 consecutive victories.

We showed far too much respect to Tigers and played into their hands kicking aimlessly and very poorly. We looked dangerous ball in hand but our history against Tigers showed because we didn't back ourselves. Tigers were not amazing. We used possession poorly but were excellent in defence.

This was a worse result from a player psychological perspective than the points Tigers gained to close the gap. This Tigers team is very beatable which makes this more galling. We are likely to meet them in a likely semi as things are panning out. Winning starts with believing.

Though if our nemesis, the strutting peacock show otherwise known as Wayne Barnes, is ref then we all know in advance which way the result is going.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 2014:03:30:19:24:23 by SaintMaul.

Re: News: Tigers Prowl Premiership Perimeter
riverlodge (IP Logged)
30/03/2014 19:48
My take on yesterday, before I read posts and opinions from anyone else.

Wonderfully good rugby day, taking (Scottish rugby aficionado) friends to their first ever Prem rugby match in the sun for a full on local derby. Beer, Saull’s roll, chats with folk we knew in Thai-girl tops and Saintly outfits alike. Scots friends loved the ‘village’, pre game warm up pitch side and the overall atmosphere, one comment was ‘like internationals used to be but friendlier’.

Good noise just pre kick off, high anticipation….only we got the timing of Wendy ever so slightly wrong for the lads coming out. BTW well done those SSC lads and lasses on the big shirt and flags, very good touch, we should do that more and find a way to do something similar for away fixtures.

In the morning I had one of my ‘epiphany’ thought moments, that if we lost to Tiggs we would end up beating them in the play offs…. albeit at their place!! This, along with Alex King’s comments in the paper about this not being the be all and end all game, made me more relaxed than I would have expected (not due to beer, only had one!).

Still, I was a bit fed up at our first half intensity, nowhere near good enough to knock Tiggs out of their stride and they controlled the ball very well. Williams looks as naturally classy as I’d expected and Anthony Allen just does things right every time.

Felt dreadfully sorry for Will Hooley in that first half (had watched him warm up over quite a long period, looking a bag of nerves and slightly surprised that not one of AK, Glen Dickson or SMyler appeared to have their arms round his shoulder on the pitch (not like Grays who was always with Smyler) – just solo intense pre match kicking drills that finished with a 10 yarder straight in front of the posts ‘knockover’ that he slapped against the post!). As he missed those first half kicks, including one horror strike, was it just me or did he also seemed to begin to stand deeper as receiver?

Still given that we left (8?) points begging from the tee, I was relatively happy at the half time score – Tiggs really should have used their control to greater advantage, but our defence was solid and on the plus side we had scrum parity and lineout was okay too.

Second half I thought showed the difference in savvy of the two teams, but the final quarter showed that – if we get some accuracy back – we can really rattle them. Kahn was superb all game for me, and he was a revelation at 10 in attack in the final quarter - I loved the pace of him playing first receiver to Lee. There were some many ‘nearly’ moments of course - thought if Jamie had burst through that tackle on the left (and at least not knocked on), if George N had pinned his ears back on his lovely break (and put Ken in on a 3 on 2), or if we had used George P on the crash fromm those failed rolling mauls on their 5 yard line. If’s and maybes, unfortunately.

Next, Wayne Barnes. Apart from the protracted review of the Salesi (and Ayerza?) non event on the floor, I thought he was really okay. I disagreed with the penalty vs Jamie in the air, but my far more knowledgeable Scots pal thought it was a correct decision. Oddly I thought we got a gift with Goneva’s binning, as he could easily have argued his swing was to dislodge the ball. And he penalised Tiggs killing the ball right at the end (correctly again according to my pal) when I least expected him to, unlike Nigel Owens and Munster.

I’m increasingly concerned though that, in various areas of the ground that I sit in - but the Burrda worst of all – the knowledge of some basics on offside, offside from chargedowns or when ball touched etc is pretty poor. Boo the ref if you must when he is clearly wrong, but not when you haven’t a clue what is going on.

Finally Toby Flood. Was he making innocuous signs to his own folks, or was he really rubbing it in to Saints fans and our players box by giving it “ten fingers for ten 'non losses'” a couple of times very overtly to the Burrda stand?

Whatever, it looked like straight up gloating to me and I hope this gives our lads that extra bit to absolutely nail them in the play off semi.


Re: News: Tigers Prowl Premiership Perimeter
Stopsy (IP Logged)
30/03/2014 19:58
Many thanks Ben, well written

Re: News: Tigers Prowl Premiership Perimeter
KevinR (IP Logged)
31/03/2014 06:26
Great report - very fair. See you in the semis :-)

Eif Jones
Re: News: Tigers Prowl Premiership Perimeter
Eif Jones (IP Logged)
31/03/2014 12:35
The disadvantage of the LV to the Scarlets. Leicester go down there and get well beaten with the unknown Ystradgynlais outside half doing much of the damage. Result Cockerill sees his potential and with his greater financial muscle signs him.
More interesting, if Flood had left a season earlier, and Ford had stayed, would it be Ford on the bench? Ford's Achilles heel is his goal kicking which is certainly Williams' strength. Will Cockerill now go ahead with his interest in the one season wonder Burns?
Williams may regret his move if he has Welsh international ambitions being away from Gatland's regular haunts who will be able to watch the similarly aged and talented Patchell most weeks.

Re: News: Tigers Prowl Premiership Perimeter
Rich W (IP Logged)
31/03/2014 14:34
Really good, fair report. Thanks. And yep see you soon!


Alphonse the Dog
Re: News: Tigers Prowl Premiership Perimeter
Alphonse the Dog (IP Logged)
31/03/2014 19:28
Obviously not as good as my report, you have far too many pertinent observations and facts....

Otherthan that, not bad for a biped.

Re: News: Tigers Prowl Premiership Perimeter
oddshapedballs (IP Logged)
31/03/2014 21:00
Some I agree with and some I don't - nothing to start an argument over, not even with Eifion because, if his contribution was to highlight that Williams's goal-kicking was the difference between the sides, I'd say he was right and probably deserving of the MoM. He kicked three goals significantly more difficult than three of those that we didn't and achieved 100% from the tee.

Tigers won because they did the boring things better than us. Kicking goals, looking after the ball while not having any space in which to operate, kicking past our deep field giving themselves the possibility of either receiving a kick around the half-way line or squeezing our counter-attack back to our own 10-metre line. Boring, percentage stuff. Showing us the sort of respect we didn't show them.

Our plan seemed to be to keep playing the ball from wherever it was and no matter the odds of success. We passed laterally across our 22-metre line for significant periods without making a dent in the Tigers' defence; all the while we were a mistake away from conceding 7 points.Scrambling defence around the mistakes we made were the highlights of the first half until Kahn found his way to the line.

Leicester provided remarkably few of the highlights. What they showed was an obduracy and a collective will that turned our would-be fancy Dan rugby into fancy doughnuts as passes were mis-placed or spilled; as players ran out of support and were penalised for hanging on.

There were plenty of lessons to be learned today at the analysts review. Let us hope we have reminded ourselves what we have to do to earn the right to go wide. Please let us not underestimate the resolve of the teams we are about to play to keep us penned into our own defensive quarter unless we do something that will take us down the field.


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