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News: Saints Splat Wasps to Stretch Lead to 14 pts

By Jonathan Stockham
March 28 2015

Northampton Saints welcomed London?  Coventry?  Just Wasps to Franklins Gardens last night under the floodlights for another high scoring game against the men in Black and Yellow. Controversial for the sending off of Wasps No8 Nathan Hughes for knocking out George North as he scored a try, the match will also be remembered for the refereeing performance of rookie ref Craig Maxwell-Keys. More of that later. 

Aviva Premiership Round 18

Franklins Gardens, Northampton.

27 March 2015.


Saints were back at full strength with the return of their internationals from 6 Nations duty. England centre Luther Burrell was absent through injury but Dylan Hartley, Courtney Lawes, Tom Wood and George North were back home for the duration of the season. In the first half, The Gardens crowd became increasingly agitated by the control of the game being demonstrated by the officials. This was only Mr Maxwell-Keys third Premiership game at the ripe old age of 24! Hmmmm…..



The occasionally bizarre and erratic officiating wasn’t all the ref’s fault. He wisely relied on his assistants to help him control affairs so it was the work of 3 men that caused considerable frustration amongst the players. Both teams had players in front of the kicker at restarts, no whistle. Players were going in off their feet and in at the side of rucks all night, no whistle. Lines out were often squint, no whistle. Yet, imaginary high tackles were pinged, scrum penalties awarded the wrong way and sudden changes in consistency occurred to penalise offences that had gone unnoticed for much of the game. Everyone’s career has to start somewhere but the frustration of the players and the annoyance of the spectators were an indication of a lack of customer satisfaction with the goods on offer from this referee.

Hartley, as skipper, spent much of the first half asking the referee for clarification or to complain that offences, particularly at the breakdown, were stopping Saints playing their game.

However, the really big decision that, in my view as a spectator and later TV viewer, the officials got right, was the chain of events which led to the sending off of Nathan Hughes.

He kicked George North in the head as the Welsh winger scored his second try for the Saints.

And what a try it was! Straight from a restart, the kick was collected superbly by Samu Manoa, who charged on and offloaded to North who slid in at the left corner. Unfortunately, Hughes’ knee made contact with North’s head and he was knocked out cold. It took several minutes for the medical team to check and treat him before securing him on a stretcher, during which time the referee and TMO had a long look at the video of the incident.

To give Hughes the benefit of the doubt, it probably wasn’t deliberate but reckless or careless. Quite what he thought he could achieve by getting to North after the ball had been grounded, only he will know but it was no different to the red card issued to Scotland fly-half Finn Russell in the recent 6 Nations series for a careless contact with a player in the air whilst challenging for a catch. That wasn’t deliberate either but it was a red card none the less.

Hughes argued with the ref about the decision which probably won’t help his case at the disciplinary hearing and Wasps “waterboy” Dan Baugh needs to worry about his blood pressure as he too argued with the ref, 4th official and then had to be physically restrained by colleagues to prevent him assaulting Saints’ forwards coach Dorian West on the touchline. Defence coach Brad Davies, another “waterboy”, had earlier spent 3 or 4 minutes shouting at the 4th official about a decision he didn’t like. The official studiously ignored him!  All very unsavoury.

As play resumed after North was carried off to the medical room to a standing ovation, the game swung back in Saints’ favour. Just as well, as Wasps had started very brightly and two brilliant tries,  by Christian Wade, very much against the run of play following a steal by Hughes on George Pisi and then a second after a scorching break by Alex Lozowski sent the winger in for his second.

In between, North had taken a superbly placed cross kick by Stephen Myler, to open the scoring for Saints but by the end of the first quarter, Saints were 5 – 17 down.


And before North’s second try, with both fly halves exchanging penalties, the scoreboard read 8 – 20. Talking of No 10’s, as the game developed it became clear to non-Wasps that in Alex Lozowski they have a real find as a game maker. Good kicking accuracy, an eye for the gap and less than shabby speed all combine to offer real promise for future seasons.




After North departed, Saints turned the screw. A penalty try from a rolling maul blatantly brought down feet from the line (Dai Young: note to self: tell players “don’t collapse mauls whilst wearing white!”) and then another by Alex Corbisiero minutes later saw the sides head in for refreshments at the break with Saints 27-20 ahead. Nineteen points in 5 minutes!

 Second half and Saints play down the slope in accordance with local custom and tradition.

The gap narrowed soon after as Lozowski slots a penalty but then opens again as Myler returns the compliment, plus another soon after. But it’s getting scary as Wade notches up his hat trick to bring Wasps back within close reach at 33-30. And with only 14 men, that’s a strong performance.

So, as one would expect from a team of Champions, the work rate is increased and straight from the restart, Saints go for the line. Working the Wasps defence left and right, space is created for Ken Pisi to stroll over in the right hand corner, to which Myler adds the extras. Now with a lead of 10 and only 9 minutes left, all Saints needed to do was manage the clock ticking down and keep Wasps pinned down in front of the Burrda Stand.

Naw, not this bunch! Two late tries follow by Ahsee Tuala, on for North, the first another cross-field kick and take on the bounce and the second three minutes later, a superb sneak in at the corner just on the legal side of the touchline!

With Myler converting one of them, no side arrives with Saints still attacking and marching home winners at 52-30 and Tom Wood being named Man of the Match for another sterling performance in the vanguard of a good, if not great team effort. Woody, when interviewed after the game, was disappointed that they had let Wasps score 30 and reckoned there would be stern words in training during the week as the focus changes to Europe and the crunch against Clermont Auvergne on Easter Saturday.

Integrating the internationals back in to the squad after several weeks away can’t be entirely straightforward but this squad has depth and determination and just will not lie down and be beaten.

Of most concern obviously is the health of George North after being knocked unconscious. The Club issued the following statement on Saturday:

Northampton Saints has issued the following medical update on George North, who sustained a blow to the head in the Aviva Premiership win over Wasps that necessitated his removal from the field of play.

After the game North was conscious and in the Saints' changing room with the rest of the team. He has been into the club today (Saturday) for treatment and will continue to be monitored by the Saints' experienced medical team throughout the weekend.

As with everyone in the squad, Northampton Saints places the highest importance on player welfare, and as such North will see a specialist early next week for an assessment.

Northampton Saints will make further announcements as and when they are available, but no further comment will be made in the meantime.

Concussion and post injury recovery is paramount in a player’s welfare. The recurrence of Mike Brown’s concussion symptoms after playing for Quins last weekend show that it isn’t something to be taken lightly or for players to be rushed back.

Given the two episodes in one game whilst playing for Wales recently, George has to be handled carefully in assessing his suitability to play and we, as supporters, will have to curb our anxiety to see him back on the field of play. George will probably have to be locked up to stop him pulling on the jersey to soon!



Northampton Saints: Wilson; K. Pisi, G. Pisi, Stephenson, North; Myler, L. Dickson; Corbisiero, Hartley, Ma'afu, Lawes, C. Day, Wood, Clark, Manoa.


Replacements: Haywood, A. Waller, Denman, S. Dickinson, Fisher, Fotuali'i, Waldouck, Tuala.



Wasps: Miller; Wade, Daly, Downey, Tagicakibau; Lozowski, Simpson; Mullan, Shervington, Cittadini, Cannon, Myall, Johnson, Young, N. Hughes.


Replacements: McIntyre, Swainston, Gaskell, E. Jackson, Thompson, Weepu, G. Hughes, W. Helu.


Referee: Craig Maxwell-Keys


Jim Mallinder Says:

Stephen Myler Says:

Tom Wood (MoM) Says:

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News: Saints Splat Wasps to Stretch Lead to 14 pts (IP Logged)
28/03/2015 17:22
What do you think? You can have your say by posting below.
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Re: News: Saints Splat Wasps to Stretch Lead to 14 pts
St Marlowe (IP Logged)
28/03/2015 17:27
Thanks Captain - a great read

David L

What if there were no hypothetical questions?

- Live wrong and preposterously

Re: News: Saints Splat Wasps to Stretch Lead to 14 pts
Chilham (IP Logged)
29/03/2015 00:25
Jonathan Stockham
… However, the really big decision that, in my view as a spectator and later TV viewer, the officials got right, was the chain of events which led to the sending off of Nathan Hughes…

Bath, Quins, Sarries, Tigers, Chiefs SN sites … each has a thread about the mach and each is full of opinion it was not a red card offence. Neutral views.

Just saying.

Re: News: Saints Splat Wasps to Stretch Lead to 14 pts
St Marlowe (IP Logged)
29/03/2015 07:55
They, of course, are welcome to their p.o.v.
You've had your say - now go home before you're tainted by connection with Northampton.

David L

What if there were no hypothetical questions?

- Live wrong and preposterously

Re: News: Saints Splat Wasps to Stretch Lead to 14 pts
St Francis (IP Logged)
29/03/2015 08:53
Good report, thanks for that.

And Chilham, your team lost. It happens. Show a bit of backbone and get over it.

Re: News: Saints Splat Wasps to Stretch Lead to 14 pts
Wee Jim (IP Logged)
29/03/2015 10:12
Good report. I thought two people on the pitch had good debuts The Wasps fly half and the referee. Yes I thought some of his decisions odd but he was consistent. He handled the players better than the reports think.

Re: News: Saints Splat Wasps to Stretch Lead to 14 pts
St Marlowe (IP Logged)
29/03/2015 11:19
I changed my mind about the ref after I had watched the recording. He was consistent even if decisions disliked by the players.

David L

What if there were no hypothetical questions?

- Live wrong and preposterously

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 2015:03:29:13:36:50 by St Marlowe.

Re: News: Saints Splat Wasps to Stretch Lead to 14 pts
Howlin (IP Logged)
29/03/2015 11:29
Ref was Ok. Many of teh comments about him (including our BT "experts" were unfounded.The poor decisions (or lack of decision) were down to his assistants, one in particular. He trusted them (which if unsighted he had to do). I found Healey's comments about him and the team/crowd influencing him extraordinary and wrong. Most of the things the crowd were baying over were issues that went against saints! Like the high tackle that wasn't, Johnson's theatrical dive and the not straight throws that were ignored. The "influence" didn't work very well there did it ! Strange also that the commentators chose to ignore the hand to Woods face entirely. I wonder whether it would have gone unnoticed had it been Dylan involved ?

Shame about all the so called controversy as I thought it was another cracking match. watching it back yesterday confirmed my thoughts; as entertainment it was roughly ten times better than Sarries v Quins imo.

Saint 'til I die

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