Director of Rugby Chris Boyd was delighted with his ‘gutsy’ Northampton Saints side, as they ground out an all-important win against Leicester Tigers to not only claim East Midlands bragging rights, but keep themselves firmly in the chase for a Gallagher Premiership top four spot.
Tries from David Ribbans and Rory Hutchinson coupled with a Dan Biggar penalty gave Saints a 15-10 lead at the break; and though Northampton struck first in the second half through Sam Matavesi, Nemani Nadolo added a second to his first-half effort to keep Tigers in reach as the game closed out.
But Saints held off wave after wave of late pressure from their hosts and Boyd was delighted with the effort shown by his charges, as they secured two crucial last-minute penalties to seal their first win at Mattioli Woods Welford Road since October 2019.
“The outcome we’re obviously delighted with – to get four points here at Welford Road in the local derby,” Boyd said, after the 23-18 win.
“It’s important for our supporters because there’s such a rivalry and tradition so that part is very good.”Director of Rugby, Chris Boyd
“The performance was patchy but there was some gutsy defence at the end when we went down to 14 with a dubious yellow card, then Dan Biggar was down to one leg. We hung in there and got some crucial steals.
“It could have gone either way and after half-time we had three or four opportunities to bury that game and we didn’t, so that was disappointing.
“People talk about attack winning games and defence winning championships, and we’ve been a bit leaky in that department, but I thought we were gutsy at the end there.
“We’re certainly happy to get the four points.”
On man-of-the-match Biggar, who was instrumental at fly-half in Leicester despite playing the closing stages while carrying a knock, Boyd added: “Dan got a pretty crucial tap tackle on (Jasper) Wiese, and he’s one of those guys if you had to get in the trenches and take someone with you, he’s the first guy you’d pick.
“I’m just pleased for him that we came away with the victory.”
Saints now have a fortnight to prepare for their next Gallagher Premiership clash, with Gloucester coming to Franklin’s Gardens in early May, but Boyd confirmed that Nick Isiekwe would definitely not be playing any part for Northampton.
The Kiwi coach saluted the on-loan lock who, after suffering a pectoral injury last weekend against London Irish, will play no further part in Saints’ campaign – with the 23-year-old returning to Saracens at the end of the season after an influential 11 months in Black, Green and Gold.
“[Nick’s] finished for the season, he’s under the knife during the week,” Boyd said.
“It’s very unfortunate for Nick, but when his rehab starts up, he’ll come back in and join us until the end of the year.
“It’s disappointing for him and disappointing for us. He’s played a great part for us this season and we’ve really enjoyed having him on loan from Saracens.”