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Classic Match: Review and Ratings as Saints win at Welford Road

After last night's streaming of the Classic Match where Northampton Saints recorded their second straight win at the home of bitter East Midlands rivals Leicester Tigers, Tom Vickers puts together his review and player ratings from the historic clash. 

You wait ages for a win at Welford Road – and then two come along in as many matches.

At times it felt like Saints’ horror run at the home of Leicester Tigers would never end. Eleven long years passed by without a Northampton team celebrating on Tigers turf.

But after finally smashing the hoodoo last April, Saints really stuck the knife in on Friday night. Because while they won by the skin of their teeth in a showing full of steel last year –Saints triumphed 27-21 – they completely controlled things this time round.

At one point, the men in Black, Green and Gold had stormed into an incredible 29-3 lead, and the silence from the home support was deafening. Saints had been ruthless while the Tigers looked toothless.

The hosts struggled to really test Chris Boyd’s men until two late tries gave the scoreline a slightly more respectable look.

But this was all about Saints. So many stellar individual showings combined to produce a towering team performance.

They were razor-sharp and rapid in attack, and resilient and robust in defence. Everything clicked to deliver what has to be viewed as one of the greatest away wins in Northampton history.

To win a derby in this fashion under the Friday night lights at Welford Road was nothing short of astounding.

Saints had just five days’ rest whereas Tigers had the previous weekend off. Tigers brought back five Six Nations stars, but Saints only had Dan Biggar to recall. And in the end, Biggar was far more influential than the Tigers quintet combined.

Jonny May and Manu Tuilagi were completely overshadowed by Tom Collins and Rory Hutchinson. And how great that feels for Saints, who have dismissed reputations this season and picked on form and belief.

Chris Boyd has brought a whole new approach, and the fruits of it were there for all to see on Friday night. It felt like a former force against an up-and-coming power.

Saints still have so far to go on their journey, but how well they have done so far. They have come on leaps and bounds since Leicester beat them at Twickenham in October, and that is credit to all of the players and coaches.

Their hard work has paid off – and it has paid off in style. Now they know they need five more huge performances like this if they are to end their season in the Premiership play-offs.

On this form, you certainly wouldn’t bet against them.

How they rated...

AHSEE TUALA – Some of his awareness and footwork caused problems for Tigers and he pouched a key interception during the first period... 7

TOM COLLINS – Loves a try, and he grabbed two here, as well as playing a huge role in Reinach’s effort. A superb night for the livewire wing, who staked his claim for more starts... 9

RORY HUTCHINSON – A quite majestic midfield display, oozing with confidence. The youngster delivered some moments of pure genius, beating seven defenders and he would have been star man had it not been for Reinach’s heroics... 9

PIERS FRANCIS – Seems to take so many knocks in every game he plays, but he keeps getting back up for more and this was a very impressive all-round showing... 8

TAQELE NAIYARAVORO – Had a couple of tough moments in defence but that was all forgotten thanks to his attacking play, which included an outrageously good offload assist for Collins’ second score... 8

DAN BIGGAR – Came in for Premiership Rugby Cup final man of the match James Grayson and showed all of his class. Controlled the game, kicked well and defended brilliantly, making a massive 22 tackles... 9

COBUS REINACH – This really was a special showing from the scrum-half who seemed to be everywhere during Saints’ first-half super-show. Made turnovers, made a try-saving tackle, set up attacks and started it all off with a score of his own... 9

FRANCOIS VAN WYK – Came off at half-time but not before he could play a good part during the strong first-half showing... 7

JAMES FISH – Made sure the Saints lineout functioned perfectly and was in the thick of the action, especially in defence... 7

PAUL HILL – Loved his trip to Welford Road last April, and it was more of the same here as he put his body on the line for his team... 7

API RATUNIYARAWA – Carried hard time and again, tiring Tigers out in the collisions and keeping hold of the ball for his relentless team... 7

ALEX MOON – The lock topped the Saints tackle count with a whopping 25 as he once again showed what a huge prospect he is... 8

JAMIE GIBSON – Aside from his sin-binning, he did pretty much everything right, making the Tigers rue his departure from Welford Road yet again... 8

HEINRICH BRÜSSOW – The South African flanker is like the Duracell bunny – he just keeps going and going, flying forward and wreaking havoc at the breakdown... 9

TEIMANA HARRISON – This performance would be described as amazing, but he does it most weeks. Was a constant menace for Tigers as he gave everything he could for the cause. Gargantuan... 9

Replacements (who played more than 20 minutes)

ALEX WALLER (for van Wyk 40) – Did nothing wrong after coming on, making his tackles and even managing a big break... 6

GEORGE FURBANK (for Naiyaravoro 58) – It’s not often this player gets below an 8/10 these days but he wasn’t on for long and Saints had won the game by the time he arrived... 6

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