Saints interim head coach Alan Dickens tipped his cap to the never-say-die attitude of his squad after Northampton beat Leicester Tigers 27-21 at Welford Road.
The men in Black, Green and Gold earned their first victory at the home of their bitter rivals since 2007 thanks to tries from Ben Foden, Cobus Reinach and Ahsee Tuala – with Stephen Myler adding 12 points from the kicking tee.
Fly-half Myler was the only survivor from the Saints side that last won in Leicester way back in 2007, but Dickens insisted the exceptional performance proved that the whole squad knew exactly how important Derby Day bragging rights are to the Club’s supporters.
“I’m really pleased for the players,” he said. “Everyone could see the emotion that came out of them at the end of the game which was both the joy of winning at Welford Road – which doesn’t come around very often – and the frustration of the season.
“Their attitude was fantastic. I am really proud and it's for the lads because a lot of people have questioned their commitment to the club.
After the disappointment of last week, Northampton needed to respond...— Rugby on BT Sport (@btsportrugby) April 14, 2018
They did so in style, with 27-21 win away to Leicester 👏
Tries from Cobus Reinach and Ahsee Tuala among the highlights of another cracking game of Premiership rugby 🙌 pic.twitter.com/JPQbHrPWBg
“We've seen here what it means to them. If we had all night we could go through one to 23 and say how well the players played.
“They put their bodies on the line for 80 minutes and I can't praise them enough. I thought they were fantastic.”
It was Saints’ first season’s double over Tigers since the 2003/04 season, and victory came courtesy of some scintillating counter attacking rugby in the first half before a dogged defensive effort after the interval.
Foden, Reinach and Tuala all crossed the whitewash, but it took key interventions from all 23 players to keep the resurgent Tigers at bay with the clock ticking down.
Dickens added: “Every coach in the world would want to be involved in that. But we do have to ask the question why this week was so different to last.
“The supporters were absolutely fantastic today so credit to them for coming out for us, and credit to the players for going around at the end of the game and thanking those that made the trip up the motorway.
“We’ve got to draw on that now and finish the season well.”
Saints’ stand-in skipper Rob Horne saw his afternoon ended almost before it had begun – with the Australian international rushed to hospital after taking a bang to the head just 12 seconds into the game.
But Dickens believes Horne’s leadership qualities really came to the fore ahead of the derby clash and had a big impact on the Northampton side despite his absence.
“I'm really disappointed for Rob Horne because he took the bull by the horns during the week, we asked him to be captain and he's led well throughout the week,” he said.
“The messages he's given the players is to pull together and perform as a team and he's been fantastic. We wish him well.”
Tickets for Saints' final clash of the season against Worcester Warriors are still available from the ticket office at Franklin’s Gardens, online by CLICKING HERE or by calling the Saints Ticket Office on 01604 581000. Prices start at £36 for adults and £16 for juniors.