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Match Report: Northampton Saints XV 64 – 26 Leicester Tigers XV

Northampton Saints XV eased to victory over Leicester Tigers XV in the second Derby Day Double fixture in a festival atmosphere at cinch Stadium at Franklin’s Gardens.

With a number of players running out for the final time in Black, Green and Gold, it was four departees who got on the scoresheet for Saints before half-time with Courtnall Skosan running in twice and David Ribbans, Tom Collins, and Frankie Sleightholme all scoring to make it 31-14.

Karl Wilkins, Danny Hobbs-Awoyemi, Will Glister, Tom James, and Tom Lockett then all got in the act after the interval – with Northampton running in ten tries in total to round off the season on home soil in style, and prepare perfectly for the Gallagher Premiership semi-finals in a fortnight.

FIRST HALF

Sean Jansen was caught offside early on for Tigers, and after Saints kicked to the corner they were rewarded as Fin Smith flung a long pass to his left, and Skosan was there to run in the score in the corner – and the fly-half nailed his conversion from out wide.

But while Tigers hit back with their first attack, as Nic Dolly burrowed over from short range following Charlie Atkinson’s excellent kick into the corner from a penalty, it took Saints no time at all to get back in front as Skosan combined beautifully with George Hendy to send the former over for his second try.

Saints made it three with only 12 minutes on the clock as Alex Mitchell’s chip over the top was collected by Smith, and while the ball was dislodged in a questionable tackle by Hosea Saumaki, it fell for Juarno Augustus who offloaded to Ribbans for the score.

Smith converted to make it 19-7, and after ten scrappy minutes, the hosts had their fourth score as – playing with an advantage – a silky offload from Sam Matavesi out the back found Hendy, who put Collins clear to finish in the corner to the delight of the crowd.

However, Tigers were not going away and after a clever pick up from the base of a ruck by Emeka Ilione took Leicester to the five-metre line, lock Rob Carmichael broke a tackle and stretched over to score under the posts.

Ribbans and Skosan then bade farewell to the Gardens crowd, as they were replaced before the interval to rapturous applause.

There was still time for Sleightholme to get in on the act for Northampton, as Rory Hutchinson spotted a gap and then got his hands free to release the winger who showed he has pace to burn as he raced into the corner.

Up stepped Collins to take the conversion, and while he hooked what would prove to be his last kick at the Gardens wide of the posts, the wing left the field to another standing ovation.

SECOND HALF

Saints rung the changes at half-time, with almost an entirely new XV running out for the second half – but a busting carry from Tom Lockett in the opening seconds set the tone and Branden Nansen so nearly went into the corner, but James Grayson’s pass just drifted into touch in front of him.

Northampton kept up the pressure with three offside penalties for Tigers in quick succession, and eventually Wilkins smashed his way through the line defender to score from close range.

Yet another penalty from Tigers handed Saints a five-metre lineout, and after Callum Braley broke off the back and wriggled out of a tackle, there was Hobbs-Awoyemi on his shoulder to gather the offload for a try.

The prop was in the middle of another try-scoring move just before the hour mark, offloading inside for under-18 player Glister – on his debut at the Gardens – to race clear and finish spectacularly in the corner.

Grayson struck an inch-perfect conversion from out wide, and two minutes later Saints were over again as Callum Braley darted through a gap, and the ball found James via Ed Prowse for a simple finish.

Two more points from the boot of Grayson took the scoreline to 57-14, and the fly-half then prevented a try down the other end as he forced a knock-on in goal from Tigers centre Joe Woodward.

Leicester did hit back as Atkinson’s grubber-kick found Joe Browning to score in the right corner, but the momentum was soon back with Northampton as a deliberate knock-on in midfield allowed the hosts to kick into the corner, and a few phases later Lockett crashed over to make it 64-19.

There was still time for a consolation score for Tigers’ Lewis Chessum, but there was no dampening the mood around the Gardens at 64-26 – with the final scoreline also meaning Saints edged the ‘Derby Day Double’ 78-71 on aggregate.

LINE-UPS

SAINTS XV: Hendy, Collins, Freeman, Hutchinson, Skosan, F Smith, Mitchell; E Waller, S Matavesi, Davison, Ribbans (c), Moon, Salakaia-Loto, Graham, Augustus
Replacements: Burns, Cruse, Haywood, Hobbs-Awoyemi, Heffernan, Hill, Prowse, Lockett, Nansen, Coles, Scott-Young, Wilkins, Braley, James, J Grayson, F Sleightholme, Litchfield, E Grayson, Kean, Glister

TIGERS XV: Murimurivalu, Browning, Cokanasiga, Woodward, Saumaki, Atkinson, Edwards; van Wyk (c), Dolly, Hurd, Chessum, Carmichael, Carnduff, Ilione, Jansen
REPLACEMENTS: Vanes, Whitcombe, Richardson, Manz, Manz, Koroiyadi, Wolstenholme, Meredith, Cusick, Satala

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