A double from wing Tom Collins helped Northampton Saints seal a hard-earned 31-26 victory over Ospreys to round off their preseason campaign in style in front of a bumper crowd at Franklin’s Gardens.
With an unrestricted number of supporters back through the gates for the first time since February 2020, the men in Black, Green and Gold started strongly – scoring quickly through Collins, before adding further tries from Tom Litchfield and Alex Mitchell before the half-time whistle blew.
But while Ospreys hit back at their hosts with a quick brace after the interval, Collins’ second score coupled with an excellent effort from skipper Lewis Ludlam, saw Saints end their preseason unbeaten – with the Gallagher Premiership campaign beginning next Saturday against Gloucester.
Saints started strongly in front of the partisan crowd at Franklin's Gardens, patiently pushing early on before Fraser Dingwall sent a looping pass out wide for Collins to claim his first in the corner.
Furbank converted from the tee and Saints were instantly back on the attack as Collins broke through the middle again. But an opportunistic intercept from the away side saw the ball in the hands of Michael Collins; the Ospreys centre chipped through for speedster Mat Protheroe to collect and dot down out wide, before Gareth Anscombe added the extras to level the scores.
More steady play from Saints saw them on the front foot again and Collins was the catalyst once more, breaking through the midfield before setting Ahsee Tuala and Litchfield free out wide – with the latter crossing for his first senior try on Northampton soil.
Another smart conversion from Furbank extended Saints’ lead, and despite a string of penalties getting Ospreys close to the Northampton try line, it was the home side who went over the whitewash next. A strong rush defence earned Saints a five-metre scrum and after a good shove from the forwards, replacement scrum-half Mitchell snuck round the corner to snipe over for the hosts’ third.
Furbank’s third conversion took the scoreline to 21-7 in Saints’ favour as the game entered the half-time break, but Ospreys struck first after the restart – with Protheroe weaving through Saints’ line before sending Jac Morgan over out wide.
A conversion from replacement fly-half Hawkins brought the game back within a score, before Ospreys added another to their tally, hacking forward a loose ball to see Owen Watkin dot down.
A missed touchline conversion left Saints with a slim two-point lead, but Chris Boyd’s men were quick to push ahead again, with Ludlam showing his speed down the right wing before sending the ball inside to Matt Proctor. The centre had James Fish on his shoulder and the Saints hooker scrambled forwards before the ball came out wide through Dingwall and Grayson, with the latter sending another looping pass out wide to Collins for the score.
The fleet-footed winger thought he had his hat-trick just after, with the ball finding him in space again, but referee Craig Mawell-Keys chalked off his effort for a forward pass in the build up. Saints were not made to wait long, however, as Proctor collected a stray Ospreys pass before Rory Hutchinson danced through the midfield, finding Mitchell who put skipper Ludlam over the whitewash for Saints’ fifth of the night.
Ospreys hit back with a score of their own through Reuben Morgan-Williams after a break from Max Nagy in the midfield, and Joe Hawkins' conversion took the scoreline to 31-26 with ten minutes left on the clock.
And despite a late push for victory from the away side, Boyd’s side had done enough to see remain unbeaten throughout their 2021/22 preseason campaign.