Northampton Saints secured their first victory of the campaign to round off 2020 on a high note, with a clinical performance against Worcester Warriors earning them a 29-10 win.
Scores through a penalty try, Alex Mitchell, man-of-the-match Dan Biggar and Mikey Haywood were enough to earn a bonus point for Chris Boyd’s men at Franklin’s Gardens on Boxing Day.
In a fast-paced first half, that penalty try plus the score from Mitchell, combined with a sole Biggar penalty sent Saints into the sheds 17-7 ahead.
After the break, Saints defended well to prevent their try line from being further breached – despite a yellow card for Biggar – scoring two further tries of their own to secure the bonus point.
"Winning is a habit, but losing becomes a bit of a habit as well.— Rugby on BT Sport (@btsportrugby) December 26, 2020
"I'm really pleased for this young group who deserve this victory."
All class from @SaintsRugby's Dan Biggar who insists that win is for Chris Boyd.#GallagherPrem pic.twitter.com/fKFWjq4DQa
After a bright start, Biggar opened the scoring with an early penalty just outside the 22 once the Warriors failed to roll away.
Saints continued to build some attacking momentum as a trademark kick and chase from Biggar took play into the 22. The penalty came shortly after, with Saints declining the easy kick in favour of a lineout in the corner.
The aggressive option proved to be the right one. After Hutchinson’s ball out the back opened up space for Biggar and Proctor inside the 22, the latter’s pass was batted down illegally by Melani Nanai. With a clear overlap on the outside, the decision was penalty try with Nanai earning ten minutes in the bin.
Biggar had a penalty to extend the lead with Nanai still off the park, only to push his effort wide from 40m out.
Once restored to their full complement, Worcester struck back. A powerful carry from Ollie Lawrence brought play into the 22 where his offload found Nick David in space. After stepping his way into a one-on-one white the last man, he found Billy Searle on the inside to take the scoring pass.
The momentum Worcester built from that score did not last long. Almost immediately off the restart, while running back a clearing kick, Tuala and Biggar combined well in the backfield to break from Saints territory. Biggar’s pace on a good line cut through the heart of the Warriors defence into the 22, where Mitchell was waiting to gather the pass and run under the sticks.
A disallowed Alex Waller score, due to obstruction in the maul, was the closest either side got to adding to the scoreline before half-time.
The news wasn’t good from the break as Fraser Dingwall failed to reemerge from the changing rooms. He was replaced by Taqele Naiyaravoro as Matt Proctor shifted into centre.
Things got worse for Northampton ten minutes into the half. Dan Biggar saw yellow for killing the ball off the back of a line break, a penalty that allowed Searle to narrow the gap to seven.
Saints survived the sin-bin period after that, going close to adding a score of themselves when Dave Ribbans was held up over the line.
With 15 minutes to go, Saints earned their third try. After a Nick Isiekwe steal off a lineout inside the 22, all the momentum was with the men in Black, Green and Gold after Furbank made ground with a carry in the wide channel. Isiekwe himself then went close before Biggar eventually dove his way over from close range.
Despite an at-times dogged defensive effort from Worcester proving frustrating inside the 22, Saints secured the bonus point in the closing stages. Lawes took the throw from Mikey Haywood at a lineout inside the 22, setting up a good rolling maul that concluded with the replacement hooker barreling his way over.
Chris Boyd and his team now turn their attentions in the New Year to a trip to London Irish, where the men in Black, Green and Gold will look to build some winning momentum.