The men in Black, Green and Gold – who pushed the reigning Aviva Premiership champions close at Sandy Park – weren’t the only Saints in action this weekend as the Six Nations action passed the halfway point. Here’s our wrap of all the action from our international Saints this weekend…
Kicking off the weekend’s action up in Edinburgh, England Under-20s made the trip north of the border to face Scotland Under-20s. Ehren Painter made his first start in the white jersey, with fellow Saints Toby Trinder, James Grayson and Fraser Dingwall also donning the white shirt, while Fraser Strachan and Marshall Sykes were called into the Scotland squad alongside Devante Onojaife. And with a total of seven young Saints involved, the game was an interesting one from a Northampton perspective.
Though the hosts got on the scoresheet first through Ewan Johnson, England lead 17-7 at the break with Tom Hardwick and Tom Seabrook crossing and Hardwick sending a penalty through the posts. But Scotland fought back in the second 40 and two impressive scores from Finlay Richardson followed by a penalty try, earned the hosts their first win of the tournament and inflicted a first defeat on England – with three Saints, at least, on the winning side.
Now the attention turned to the senior sides and it was George North and Wales who were the first international Saints in in action on Saturday. A spirited Welsh comeback was not enough to stop Ireland earning their third victory of the tournament.
Despite Wales earning an early penalty, it took Ireland just six minutes to cross the whitewash. Wales put themselves in front on the 20-minute mark with an effort of their own converted by Leigh Halfpenny, but the lead swung back in the hosts’ direction just before the break as Bundee Aki made it over the try line.
Two more tries from Ireland’s forwards after the turnaround seemed to put the game beyond the Welsh, but scores from Aaron Shingler and Steff Evans put the visitors back within three points with two minutes left on the clock. But an interception score from Jacob Stockdale sealed the deal for the hosts in the final play.
Next came the second clash of the weekend involving Saintsmen, as the Calcutta Cup was contested between Scotland and England. And with skipper Dylan Hartley becoming the second-most capped England player, the often fiery derby lived up to its reputation.
Led by Hartley, with Courtney Lawes at flanker, England struggled to find their rhythm and Greig Laidlaw wasted no time getting his side off the mark with a well-struck penalty. The hosts kept coming and sent Huw Jones and Sean Maitland over before the 30-minute mark, Jones crossing again just ahead of the half-time whistle.
Shell-shocked, England needed to regroup quickly as their Grand Slam and Triple Crown hopes were dwindling and seemed to do so, sending Owen Farrell over just after the restart. But they had left themselves too much to do, and a Finn Russell penalty on the hour mark left Scotland two converted tries clear at 25-13, and with a much simpler task to see the game out.