Planet Rugby

Saints end away blues

07th March 2009 17:31

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Saints v Northampton Mach 7

Clearing his lines: Lee Dickson gets the ball clear

Northampton claimed a much-needed four points on Saturday as they defeated fellow strugglers Worcester 22-12 at Sixways Stadium.

It was the Saints' first away win for more than two years after seeing off and made thirteenth time lucky on the road, ending a run that began before they were relegated to National League One in 2007.

After surrendering a long unbeaten home record to Newcastle last weekend, Northampton responded in impressive fashion.

First-half tries by flanker Scott Gray and wing Paul Diggin put Saints in the driving seat.

And with fly-half Barry Everitt calling the tune, Worcester could not establish a foothold, trailing by twelve points at half-time.

Warriors goalkicker Willie Walker, on loan from neighbours Gloucester until the end of this season, booted four penalties, his last kick going over after Scotland international Gray was sin-binned.

Northampton though, were not to be denied as they climbed above reigning Premiership champions Wasps into eighth place, while Worcester remain twelve points above bottom club Bristol.

Substitute centre Joe Ansbro's late converted try confirmed Saints' success, and Worcester could have few complaints after a poor game when they rarely moved out of second gear.

Worcester, buoyed by a 13-12 victory over champions Wasps last time out, welcomed back overseas imports Chris Latham and Dale Rasmussen, while flanker Netani Talei replaced broken jaw victim Tom Wood.

Saints included England international Ben Foden at full-back - skipper Bruce Reihana moved to the wing - while England's reserve Six Nations hooker Dylan Hartley and Scotland prop Euan Murray returned from international duty.

Northampton made all the early running, with Everitt happier to use hand rather than boot as an attacking weapon, and Worcester had to resiliently man the barricades.

Everitt booted Saints ahead through a third-minute penalty, and with Foden consistently looking to attack from deep, the visitors dominated possession and territory.

Walker hauled the Warriors level with a penalty after a rare Worcester excursion outside their own half, yet Northampton weren't to be denied the try they deserved.

Superb approach work by centre James Downey made sufficient headway, and the supporting Gray powered over, leaving Worcester five points adrift.

It was the cue for a spell of sustained Warriors pressure, but they couldn't make it count.

Skipper Pat Sanderson twice sacrificed kickable penalty chances for attacking scrums, yet Northampton quashed the threat - and then struck another blow in spectacular fashion.

Everitt had the vision to attack from within the shadow of his own posts, and with scrum-half Lee Dickson proving an effective link-man, Diggin sprinted 60 metres for an opportunist score.

Everitt added the extras, leaving Worcester with a mountain to climb as they trudged off 15-3 adrift at half-time.

Worcester fans were aggrieved by the score, claiming Irish referee JP Doyle had missed a clear forward pass from Dickson to Diggin, but the Warriors knew they needed an immediate response.

Walker kicked two out of three penalty attempts during the third quarter, cutting Worcester's deficit to six points as Northampton looked in danger of sitting on their lead.

Another flash of attacking invention from Foden ensured Warriors retreated deep inside their own 22, and an increasingly-attritional contest played into Saints' superior territory game.

Walker's kicks had given Worcester hope, but both sides were visibly frustrated by Doyle's officiating that contributed towards the game's stop-start nature.

A fourth Walker strike increased the pressure on Saints, especially as they were down to 14 men following Gray's yellow card, but Ansbro scored Northampton's third try - converted by Everitt - and Worcester were sunk.

The scorers:

For Worcester:

Pen: Walker 4

For Northampton:

Tries: Gray, Diggin

Con: Everitt

Pen: Everitt

Worcester: 15 Chris Latham, 14 Rico Gear, 13 Dale Rasmussen, 12 Alex Grove, 11 Marcel Garvey, 10 Willie Walker, 9 Matt Powell, 8 Kai Horstmann, 7 Pat Sanderson (c), 6 Netani Talei, 5 Will Bowley, 4 Greg Rawlinson, 3 Tevita Taumoepeau, 2 Aleki Lutui, 1 Matt Mullan.

Replacements: 16 Darren Morris, 17 Chris Fortey, 18 Graham Kitchener, 19 James Collins, 20 Ryan Powell, 21 Joe Carlisle, 22 Miles Benjamin.

Northampton: 15 Ben Foden, 14 Paul Diggin, 13 Jon Clarke, 12 James Downey, 11 Bruce Reihana (capt), 10 Barry Everitt, 9 Lee Dickson, 8 Roger Wilson, 7 Scott Gray, 6 Neil Best, 5 Juandre Kruger, 4 Courtney Lawes, 3 Euan Murray, 2 Dylan Hartley, 1 Tom Smith.

Replacements: 16 Brett Sharman, 17 Soane Tonga'uiha, 18 Alex Rae, 19 Mark Hopley, 20 Stephen Myler, 21 Joe Ansbro, 22 Sean Lamont.

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