Planet Rugby

Saints down the champions

05th September 2010 16:57

Share:

Soane Tonga uiha Northampton v Leicester

Soane Tonga'uiha: Two tries

Northampton Saints got their Aviva Premiership campaign off to a winning start on Sunday with 27-19 win over defending champions Leicester at Franklin's Gardens.

Northampton earned the early-season East Midlands bragging rights as tries from props Soane Tonga'uiha and Brian Mujati paved the way for an opening-round win.

Tonga'uiha crossed twice in the opening five minutes as Saints made a blistering start to lead 17-0 before Alesana Tuilagi's converted try got the visitors on the scoreboard before the break.

Leicester were left facing an uphill task, however, when Mujati touched down on the hour mark and while Scott Hamilton crossed twice late on, and Stephen Myler lost his radar, the hosts held on.

Three debutants began their new careers in front of a 13,500 capacity crowd with the Saints calling on flanker Tom Wood for the first time while lock George Skivington and Thomas Waldron made their bows for the champions.

It was Wood who sparked the Saints' first score after only two minutes, soaring to catch a lineout which Northampton drove, in Leicester style, for the visitors' line.

The initial drive was halted, but once loosehead Tonga'uiha got his hands on it, nobody could prevent him touching down on the line.

Within three minutes, the formidable prop had struck again.

Chris Ashton's running line through the heart of Leicester's defence was brilliant as was his pass, sending Tonga'uiha galloping clear of the cover to score.

Myler converted both, leaving Northampton's bitterest rivals with their jaws on the floor.

Leicester thought they hit back when Hamilton flung himself at the line on the right following an excellent passing sequence involving Toby Flood and Dan Hipkiss. But Jon Clarke got under the wing and referee Dave Pearson ruled no try after consulting the TMO.

Tuilagi cost Leicester a try when he went for broke on the left when a pass inside would have left Geordan Murphy clear. And when Leicester's pressure finally earned a penalty, Flood fired it wide in the 16th minute.

Having made a searing start, Saints were now having to show their defensive mettle, and it was impressive as Tigers mounted a succession of attacks.

Craig Newby conceded a foolish penalty under Pearson's nose, tackling Lee Dickson before retreating 10 metres, but this time Myler's long-range penalty was off target.

Myler made amends in the 24th minute, a close-range penalty that knocked another dose of stuffing out of a Leicester team who had shown enough to suggest a score was not far away.

Their championship credentials came to the fore three minutes later as Ben Youngs combined with Murphy who armed Tuilagi to score on the right. Flood added the conversion to calm Leicester nerves.

Myler hooked a penalty wide on the half-hour, but again he received a quick opportunity to erase the memory. This time, however, his miss was a poor one and potentially costly as that made it nine points missed against merciless opponents.

And his kicking-action deteriorated further in the 35th minute, a fourth miss that let Tigers off the hook as their indiscipline could have been more heavily punished.

England team manager Martin Johnson looked concerned as Flood limped out of the game shortly before the break, replaced by Jeremy Staunton, but otherwise he had plenty to be pleased with, not least the form of Ashton, Ben Foden, Dylan Hartley, Ben Youngs and Courtney Lawes.

Leicester had an opportunity to reduce the arrears, but Staunton's kick faded past the post just one minute into the second half. Leicester were, however, on the front-foot and it was Northampton's turn to defend their line in depth.

Pearson warned Saints captain Hartley after they had conceded a fifth penalty in as many minutes, but again Staunton fired wide, catching the kicking-bug that afflicted both Flood and Myler during the first half.

Poor Myler fluffed a fifth penalty, then dropped a simple high ball as his confidence drained from him, leaving Saints with no option but end his agony and replace the fly-half with Shane Geraghty.

And on the hour, the England fly-half broke past Dan Cole, found Phil Dowson whose pass right to Mujati left the tighthead prop thundering up the line to score. Geraghty then ended the hoodoo by firing over the conversion from wide out.

Things got worse for Leicester after 64 minutes when George Chuter was sin-binned for ball-killing in front of his posts, and Geraghty made no mistake.

But Hartley was down the tunnel shortly afterwards, also binned for ball-killing as Leicester tried everything to crack the home defence.

Hamilton finally found a gap 10 minutes from time, albeit in the right-hand corner, after great hands by Murphy and Staunton broke his duck, steering over the conversion from the touchline.

And when Hamilton roared in on the opposite wing three minutes later a Tigers comeback looked likely, but Saints held on.

The scorers

For Northampton:
Tries: Tonga'uiha 2, Mujati
Cons: Myler 2, Geraghty
Pens: Myler, Geraghty

For Leicester:

Tries: Tuilagi, Hamilton 2
Cons: Flood, Staunton

Northampton: 15 Ben Foden, 14 Chris Ashton, 13 Jon Clarke, 12 James Downey, 11 Bruce Reihana, 10 Stephen Myler, 9 Lee Dickson, 8 Roger Wilson, 7 Tom Wood, 6 Phil Dowson, 5 Christian Day, 4 Courtney Lawes, 3 Brian Mujati, 2 Dylan Hartley (capt), 1 Soane Tonga'uiha.
Replacements: 16 Brett Sharman, 17 Regardt Dreyer, 18 Tom Mercey, 19 Calum Clark, 20 Mark Easter, 21 Ryan Powell, 22 Shane Geraghty, 23 Joe Ansbro.

Leicester: 15 Geordan Murphy (capt), 14 Scott Hamilton, 13 Dan Hipkiss, 12 Anthony Allen, 11 Alesana Tuilagi, 10 Toby Flood, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Thomas Waldrom, 7 Ben Woods, 6 Craig Newby, 5 George Skivington, 4 Calum Green, 3 Martin Castrogiovanni, 2 George Chuter, 1 Marcos Ayerza.
Replacements: 16 Joe Duffey, 17 Boris Stankovich, 18 Dan Cole, 19 Ed Slater, 20 Ben Pienaar, 21 James Grindal, 22 Jeremy Staunton, 23 Manu Tuilagi.

Venue: Franklin's Gardens
Referee: Dave Pearson
Assistant referees: Paul Dix, Alan Hughes
Television match official: Graham Hughes

Forthcoming Fixtures
FixtureDetails
All times are local
Aviva Premiership
Friday , September 19
Gloucester vs Exeter19:45
Saturday , September 20
Sale vs London Welsh14:00
London Irish vs Saracens15:00
Harlequins vs Wasps15:00
Bath vs Leicester15:15
Sunday , September 21
Newcastle vs Northampton14:00
More Aviva Premiership fixtures
Guinness PRO12
Friday , September 19
Munster vs Zebre19:30
Cardiff Blues vs Ulster19:35
Connacht vs Leinster19:35
Saturday , September 20
Newport Gwent D'gons vs Glasgow14:40
Scarlets vs Benetton Treviso18:00
Sunday , September 21
Ospreys vs Edinburgh16:00
More Guinness PRO12 fixtures
Top 14
Friday , September 19
Brive vs Toulon18:00
Saturday , September 20
Racing Metro Paris vs Toulouse18:00
La Rochelle vs Bordeaux-Begles18:00
Grenoble vs Bayonne18:00
Castres vs Oyonnax18:00
Clermont Auvergne vs Lyon18:00
Montpellier vs Stade Francais18:00
More Top 14 fixtures
Currie Cup
Friday , September 19
Lions vs Pumas19:10
Saturday , September 20
Western Province vs Griquas15:00
Blue Bulls vs Sharks17:05
Eastern Province Kings vs Cheetahs19:10
More Currie Cup fixtures
ITM Cup
Thursday , September 18
Northland vs TaranakiNorthland vs Taranaki Preview
Friday , September 19
Counties Manukau vs CanterburyCounties Manukau vs Canterbury Preview
More ITM Cup fixtures
Recent Results
FixtureDetails
All times are local
ITM Cup
Wednesday, September 17
Southland 14 - 38 TasmanSouthland vs Tasman Report
More ITM Cup results
Aviva Premiership
Sunday , September 14
Wasps 20 - 16 NorthamptonWasps vs Northampton Report
Newcastle 18 - 20 London IrishNewcastle vs London Irish Report
More Aviva Premiership results
Guinness PRO12
Cardiff Blues 12 - 33 GlasgowCardiff Blues vs Glasgow Report
More Guinness PRO12 results
Top 14
Bordeaux-Begles 27 - 21 MontpellierBordeaux-Begles vs Montpellier Report
More Top 14 results
ITM Cup
Waikato 26 - 21 Counties ManukauWaikato vs Counties Manukau Report
Hawkes Bay 41 - 0 Otago
More ITM Cup results
Aviva Premiership
Saturday , September 13
Gloucester 34 - 27 Sale SharksGloucester vs Sale Sharks Report
Bath 53 - 26 London WelshBath vs London Welsh Report
Exeter 20 - 24 LeicesterExeter vs Leicester Report
More Aviva Premiership results
Rugby Championship
New Zealand 14 - 10 South AfricaNew Zealand vs South Africa Report
Australia 32 - 25 ArgentinaAustralia vs Argentina Report
More Rugby Championship results
Guinness PRO12
Leinster 42 - 12 ScarletsLeinster vs Scarlets Report
More Guinness PRO12 results
Top 14
Toulouse 9 - 13 Clermont AuvergneToulouse vs Clermont Auvergne Report
Bayonne 23 - 6 Brive
Oyonnax 40 - 27 Grenoble
Racing Metro Paris 28 - 11 LyonRacing Metro Paris vs Lyon Report
Toulon 24 - 28 Stade FrancaisToulon vs Stade Francais Report
More Top 14 results
Currie Cup
Griquas 31 - 27 PumasGriquas vs Pumas Report
Lions 35 - 33 Western ProvinceLions vs Western Province Report
Cheetahs 30 - 30 SharksCheetahs vs Sharks Report
More Currie Cup results
ITM Cup
Bay Of Plenty 12 - 27 AucklandBay Of Plenty vs Auckland Report
Southland 36 - 34 Northland
More ITM Cup results
Aviva Premiership
Friday , September 12
Harlequins 0 - 39 SaracensHarlequins vs Saracens Report
More Aviva Premiership results
Guinness PRO12
Benetton Treviso 10 - 21 MunsterBenetton Treviso vs Munster Report
More Guinness PRO12 results
Aviva Premiership Table
PosTeamPPts
1Saracens29
2Bath29
3Leicester Tigers29
4Exeter26
5Northampton26