Last-gasp Waller wins it for Saints at new-look Gardens

NICE VIEW - workmen on the new Barwell Stand take time out to watch the Saints beat Worcester in the Franklin's Gardens friendly (Pictures: Kirsty Edmonds)
NICE VIEW - workmen on the new Barwell Stand take time out to watch the Saints beat Worcester in the Franklin's Gardens friendly (Pictures: Kirsty Edmonds)
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Saints christened the new Barwell Stand with an impressive 33-27 comeback win in the pre-season friendly against Worcester Warriors on Friday afternoon.

Jim Mallinder’s men, who were playing in front of the structure, which has replaced the Sturtridge Pavilion, for the first time, scored five second-half tries to overturn a 15-0 deficit.

Ethan Waller grabbed the match-winning effort with the final play of the game, adding to his earlier effort and scores from Ben Nutley, Paddy Howard and Alex Mitchell.

No fans were allowed in to watch as the Barwell Stand is still under construction, but the Northampton faithful didn’t miss much during the first half.

Worcester surged in front thanks to efforts from Sam Lewis and former Saints No.8 GJ van Velze, with Tom Heathcote adding five points with the boot.

But Saints recovered superbly after the break to claim their third win in as many pre-season matches, following successes at Saracens and Wasps.

They will now sharpen their focus on the start of the new Aviva Premiership season, with the opening fixture at Worcester Warriors just seven days away.

With that match in mind, neither coaching team wanted to give too much away in their final pre-season friendly.

Saints named a largely second-string squad, with the likes of Dylan Hartley, Lee Dickson and Luther Burrell, who had played in the previous two friendlies, given the day off.

Worcester went stronger, with former Saints forwards Phil Dowson and van Velze joined in the starting 15 by the likes of Chris Pennell and Heathcote.

And the Warriors were dominant from the off, stopping Saints at source and pushing forward with real power and panache.

After Lewis won a penalty at the breakdown, Worcester pushed forward, kicking to the corner.

And from the lineout, Lewis finished off a strong drive to give his side the lead.

Saints were struggling to get going, conceding penalties which stopped them getting up a head of steam in the opposition half.

And their own territory was coming under regular fire, with the Warriors’ maul wreaking havoc for the home side.

Another drive towards the Saints line brought a penalty, and Heathcote landed it with the help of the left post.

Pennell almost went over for Worcester’s second try, but was denied by a tackle at the last from South African centre Howard.

It didn’t take long for the Warriors to score again though, as Velze barged his way over from a ruck.

Heathcote converted to take his team into a 15-0 lead with 15 minutes of the first half to go.

Saints finally responded with a spell of pressure, but JJ Hanrahan, who was kicking well from hand, failed to land a fairly simple penalty.

Worcester made a raft of replacements at the break, with Ryan Lamb among those introduced, and Saints, who had opted against changes, started to get a foothold in the game.

Some good work from Howard Packman and Ahsee Tuala down the left gave Nutley a simple score, and Hanrahan fired the conversion through the posts.

But Worcester responded with a well-worked score as Jonny Arr and Ryan Mills combined to tee up Ben Howard.

Lamb converted and the Warriors were soon at the Saints’ door again as Darren O’Shea found the acceleration to score after intercepting on halfway.

The conversion was missed and Saints were to issue a retort at the other end as Waller showed good speed to speed to dot down.

Sam Olver, on for Hanrahan added the conversion to cut the gap to 13 points.

And Saints edged even closer as, after Ben Howard was sin-binned for killing the ball, Paddy Howard found his way over the line.

Olver was unable to add the extras, but with just one point in it, Saints were scenting victory.

And so it was as Waller muscled his way over after a fast break.

Olver put the conversion into the Barwell Stand to add two further points, making it a six-point win for his side.

Teams

Saints: Tuala (Furbank 60); Packman, Howard, Stephenson (Hutchinson 60), Collins (Eves 50); Hanrahan (Olver 60), Kessell (Mitchell 60); Corbisiero (E Waller 50), Haywood (c) (Williams 56), Denman (Hill 50); Woolford, Onojaife (Moon 60); Paterson, Nutley, Harrison.

Worcester Warriors: Pennell (Howard 40); Humphreys, Oliver (Stelling 40), Mills, Biggs; Heathcote (Lamb 40), Arr; Ruskin, Annett, Schonert (Rees 40); O’Callaghan (O’Shea 40), Barry; Dowson (Mama 40), Lewis (Cox 40), van Velze (c).