Northampton Saints 42 Newcastle Falcons 16: Tom Vickers’ review and player ratings

Saints celebrate Ben Foden's second try at stadium:mk (picture: Kirsty Edmonds)
Saints celebrate Ben Foden's second try at stadium:mk (picture: Kirsty Edmonds)

For a while, there was a fear that Saints had lost it.

It was irrational, of course, an unfounded feeling accentuated by so many months without Aviva Premiership rugby and the nature of the defeat to Worcester Warriors.

You were left worndering where the Saints everyone knows and loves had disappeared to.

Where had their style and swagger gone?

When would it return?

And then, in a flash, it did.

With a rambunctious Luther Burrell run and a burst from the fleet-footed Ben Foden.

After registering two of their trademark tries via the indefatigable forwards, Saints had suddenly scored another couple through their backs.

Todd Clever’s sin-binning gave Jim Mallinder’s men the impetus they needed to shoot down the Falcons and get back in the groove.

Another Foden try was to follow as Saints finished the afternoon with five.

At half-time that prospect looked distant, with Saints, who had bossed the first 15 minutes, having faded.

They started to look sluggish again, just as they had in the closing stages of last season.

And just as they had at Worcester eight days earlier.

But faith was restored by some running rugby in the rain at stadium:mk.

It was like watching a car go through the gears, shifting from first to fifth in rapid time.

And finally the 20,000 fans who turned up at the home of Milton Keynes Dons remembered why they were there.

Because this is the rugby Saints can play when they back themselves and keep the ball in hand for prolonged periods.

Burrell, Foden and JJ Hanrahan sparkled, while the forwards did their job in typically imposing fashion.

It was what was needed after that defeat at Worcester: a shot in the arm.

But Saints know they must keep their foot on the accelerator now.

They must maintain the intensity they showed in the second half against the Falcons when they travel to Sale Sharks next Sunday.

The AJ Bell Stadium has been the scene of some of their most disappointing displays in recent seasons, and they have not won there in the league since November, 2012.

So the return of the real Saints has come at the right time.

Now they need to show they are here to stay.

BEN FODEN - CHRON STAR MAN

Really good signs from the full-back, who is back to top speed after recovering from the knee injury that ruled him out of the final few months of last season... 8

KEN PISI

Almost got himself on the scoresheet and always looked to make things happen, but Newcastle defended fairly well against him... 6

GEORGE PISI

No real time to make an impact as he was forced off with a head knock just after the half-hour mark... 6

LUTHER BURRELL

As Saints grew into the game, so did this man, as he turned on the power to leave the Falcons floundering... 8

JAMIE ELLIOTT

Did what he had to well, but didn’t get too many chances to grab his first score of the season... 6

STEPHEN MYLER

Kicked superbly from the tee and although a couple of his kicks in open play didn’t quite come off, he was always looking for an opening... 7

LEE DICKSON

A much better display than the one at Worcester as the scrum-half injected tempo into his team’s play and even got involved in a couple of mauls... 7

ALEX WALLER

Did some hard graft up front and had a steady day in the scrum as the Saints forwards tried to assert their authority... 7

DYLAN HARTLEY

Put in plenty of work and showed his desire to have an impact on the game against a scrappy Falcons side... 7

KIERAN BROOKES

A special day for the prop, who was facing his former club for the first time, and he built on a solid showing at Worcester with another one here... 7

COURTNEY LAWES

Great for Saints to have this man back and he looked hungry to get involved for his club after a few tough weeks with his country... 7

CHRISTIAN DAY

The lock was almost a hat-trick hero as he came agonisingly close to a third try, having registered two from big forward drives... 8

JAMIE GIBSON

What a signing this man looks to have been. The flanker has been one of Saints’ best players in both games so far. Leicester’s loss is definitely Northampton’s gain... 8

TOM WOOD

Plenty of fire and desire from the England man, who made some important tackles and did everything he could to get his team on the front foot... 8

SAM DICKINSON

Took one superb catch from a high ball and also made some typically huge hits to stop Newcastle in their tracks... 7

Replacements (who played more than 20 minutes)

JJ HANRAHAN (for G Pisi 32)

Made a real impact after coming on at inside centre and his sharpness caused problems for the Falcons in the second half... 8

MIKE HAYWOOD (for Hartley 59)

Came on at a time when Saints were taking the game to Newcastle and he did little wrong during his cameo... 6

PAUL HILL (for Brookes 59)

Drew praise from boss Jim Mallinder - the youngster is already making a big impression at Saints... 7

MICHAEL PATERSON (for Day 59)

Saw fellow lock Day get on the scoresheet and almost grabbed a try of his own, but was bundled into touch at the last... 6