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Tom Vickers’ Saints v Gloucester view and player ratings: Simply not good enough

SECOND BEST - Saints' players show their disappointment at the final whistle of Saturday's defeat to Gloucester (Picture: Linda Dawson)

SECOND BEST - Saints' players show their disappointment at the final whistle of Saturday's defeat to Gloucester (Picture: Linda Dawson)

On a sun-kissed day back in September, Saints produced some stunning rugby to beat Gloucester 24-19 at Kingsholm.

Dom Waldouck and George Pisi, who got two tries, pulled the strings in the midfield and every member of the backline was firing.

There was a flow, a groove which the team had got into, even in the most embryonic stage of the season.

Following that win in the west country, optimism reigned supreme, Northampton had looked a cut above at times and they went on to win their next four league games.

But, fast forward five months and things look so different. Saints’ self-belief has evaporated.

Yes, the team which took to the field for the return fixture against Gloucester on Saturday was different - there was no Dylan Hartley, no Ben Foden, no Tom Wood.

But, as director of rugby Jim Mallinder pointed out after the dumbfounding 27-11 defeat, the time has come to stop talking about absentees.

There were no excuses for Saints’ showing. The result wasn’t just about a lack of personnel. It was about a lack of basic precision, and, put simply, it wasn’t good enough.

The current backline is a worry. The lack of killer instinct cannot be disguised and the statistics don’t make pretty reading.

Back row forward Phil Dowson has got as many tries this season as first-choice wingers Jamie Elliott and Ken Pisi combined.

And Dowson’s tally of five equals the best effort from a back, George Pisi, who has lost his way since an explosive start to the season.

Ben Foden, with one try, has got half as many as prop Alex Waller, while the Saints backs have only outscored the forwards by 10, at 26-16.

Sick of statistics now? Thought you might be.

Anyway, back to Saturday, and after the game, Mallinder talked of a lack of confidence among the backs; it’s something so evident you can see it from the top of the lift tower.

Ken Pisi, in his first season in the Premiership after joining from North Harbour, has been thrown in at the deep end, as has 20-year-old Elliott.

While reserves such as Noah Cato, Scott Armstrong and Vasily Artemyev have failed to inspire in any way, shape or form.

Saints are paying the price for last season’s recruitment struggles, which saw them miss out on key targets.

But, forgetting all that, somehow, the current squad have got to rediscover their belief as they aim to salvage something from a season that started with such promise, but is getting more dispiriting by the day.

New signings for the next campaign cannot mask how this one is panning out and a huge reaction is needed at Worcester next week.

The players who looked like world-beaters on the opening-day of the season need to come to the fore. They need to react.

If not, then that opening-day win will look ever more like an anomalie, as oppose to an accurate representation of the current Saints team.

Player ratings

JAMES WILSON

Probably his poorest game in a Saints shirt. Struggled to provide an attacking spark from full-back and poor handling gifted Gloucester their second try... 4

KEN PISI

First game back from injury and it won’t be one he will want to remember. Gloucester shut him down easily... 5

GEORGE PISI

Tried to give Saints some go-forward, but is still not finding the form of last season and the start of this one.... 6

DOM WALDOUCK

Had little impact on the game and his midfield partnership with George Pisi provided little threat... 5

JAMIE ELLIOTT

Never really looked likely to get himself on the scoresheet and is one of the players in need of a confidence boost... 5

STEPHEN MYLER

Was never really able to control the game with his kicking and missed a kick, which was unusual from the typically reliable fly-half... 5

LEE DICKSON

Made one break in the second half and tried to get things going, but was never really allowed to get on the front foot for a prolonged spell... 6

SOANE TONGA’UIHA

Not one of his best days as his handling was particularly poor, at one point resulting in a fluffed try-scoring opportunity... 5

MIKE HAYWOOD

Full of enthusiasm and nearly grabbed a try during the first half, but was stopped by some fine Gloucester defending. One of Saints’ better players on a tough day... 6

TOM MERCEY

A big call from the management team to select him ahead of Paul Doran-Jones and he didn’t really have the desired impact... 5

SAMU MANOA

Frustration resulted in him landing a punch during Saints’ scoring move and it cost them any momentum the try may have given them... 4

MARK SORENSON

Steady if unspectacular. Tried to be a battering ram to knock down the Gloucester door, but it wasn’t to be... 5

PHIL DOWSON

Mr Reliable popped up with another try when his side needed it, but they couldn’t build on it thanks to Manoa’s red mist moment... 6

BEN NUTLEY

Like Haywood, provided some youthful exhuberance and was one of the more energetic and enthusiastic Saints players... 6

GJ VAN VELZE

Picked up a fourth yellow card of his Saints career and must be more disciplined in pressure situations... 4

Replacements (who played more than 20 minutes)

ALEX WALLER

Injected some energy into Saints’ front row efforts, but Gloucester always managed to match the home side... 5

PAUL DORAN-JONES

Couldn’t do much to alter the course of the game as Gloucester had already done the damage... 5

 

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