Benetton Rugby 32 Northampton Saints 35: Tom Vickers' review

There was a strange contrast in atmospheres after Saints snatched victory at Stadio Comunale di Monigo on Saturday afternoon.

Sunday, 24th November 2019, 1:45 pm
Updated Sunday, 24th November 2019, 1:47 pm
Dan Biggar kept his composure under huge pressure

In the bar under the main stand, the sizeable away following sang along to Hallelujah as they celebrated a dramatic late success in an enthralling encounter.

But in the Saints dressing room, situated in a green and blue building behind a hedge at one end of the ground, there was far less rejoicing.

In fact, the Saints coaches and players had a discussion that centred around their disappointment in the performance.

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This set of coaches have instilled a performance before results mentality, and after a game in which Saints had fallen 25-8 down during the first half, there was plenty of soul-searching to come.

But the fact Saints were not happy with a scrappy away win in Europe's top tier competition shows how far this club has come during the past 18 months.

And it shows just how far they feel they can still go.

Saints felt like they got out of jail a little on Saturday, having come perilously close to going in at the break a massive 17 points down.

Ollie Sleightholme grabbed a key try

Cobus Reinach scored and then roared as he gave his side renewed hope from the final play of a frustrating first half.

And Saints, having had a measured chat during the interval, emerged with the bit between their teeth, racking up a total of 24 unanswered points before Benetton responded.

It looked like the Italians might even win it late on, but Jamie Gibson came up with a game-saving turnover in his own 22.

And Saints then mounted one final attack, showing their ambition as they refused to kick the ball out to walk away with a draw.

Tom Collins scored twice for Saints

They know they need as many points as they can get with a potentially decisive December double-header against Leinster on the horizon.

And so they kept battling, kept fighting and eventually forced Benetton to make the mistake that would cost the hosts the match.

The penalty, which was in a far from easy position, still had to be kicked.

And it had to be kicked amid a chorus of whistles and boos from the home fans who felt referee Mike Adamson has harshly punished Ratuva Tavuyara for a deliberate knock-on.

The Saints players thanks the travelling support after the game in Treviso

Up stepped Dan Biggar and, as he has done so many times during his career, he showed nerves of steel, not only landing the penalty, but placing the ball an equal distance between the posts.

It sent the travelling support into frenzy and the players did at least allow themselves some smiles and hugs when the victory was confirmed.

But they know they will have to be much better against Leinster.

And that was the immediate message after the game, especially with a huge run of games now ahead.

Leicester come to Franklin's Gardens on Saturday before those two gargantuan Leinster battles.

Saints must also go to Sale Sharks and host Gloucester before the year is out.

You don't get many tougher runs than that and Saints know they must be more like their second-half selves if they are to get the wins they want.

Nevertheless, you would have snapped someone's hand off for nine points from a possible 10 on the return to Champions Cup action.

And though Saints have won ugly at times, what matters is that they have won.