Gloucester 29 Northampton Saints 31: Tom Vickers' review and player ratings

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Cometh the hour, cometh the man.

It’s a phrase that can be used on a weekly basis at Saints right now.

Because, game after game, players have been thrust into key roles and come up smelling of roses.

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Saints have beaten Harlequins, Saracens, Glasgow Warriors, Toulon and now Gloucester on successive weekends.

Saints celebrated a superb win at Gloucester (photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)Saints celebrated a superb win at Gloucester (photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)
Saints celebrated a superb win at Gloucester (photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

And time after time, they have had to fill gaps due to injuries.

But time after time, the man who has filled that gap has played such a key part at such key times.

Think George Furbank stepping into the 10 shirt and securing the man of the match award against Quins.

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Think Temo Mayanavanua coming on for his debut at half-time at Saracens.

Think Tarek Haffar coming off the bench early on for his debut at Glasgow.

Think Charlie Savala coming on for his debut against Toulon.

And now add Tom Litchfield moving to the wing and providing the moment of magic that helped to win Saints the game at Gloucester.

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It is almost like the coaches are sprinkling magic dust on players and watching them pull rabbits out of the hat.

The structure this management team has created and the way they are coaching is bringing the best out of players in such pivotal moments.

They are placing their faith in men (and boys) and being repaid by the bucketload.

At Gloucester on Saturday, Saints were up against it.

But as they had in their previous four matches, they found a way to turn the tide and take home a precious win.

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Gloucester seemed certain to prevail when they scored 22 unanswered points to move into a 29-24 lead.

Saints looked submerged, battling against wave after wave of Cherry and White pressure.

Their set-piece was struggling and they just could not swing the momentum.

But then. Oh then. Saints came up with one of the tries of the season.

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Gloucester lost a lineout and the men in white moved the ball swiftly from right to left, where Litchfield was waiting on the wing.

He stepped on the gas, combined superbly with Alex Mitchell and then forced his way over the line to provide a memorable score just when his side needed it most.

Fin Smith showed his incredible maturity by refusing to celebrate too much, instead grabbing the ball from Litchfield and lining up a conversion that could put Saints ahead.

Smith delivered, slotting a superb kick from the touchline to take Saints 31-29 up with 15 minutes to go.

There was still much to do.

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And Gloucester, packed with quality and playing really well with ball in hand, kept coming.

They eventually had the chance to snatch the win as Adam Hastings opted to go for goal from the right side of the field.

But his penalty attempt was short and Rory Hutchinson gathered the ball before booting it out to put the seal on another victory saturated with resolve.

Saints had flown into a 24-7 lead with some stunning, high-tempo stiff only to be pegged back.

But they refused to be fazed.

And when his moment came, Litchfield took it.

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There will of course be much to be digested - and not just the Christmas dinner - when the players return to training on Boxing Day.

But how much sweeter it will be to do it all with another win under the belt.

How they rated…

GEORGE FURBANK – a largely steady showing from the skipper, who dealt with the aerial threat well when he had to and provided security for Saints… 7.5

TOM LITCHFIELD – centre, wing, whatever, this guy can more than do a job. He showed plenty of power and coped with most of what was thrown at him before producing the moment of magic that was so key for Saints… 8.5

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FRASER DINGWALL – defensively strong, as always, and also flew forward on a few occasions when Saints came out of the blocks quickly… 7

RORY HUTCHINSON – was hit with a yellow card for a high tackle just before the break but his offloading game was eye-catching and he played a key role in Litchfield’s try… 7

TOMMY FREEMAN – didn’t get too many chances to showcase his razor-sharp attacking game, but did get one or two breaks to stretch his legs… 7

FIN SMITH – held his nerve to land the conversion that won the game for Saints, and he was a strong performer overall… 8

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ALEX MITCHELL – CHRON STAR MAN – set the tone for Saints with an early try and assist and he played a key role in the score that won the game, too… 8.5

ETHAN WALLER – gave away a couple of penalties but his handling was impressive at times as he grabbed some tough passes to keep Saints flowing… 6

CURTIS LANGDON – seriously, what a signing! Another tempo-setting showing from the hooker, who scored two tries, the second of which was special, before being replaced at half-time… 8.5

PAUL HILL – looked hungry for action when he got the ball in hand and tried to make an impact where he could… 6.5

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TEMO MAYANAVANUA – thundered around from the off and tried to use his physicality to get Saints going forward… 7

ALEX COLES – a real contender for the star man award as he scored a try during the first half, won turnovers and seemed to be everywhere at times… 8.5

COURTNEY LAWES – was penalised harshly on one or two occasions but showed his class with yet another huge showing for his side… 8

TOM PEARSON – a force of nature, he made plenty of metres, plenty of tackles and was crucial in helping Saints to keep momentum and then grab it back… 8

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SAM GRAHAM – made some inroads for Saints during the first half and his excellent pass off the floor helped to set Langdon free for a score… 7.5

Replacements (who played more than 20 minutes)

SAM MATAVESI (for Langdon 40) – scampered around the field adding energy where he could and played a part in retrieving the ball before Saints’ scored their winning try, but it was a tough afternoon for the replacements as Gloucester had momentum when they came on… 6

TAREK HAFFAR (for E Waller 40) – always adds plenty of energy and enthusiasm but Gloucester were on top after the break… 5.5

ELLIOT MILLAR MILLS (for Hill 40) – Saints were struggling to win favour at the scrum but this man got involved where he could in attack and defence… 5.5

CHUNYA MUNGA (for Mayanavanua 55) – made a couple of important interventions and it was good for Saints to get him back from injury… 6