Leicester Tigers 19 Northampton Saints 11: Tom Vickers' review and player ratings

Saints fans will have headed away from Welford Road on Saturday night with a gamut of emotions.

Sunday, 4th December 2016, 3:29 pm
Updated Tuesday, 6th December 2016, 4:41 pm
Saints suffered an agonising defeat at Welford Road

Frustration will have been the overriding feeling, with their team squandering a big chance to end their barren run at the home of their bitter rivals.

There may also have been anger at the fact Tigers wing Adam Thompstone remained on the field after a collision with George North.

There was worry, too, about North's well-being, considering the top part of his body appeared to bounce off the Tigers turf with a real bang.

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And there will also have been annoyance that once again Saints couldn't find a way to break down a stubborn defence, aside from a typical forward's try from hooker Mike Haywood during the first half.

Yes, Jim Mallinder's men could be pleased with their own effort to contain the opposition.

Saints showed real heart, especially during a relentless spell of Tigers pressure during the second period.

But, make no mistake, this was far from one-way traffic.

James Craig was Saints' main lineout man

Saints had plenty of possession and territory of their own, but they huffed and puffed without managing to blow the opposition door down.

It is so irksome for those of a green, black of gold persuasion, knowing that the Northampton team of just a couple of seasons ago would have won this.

That side had the swagger and belief coursing through its veins.

But the current side lacks that sort of chutzpah.

Stephen Myler was unable to create for Saints

Ben Foden admitted as much after the match, knowing the ability of the likes of North and JJ Hanrahan is there, but the belief to turn possession into points is currently lacking.

Since the crushing defeat at Castres back in October, Saints have not played any scary sides.

None of them have shown anything that Mallinder's men couldn't match.

Saints managed to overcome Gloucester, twice, Newcastle, once, and Worcester, too.

George Pisi came off the bench during the second half

But they didn't do it with aplomb, and they have since lost to underwhelming Newcastle and Leicester teams.

The Tigers defeat was the most irritating because Saints have not won at Welford Road since February, 2007.

Yet the home side, who are also lacking confidence, could have been overcome with a bit more composure and a touch more creativity.

Saints would also have been helped had the game's key decision gone their way.

Thompstone only saw yellow for his tackle on North, who collapsed to the ground after falling in awkward fashion.

It was not malicious from the Tigers man, but it certainly wasn't controlled.

Luther Burrell tried to take the fight to Tigers after his early sin-binning

The player on the ground has a duty of care to the man in the air, and Thompstone didn't display that.

It was an incident reminiscent of so many that have seen players red carded in the past.

And though Saints boss Mallinder felt a yellow was fair, you can't help feeling Saints should be more aggrieved.

Some, including the law book, will defend Thompstone because North didn't land directly on his head, but the player should not have to be seriously injured for a red to be produced.

A player's natural instinct is to avoid falling on their head, so they take action of their own.

The player on the ground is taking a big risk if they do not make an attempt to control the collision.

Of course, it is all heat of the moment stuff and men only have a millisecond to make a decision.

But on this occasion, you could feel Thompstone and Tigers perhaps got away with one.

As for Saints, they weren't so lucky, and they are now 11 points behind their fourth-placed rivals in the Aviva Premiership standings.

That is a huge gap, especially when you consider Saints' form this season, and a huge effort will now be needed with the internationals all back in the picture.

First up though, Mallinder's men must navigate two gargantuan Champions Cup clashes with Leinster.

And they will certainly need to find that composure and creativity if they are to slay the Irish giants at Franklin's Gardens on Friday night.

How they rated...

BEN FODENTried to add some attacking thrust to the Saints cause, but on occasion he lacked a bit of composure when it mattered, mislaying a pass and knocking on... 5

JAMIE ELLIOTTTried to get in the game, but Leicester were quick to shut down the wide channels and he had little breathing space... 6

LUTHER BURRELLWas sent to the sin bin just three minutes in for a high tackle and though he tried to take the game to Tigers when he returned, they stopped him well... 5

JJ HANRAHANWas making his first appearance of the season and couldn't really have the influence on the game he would have liked... 5

GEORGE NORTHWas involved in the game's main talking point as he landed awkwardly after an Adam Thompstone challenge, but he did well to carry on and still put himself about... 6

STEPHEN MYLERTried to pull the strings for Saints, but couldn't really get a grip of the game to help his team create the chances they needed... 5

TOM KESSELLMade one mistake that nearly proved costly during the first half and looked unsettled at times... 5

ALEX WALLERShowed real desire throughout, making big hits and carrying, while also putting in a decent showing in the set piece... 7

MIKE HAYWOODPopped up with Saints' only try of the match and he was once again a picture of determination in another good performance... 7

PAUL HILLPut himself about at the breakdown, putting pressure on Tigers and also looked strong in the set piece... 7

MICHAEL PATERSONGrafted once again and his blue scrum cap seemed to pop up everywhere as he tried to take the fight to Tigers... 7

JAMES CRAIGNever lets the team down and his lineout skills are always important, with the Saints forwards going toe to toe with Tigers... 7

JAMIE GIBSON - CHRON STAR MANWas once again impressive for Saints, showing real desire against his former club and getting around the field well... 7

BEN NUTLEYEnjoying his run in the team and he made a positive impression, playing his part in a big forward push... 7

LOUIS PICAMOLESHas had some physically demanding matches for France and wasn't able to dominate this game, but he was still a big presence for Saints... 7

George North managed to play the full match for Saints
James Craig was Saints' main lineout man
Stephen Myler was unable to create for Saints
George Pisi came off the bench during the second half
Luther Burrell tried to take the fight to Tigers after his early sin-binning
George North managed to play the full match for Saints