Leinster 35 Northampton Saints 19: Tom Vickers' review and player ratings

During Saints’ lengthy losing streak there have been glimmers of hope, chinks of light, reasons to be positive.

By Tom Vickers
Sunday, 20th December 2020, 1:41 pm
Updated Sunday, 20th December 2020, 1:44 pm
Rory Hutchinson impressed
Rory Hutchinson impressed

But sadly for Chris Boyd’s men, they haven’t managed to make them materialise into victories.

At that was again the case on Saturday afternoon in Dublin.

Because while there were plenty of things to be pleased about - notably the European debut of Tom James and the return to the fore of Rory Hutchinson and George Furbank - there were still those moments.

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George Furbank got stuck in

Those moments that undo all of their good work and leave them with a bad taste in the mouth.

At the start of both halves there were defensive lapses that led to tries.

But the one that hurt the most arrived on the stroke of half-time as Dave Kearney gave the men in blue their breathing space back.

Saints had roared into contention after falling 14-0 down early on.

Alex Moon was in the thick of the action

The signs were ominous but they battled against the blue wave, and tidy tries from Fraser Dingwall and James gave them renewed hope and vigour.

Then came Kearney’s finish in the corner following Ryan Olowofela’s failed interception.

And when Jamison Gibson-Park breezed through just after the break, Saints had been punctured.

They did briefly inflate their bid once more as Nick Isiekwe charged down Gibson-Park to score.

But Leinster had too much in the end, racking up a total of four tries.

It was the same old story in that respect as a side once again secured a bonus-point thanks to some scores Saints will feel they should have made them work harder for.

And in attack, the lineout again faltered on a couple of key occasions, stealing the wind from Saints’ sails in blustery conditions.

Now it’s back to domestic matters - and Saints must finally find a way to piece it all together.

The likes of Hutchinson and Furbank reminded of how they tormented teams at this time last year.

And if Saints can keep them flowing while steadying that lineout and strengthening that resistance for much longer, they have the ability to finally get Godzilla off their backs.

It is, of course, easier said than done.

But the past few weeks have felt like a pre-cursor to that long-awaited win.

Now it’s up to Saints to make sure they deliver a sizeable present to their fans the day after Christmas.

How they rated...

TOM COLLINS

Was secured enough in what he had to do but didn't really find himself in space to light up the game on an attacking front... 6

RYAN OLOWOFELA

A real mixed bag from the lively wing as he struggled defensively early on but bounced back to stop Leinster scoring in the second half and also gave some go-forward in attack... 5.5

FRASER DINGWALL

A really strong showing from the centre, who is coming of age now, delivering big defensive hits as well as clever attacking play... 7.5

RORY HUTCHINSON

Pulled the strings for Saints and kicked really well, showing glimpses of what he is all about as he looks to return to top form... 7.5

TAQELE NAIYARAVORO

Couldn't really have an impact on the game and was unable to take a big chance given to him by a Sam Matavesi pass in the first half... 5.5

GEORGE FURBANK - CHRON STAR MAN

Looks a real option for Saints at 10 in the years ahead as he was composed and in the thick of the action throughout... 7.5

TOM JAMES

A really impressive European debut from the scrum-half, who not only scored but also provided a try assist for Fraser Dingwall... 7.5

ALEX WALLER

Came off early in the second half on his 50th appearance in the European top flight but it wasn't his day overall as he gave away a penalty and maybe rued a scrum decision... 5.5

SAM MATAVESI

Stacked up the carries for his side as he looked hungry for action and he also proved a useful weapon at the breakdown as ever... 6.5

PAUL HILL

Bounced back from an early knock-on that gave Leinster an important platform and didn't do much wrong after that... 5.5

ALEX MOON

Worked so hard for the team, topping the Saints tackle count with 18 while also racking up the third most carries... 7

API RATUNIYARAWA

Like Moon, he made plenty of tackles - 17 in total - and there was certainly no shortage of hard yards in the Saints second row... 7

NICK ISIEKWE

Just keeps churning out the big performances, making Saints wish they could have him for more than just this season... 7.5

TOM WOOD

Put his body on the line for his team once again as he just continues to impress year after year in the black, green and gold, and his leadership was evident... 7

SHAUN ADENDORFF

Was guilty of being a bit too eager when stopping a Leinster kick ahead going dead but he didn't do too much wrong in open play... 6

Replacements (who played more than 20 minutes)

FRANCOIS VAN WYK (for Waller 47)

Helped Saints to carry the fight and stay in the game with a decent cameo that included a few forward surges and plenty of tackles... 6

MIKE HAYWOOD (for Matavesi 51)

Made his long-awaited return from injury and offered plenty, showing his appetite to get back in action... 6

OWEN FRANKS (for Hill 58)

Conceded one penalty but made a few tackles to help the team's cause as they kept the Leinster lead down... 5.5

PIERS FRANCIS (for Olowofela 58)

Saints weren't really able to get on the front foot as they would have wanted in the final stages but it was good for them to have this man to call upon... 6

MATT PROCTOR (for Naiyaravoro 58)

There wasn't too much for his to feast on in an attacking sense but he did okay defensively... 6