London Irish 25 Northampton Saints 40: Tom Vickers' review and player ratings

Saints have had some difficult days at the Madejski Stadium - but this wasn't one of them.

Monday, 25th September 2017, 12:53 am
Updated Wednesday, 27th September 2017, 11:52 am
Christian Day congratulated Cobus Reinach after the scrum-half scored Saints' sixth try (pictures: Kirsty Edmonds)

Because Jim Mallinder's men turned up and turned on the power to leave London Irish on the canvas.To be fair to the home side, they kept fighting until the end, as shown by Josh McNally's last-gasp score.But they were never really in with a chance of taking anything from this game.And that was because Saints, who secured the bonus point before the break, once again outmuscled their opponents.You often hear coaches talk about physicality and wonder why, because surely every rugby team has to show it?But there are different levels of physicality.And at the moment, Saints' coaches, players and strength and conditioning staff deserve a big pat on the back.Because they are not only beating teams - they are beating them up.On the opening day at Twickenham, Saints were the ones left reeling on the turf as Saracens landed punch after punch.Saints simply weren't at the races it in the contact area, being pushed back, often all the way behind their own try line.But since then, a remarkable transformation has occurred.Saints have summoned up Hulk-like strength and opposition teams haven't been able to compete.They got stuck into Leicester, bashed Bath back at every opportunity and made London Irish look like schoolboys at times.Rob Horne's second try was a perfect of example of Saints' new-found strength as he held off several men in green to score.He simply refused to be stopped - and that run embodied his team's attitude.The likes of Courtney Lawes and Jamie Gibson put in shuddering hits that continually provided momentum in this six-try success.It would be easier to say that sterner tests are to come, but Saints passed two pretty difficult ones with flying colours prior to this match.And if they can maintain this intensity and overall level of performance, they will not be an easy team to beat in the coming weeks and months.They will be disappointed to have conceded three tries at the Madejski Stadium, where London Irish beat them 25-23 on their previous visit, in December, 2015.But as Mallinder said afterwards - with attacking adventure comes an element of risk.It is not easy to get the balance right, but Saints have managed to more often than not during the past three matches.They have now won three in a row, scoring 13 tries in the process, and sit third in the Premiership standings, level on points with Saracens.And if you had said that would be the case after that opening-day defeat to the Barnet-based team, the men in white coats would have come to cart you away.Saints have rebuilt in superb style, using memories of that Twickenham torture to motivate them.They were told they were 'soft' against Saracens. They have been anything but since.Their big names, men such as Lawes and George North, have come to the fore, leading like Lions players should.And other squad members such as Michael Paterson and Gibson have really shown their worth with immense work rate and no shortage of quality.Some of the rugby Saints played against Irish was a joy to watch and their challenge now is to continue to ally silky style with steely substance.Nothing less will be expected now that the bar has been set high - and Saturday's game at home to Harlequins provides another big chance to keep the Lazarus-like recovery going.How they rated...AHSEE TUALAMade the burst that set up the first score and he did well defensively, too, making a big hit to prevent a try out wide and win Saints a lineout... 7GEORGE NORTHHas started the season in fantastic form and he was at his all-action best here as he led numerous attacks, scored a try and also did some impressive defensive work... 8ROB HORNE - CHRON STAR MANThis man has been superb since arriving at Saints and he secured his third win in as many matches with a huge showing that included two eye-catching tries... 9LUTHER BURRELLProduced some lovely offloads and big tackles during his time on the pitch and was unfortunate to be forced off with a knee injury... 7TOM COLLINSLooked lively once again, keeping Irish on their toes with some weaving runs and also doing his defensive work well... 7HARRY MALLINDERHas helped Saints to cope without both of their first-choice fly-halves and he used his big boot to good effect again here as well as pulling the strings in attack... 7NIC GROOMSo sharp around the park, the scrum-half kept the team's tempo high and also grabbed himself a score, finishing off a flowing team move... 8ALEX WALLERMade one fantastic break during the second half, carrying the ball into the Irish 22 and he was assured in the scrum, too... 7MIKE HAYWOODThe hooker was Saints' top scorer last season and he etched his name on the scoresheet again here, capping a display packed with energy and enthusiasm... 8PAUL HILLTook on New Zealand prop Ben Franks and excelled, helping Saints to get the upper hand in the scrum and around the park... 7MICHAEL PATERSONAnother really strong showing from the lock, who continues to impress this season, making key contributions in every match... 8DAVID RIBBANSGrabbed two tries against Bath and produced another strong showing here, particularly in defence, where he stood tall on several occasions... 7COURTNEY LAWESYet another huge effort from the England star, who made some bone-crushing hits and put Irish players on the ground with numerous big carries... 8JAMIE GIBSONMade some big hits and worked so hard once again, showing he deserves to hold on to the Saints seven shirt... 8SAM DICKINSONCame in for his first start since rejoining Saints and he put in a fine performance, dealing with kick-offs, making big tackles and carrying well... 8Replacements (who played more than 20 minutes)KIERAN BROOKES (for Hill 57)The game was pretty much won when the prop came on and he didn't do anything wrong... 6

Jamie Gibson got through plenty of work
Alex Waller made a big break during the second half

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Rob Horne was in superb form
George North was at his rampaging best
Jamie Gibson got through plenty of work
Alex Waller made a big break during the second half
Rob Horne was in superb form
George North was at his rampaging best