Northampton Saints 35 Worcester Warriors 16: Tom Vickers' review

It may not have escaped the attention of many Saints supporters that their side currently sit top of the Gallagher Premiership table.

Sunday, 27th October 2019, 1:14 pm
Taqele Naiyaravoro was a key man once again

And while the standings are only embryonic at this stage, the fact the black, green and gold are back at the summit, pretty much for the first time since they finished the 2014/15 season there, should not be ignored.

Yes, only two games have played.

And yes, there are still 20 regular-season matches to go.

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But if a team tops a table at any point in the season, it is for more than one reason.

And the two displays Saints have delivered so far must now become a microcosm of the campaign to come.

Because they have so far shown the kind of qualities that any team needs to achieve something special.

They produced some eye-catching skill and style to win at Saracens on the opening day, and there was plenty of substance, especially in defence, too.

Saints batted to beat Worcester

And on Saturday, against a Worcester team who would have been pleased to see the atrocious weather conditions when they arrived in Northampton, Saints showcased patience and character to bounce back from a horrible first half.

There are many weeks and months to go this season, but if Saints can maintain the array of key qualities they have possessed so far, they can go a long way.

That is not to say they will replicate what happened the last time they won their opening two Premiership matches, when they did the Premiership and Challenge Cup double in 2014.

But it is to say they will be able to keep themselves in good shape.

Henry Taylor started at scrum-half

Teams that finish near the top of tables have to have an all-court game, just as Saints did in 2014

They win whether it's wet or dry.

They win whether they're playing a team who like to kick or a team who prefer to keep the ball in hand.

They win whether the opposition plays to their potential or whether they don't.

And so far, Saints have negotiated the two hurdles put in front of them.

They had to tough it out against Worcester and whatever was said at half-time worked.

Because after the break, Saints came out with renewed purpose, putting to bed a lifeless first 40 minutes in which they struggled to get anything going.

Worcester played plenty of the opening half in Saints territory, even when Ethan Waller gave his old team a helping hand with a deliberate knock-on that led to a sin-binning.

And many fans would have feared it was going to be one of those days, a damp squib after the Lord Mayor's show at Allianz Park a week earlier.

But Saints would not let it go that way.

They kept battling and eventually their superior quality came to the fore.

What also needs to be recognised is that they showed they could ally speed with strength, style with substance.

Their pack gradually got on top and the pressure proved too much for the Warriors.

Not only that, but the backs were ruthless when given the platform by the forwards.

The back three all scored, and so did replacement wing Ollie Sleightholme, who only needs a sniff of a try to grab one.

It meant a bonus-point success in the first league game on home soil and it sets Saints up perfectly for another Gardens date, against Harlequins, on Friday night.

Chris Boyd's team won't get carried away - after all, the boss never does, and rightly so - but they have a real chance to win their first four games of this season.

If they can achieve that, they will be in fine fettle going into Europe, especially with key World Cup players coming back and Owen Franks and Matt Proctor on their way from New Zealand.

The signs are extremely promising, and Saints have managed to maintain the momentum provided by their strong second half of last season.

It seems this team is capable of getting stronger not only as seasons go on but games, too.

And if that remains the case, then they really will be going in the right direction as they look to ensure this strong start becomes more than just that.