Northampton Saints 36 Leicester Tigers 13: Tom Vickers' review

It's said that Christmas is a time to be thankful - and Christmas certainly came early for Saints supporters at Franklin's Gardens on Saturday.

Saturday, 30th November 2019, 9:52 pm
Saints celebrated a huge derby-day win against Tigers

For carols, see 'can we play you every week?' and 'who the **** are Leicester Tigers?'.

For wise men, see the Saints coaching team who masterminded a comprehensive success against their club's local rivals.

For gifts, see the Tigers lineout and the five tries the home side scored that condemned their old foes to a huge defeat.

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Rory Hutchinson was outstanding once again

And for the Messiah, see any one of Saints' young stars who once again displayed their omnipotence.

From George Furbank at full-back to Rory Hutchinson at centre and James Grayson at fly-half - Saints' Academy products shone.

Leicester's England World Cup players were no match for their youthful but formidable opposite numbers.

Once again, the value of a top management team was displayed in emphatic fashion.

Taqele Naiyaravoro was in fine form

Because here were two clubs who found themselves in very similar situations in the year of 2017.

In January 2017, Tigers dispensed with the services of long-serving boss Richard Cockerill.

And in December 2017, Saints said goodbye to Cockerill's regular sparring partner, Jim Mallinder.

Both had overseen hugely successful eras in the East Midlands, but both had taken their clubs as far as they could.

Chris Boyd has done a top job at Saints so far

It was time for a new direction at Welford Road and at Franklin's Gardens.

And as they dismissed Cockerill almost a full 12 months before Saints parted company with Mallinder, you would think Tigers would now be ahead on their journey.

But the club from up the M1 have found the path back to the winning habit tricky and have not been able to come up with a formula that has worked.

They have gone from Aaron Mauger to Matt O'Connor and now to Geordan Murphy, who was appointed despite the club being on an eight-match losing streak at the time.

Api Ratuniyarawa was all smiles after his try-scoring display

Saints, meanwhile, showed patience, considered their options and rode out the storm.

Much of the credit for that goes to the board and to Alan Dickens and Alan Gaffney, who teamed up after Mallinder's departure and steered the club to safety.

Chris Boyd arrived the following summer and has put a coaching team together that has developed a clear identity.

It took time to come to the fore, as it was always going to.

But during the second half of last season, Saints fans started to see what it was all about.

And with a first full summer under his belt at the Gardens, Boyd has continued to build.

Saints have not only conjured up style but they have substance and, crucially, belief in their game plan.

While they whizzed around the park looking totally in sync for much of Saturday's game, Leicester looked lost.

They struggled to get out of their half during the second period and their set piece, particularly their lineout, faltered badly.

It was reminiscent of Saints before their ship was steadied.

But it also has to be said that no matter how disjointed a team is, it still takes a good one to show up their deficiencies.

Saints were not without their obstacles as they suffered what looked like three big blows before the game, with Owen Franks, Courtney Lawes and Dan Biggar all injured.

But such is the belief that Boyd and Co have instilled, every member of the squad feels confident that they can come in and do a job.

No matter the size of the game or the strength of the opposition, they are able to step up.

And the performance of talented young fly-half Grayson, who came in at very late notice for Dan Biggar, was a glowing example of that.

He pulled the strings with aplomb, once again showcasing his class.

He was part of a sensational team performance that left Saints supporters so thankful for what they have received during recent weeks and months.

So now, whatever happens in their final couple of league matches of 2019, Saints will still be top of the East Midlands tree when 2020 arrives.