Northampton Saints 65 Newcastle Falcons 26: Tom Vickers' review and player ratings

While some have spent the past few days celebrating the rein of the Queen, Saturday at the Gardens was time to salute the stewardship of Chris Boyd.

By Tom Vickers
Sunday, 5th June 2022, 1:05 pm
Tommy Freeman
Tommy Freeman

It was the Kiwi's final game in charge at the home of the club that he joined in 2018, and what a final game it was.

As has been the case during since the middle of March, Saints thrilled from start to finish, scoring an incredible 10 tries on their march to a Gallagher Premiership play-off place.

As it turned out, the game couldn't really have been a better depiction of Boyd's stay at Saints.

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It had a flying start - Boyd finished fourth in his first season in charge - an extremely difficult middle - Saints had a torrid time during the Covid-hit spell - and a faith-restoring conclusion.

Also fittingly, Academy graduates came to the fore, with Tommy Freeman scoring a hat-trick and the likes of Alex Coles, Rory Hutchinson and Lewis Ludlam shining bright.

And how apt it was that Ludlam finished it all off with a typically determined try on his 100th appearance at Saints.

After all, this is a player who was close to exiting Northampton when Boyd arrived.

The current boss admitted in the build-up to this weekend's game that Ludlam almost didn't make the cut when he joined.

But the faith Boyd has put in a player who is now his skipper has been rewarded. And that is a serious understatement.

Ludlam has been the leader of this fearless, fantastic group who have found a way to pick themselves up off the canvas to conjure a thrilling run that has taken them into the top four.

They suffered four agonising defeats across February and the first weekend of March.

It looked like their campaign was stuttering to a disappointing conclusion.

But they pulled together and showed incredible character and skill to navigate the seven challenges that were ahead of them.

They have taken a sensational 32 points from the past 35 on offer, scoring at least four tries in each of the seven games.

They have seemingly been down at out at times, only to roar back into contention.

And here they are.

In the Premiership play-offs.

For the first time since Boyd led them there in his first season, back in 2019.

On that occasion, they were well beaten by an extremely strong Exeter Chiefs side.

And they will come up against similarly formidable opposition next Saturday as they travel to local rivals Leicester Tigers.

Tigers won every home game during the regular season and they convincingly beat Saints twice is as many meetings.

They topped the table throughout the campaign and will be big favourites to advance to Twickenham.

But these Saints players have the kind of character that won't allow them to be fazed by the size of this challenge.

After all, they seemingly had no hope when they slipped down to ninth back in March.

They seemingly had no hope when they fell 31-12 down at Bath in April.

They seemingly had no hope when they lost player after player, and their lead, at home to Harlequins six days later.

But somehow Saints showed that the hope had never left them.

Do you know what is one of the biggest things Boyd has brought to the Gardens in his four years in charge? The ability to dream again.

And thanks to Boyd's fitting Gardens farewell, those dreams will live on for at least another week.

How they rated…

GEORGE FURBANK

Wasn’t quite at his sharpest at times with a couple of passes going out of play, and he also missed a couple of tackles, but there was some really good attacking play also… 7

MATT PROCTOR

Bounced off players in trademark fashion and his physicality and skill was on show once again… 8

FRASER DINGWALL

Was forced off with an injury early in the second half, but prior to that he had shown his class in defence and attack, stopping the Falcons in their tracks and assisting his team-mates… 7.5

RORY HUTCHINSON

Was so key to Saints’ counter-attacking game as time and again he helped them to spring from their own half. Also added another try to his tally… 8.5

TOMMY FREEMAN - CHRON STAR MAN

Has scored in five consecutive league games and he notched a superb treble here, showing his class and his speed to ground the Falcons… 8.5

DAN BIGGAR

Didn’t have the best day from the tee, but that was the only thing that didn’t fully work for the fly-half as he produced a superb display, with his kicking from hand on-point… 8.5

ALEX MITCHELL

Was typically key in setting the tone for Saints as they flew into a big lead, and he notched another try before leaving the field for a sin-binning… 8

ALEX WALLER

Looked hungry for action as he savoured the physical battle and this was a decent shift from the experienced prop… 7.5

SAM MATAVESI

Enjoyed a fantastic first half, scoring twice, as he showcased his impressive footwork. The lineout didn’t always function but this was another strong performance… 8.5

PAUL HILL

Was injured in a collision with Falcons full-back Alex Tait, forcing him to leave the field far earlier than he would have hoped, but Saints were in control by then… 6.5

ALEX COLES

A gargantuan display from the talented young lock, and it even included an incredible kick from hand that took Saints up the field. His performance had a bit of everything… 8.5

API RATUNIYARAWA

Was given a huge ovation as he left the Gardens pitch for the final time as a Saint, and he had done plenty of good work on the day… 8.5

COURTNEY LAWES

Worked so hard for his side throughout, trying to unsettle the Falcons at the breakdown and proving a force in defence and attack… 8.5

AARON HINKLEY

Another strong showing from the young flanker as he did what he could to keep Saints on the front foot… 8

LEWIS LUDLAM

The skipper crowned his 100th Saints appearance with a late try, and this was another performance packed with energy and physicality… 8.5

Replacements (who played more than 20 minutes)

EHREN PAINTER (for Hill 22)

Such a boost for Saints to have this man back for the run-in and they are going to need him even more if Hill is ruled out after being forced off with concussion… 7

TOM JAMES (for Dingwall 52)

Helped to lift Saints’ tempo again and wake them from their slumber as he delivered a strong cameo… 7.5

MANNY IYOGUN (for Waller 52)

Yet another example of how good he is becoming as he helped to turn the game back in Saints’ favour, making a strip on his own line that eventually led to a try… 7.5

MIKE HAYWOOD (for Matavesi 58)

A good impact from the bench from the hooker, who helped to lift energy levels… 7

JUARNO AUGUSTUS (for Hinkley 58)

The importance of this man’s cameo can’t be understated as he made a huge impact for his team, taking them forward at a time when they were going backwards… 8

COURTNALL SKOSAN (for Mitchell 58)

A really lively showing from the South African, who grabbed a try and also played his part in others… 7.5