Worcester Warriors 14 Northampton Saints 62: Tom Vickers' review and player ratings

It would be quite easy to paint Saturday's incredible game at Sixways as the story of two wings: one from Saints' past and one very much for the present and future.

Sunday, 28th March 2021, 4:53 pm
Paul Hill produced an eye-catching cameo at Sixways

After all, Chris Ashton scored and was then sent off, opening the door for Ollie Sleightholme to fill his boots.

And while that was definitely one storyline from Saints' stunning 62-14 success, there was far more to talk about than just two men.

Because this was the day when it really felt the fun had returned for Saints.

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Exactly 62 weeks on from the memorable Champions Cup win at Lyon, in which Chris Boyd's side delivered a blistering second-half showing, they scored 62 points.

It felt like the first time since that success in France that there was pure enjoyment during the latter stages of a Saints game.

Because whatever wins have come during the past 62 weeks, they have come in narrow fashion.

Saints have had to fight their way over the line each and every time.

Piers Francis

But here, they turned on the cruise control, completely demolishing the opposition.

It was slick, entertaining and totally enjoyable, just like that sunny day in Lyon way back in January 2020 before Covid-19 came into our lives and took fans from stadiums.

It was just a shame Saints supporters couldn't be there to see their side back in full flow.

For Worcester, it was probably a blessing that no fans were present as they capitulated while Boyd's boys ran rings around them.

David Ribbans

Sleightholme scored four tries, but the list of incredible individual showings after half-time is almost too long to go through.

Paul Hill produced a cameo in which he was both Paul Hill and Beauden Barrett.

Scrum-half Tom James entered proceedings on the wing and proceeded to play with all the creativity of a Super Rugby star.

And then there was Tommy Freeman, the young player who is making life in England's top division look like a total breeze.

Tom James

David Ribbans and Alex Mitchell were back with a bang from England duty and there were so many other stellar showings during a swaggering second half.

Credit also had to go to the coaches.

Because the first half was far from easy for Saints and the messages they were given at half-time clearly worked.

Even before Ashton's moment of madness - in which he produced an inexplicable illegal clear-out on the head of Freeman - Saints had started to take control.

The coaches sent them out with the bit between their teeth in the second half, knowing they had been winning by the skin of their teeth at the break.

Worcester were swarming all over Saints, who held a precarious 8-7 lead.

And you felt the Warriors would be hugely frustrated to go in a point down at the break.

As it turned out, they were eight points behind after Sleightholme slithered his way over the line in impressive fashion and James Grayson did the business from the tee yet again.

It seemed to knock the stuffing out of the league's bottom side, who have not won a Premiership match since November.

And it stoked the fire of Saints, who blew their hosts away after the break, despite losing Rory Hutchinson and George Furbank to injury during the first half.

It was Harlem Globetrotters stuff from Boyd's side, with offloads, clever kicks and tries galore.

Most importantly, it was a bonus-point win that keeps Saints well in the hunt for a top four spot as they take a break from league action during the next two weeks.

Now they will set their sights on keeping their European flame burning as they face the Dragons in the last 16 of the Challenge Cup.

And if they can produce anything close to this second-half showing, they will be in with a real chance.

There are so many reasons to be positive about Saints as their young players continue to show just how much squad depth there is at Franklin's Gardens these days.

And little more than a year on from Saints' last win at Sixways - the final match before rugby shut down for five months - how grateful we are to be able to not only witness rugby, but to see it played in this way.

There will be tougher challenges ahead, but Saints are starting to gain the kind of confidence that propelled them to wins like the one at Lyon last year.

And with that kind of belief, Boyd's side are a very dangerous beast indeed.

How they rated...

GEORGE FURBANK

Only got half an hour on the field but made his mark during that time, scoring the try that opened Saints' account on the day... 7

TOM COLLINS

The only real surprise was that this man didn't score, but he did everything else, charging down a kick that led to one score and flinging a fantastic, defence-defeating pass out wide for another... 9

RORY HUTCHINSON

Would have loved to be involved in such an open second half but didn't get the chance as he was forced off inside 20 minutes with concussion

PIERS FRANCIS

Such a key cog in the Saints machine, the centre seemed to be everywhere, making carries, tackles and even scoring a try... 9

OLLIE SLEIGHTHOLME - CHRON STAR MAN

Four tries on the day for the wing, who produced the most important moment just before the break, scything through and swinging the momentum towards Saints. What a finisher he is... 9.5

JAMES GRAYSON

Came in at late notice for Dan Biggar and once again showed what he's made of. Got in on the act in terms of try assists and kicked impressively from the tee on a breezy day... 8.5

ALEX MITCHELL

Razor-sharp throughout, the scrum-half cut through Worcester on a few occasions and was eventually rewarded with a try... 9

ALEX WALLER

A huge defensive showing from the prop during the first half and he will have enjoyed winning the battle of the Waller brothers... 7.5

SAM MATAVESI

Made a key steal during the first half to relieve some pressure on his side and then got the chance to play the way he likes to during the second period... 8.5

EHREN PAINTER

Relished the scrum battle and certainly gave Worcester a tough time with his physicality... 7.5

DAVID RIBBANS

An absolutely huge display from the England lock, who bled for the cause once more and who kept powering on, deservedly dotting down during the second half... 9.5

API RATUNIYARAWA

Played a key role in some neat first-half moves as his handling ability gave Worcester plenty to think about... 7.5

NICK ISIEKWE

He's just so good, isn't he? Made a crucial tackle to stop Worcester scoring during the first half and was in the thick of the second-half action, too... 9

TOM WOOD

Saints' very own Duracell bunny, this man just keeps going and going in games. To borrow Teimana Harrison's comment earlier in the week: he's playing like a 22-year-old... 8.5

TEIMANA HARRISON

Found himself in the sin bin during the second half but that was the only thing that went wrong for the No.8, whose return from injury has been seamless... 9

Replacements (who played more than 20 minutes)

FRASER DINGWALL (for Hutchinson 19)

Delivered a fine assist for David Ribbans' try and once again showed just what a good player he is developing into... 8.5

TOMMY FREEMAN (for Furbank 29)

We're already running out of superlatives for this young player, who produced some outrageous offloads, pinpoint kicks and plenty more here... 9.5

ALEX COLES (for Ratuniyarawa 45)

The talented young lock will have enjoyed this experience as he helped Saints to keep their tempo high and got stuck in when he needed to... 7.5

NICK AUTERAC (for Waller 56)

An enjoyable game to come into as Saints were well and truly on the front foot when this man arrived, and he played his part in an impressive second half... 7.5

PAUL HILL (for Painter 56)

The best prop cameo of all time? Perhaps. This showing had everything, from rampaging runs to tasty offloads. Plenty of additions to his highlights reel here... 9