Northampton Saints 38 London Irish 22: Tom Vickers review and player ratings

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Alex Mitchell

He was the one with promise as two backlines saturated with talent entered the field.

But for long stretches, nothing happened as these men struggled to get started.

Alex Mitchell was the only one truly able to stand out in a first half that seemed to never end.

There have been scrums, injuries, TMO criticism and sins galore, mostly against the London Irish.

The visiting team received three yellow cards in as many minutes as the first half went over the hour mark.

It seemed set up for the Saints to come out all guns blazing early in the second period.

It seemed certain they would have too much for the 12 men.

But it was quite the opposite – and it was actually hard to notice that the Irish were three players short.

They put their bodies on the line, ate time when they could and took advantage of the profligacy of the Saints, who seemed to make a bad impression on the Harlem Globetrotters.

Keeping it simple was what was needed, but the Saints did the opposite, trying out Hollywood passes that wouldn’t come in handy.

The Irish seemed to have gotten off the hook when their three players came back with the team trailing by seven points.

But after a lot of nothing for the Saints during the sin-bin times, then came the whole thing.

The Saints eventually found their feet, taking advantage of Irish’s mental and physical fatigue as the trials dragged on.

Phil Dowson’s side rounded things out with a bonus point effort from George Furbank to bring a big roar from what seemed an unusually small crowd at the Gardens.

And relief was felt everywhere as the Saints bagged the five points they must surely have given what had unfolded earlier in the game.

Dowson’s side have now taken six points from their first two games, two more than in the same encounters – Sale (a) and London Irish (h) – last season.

It’s a good start, although things definitely haven’t clicked for a long time.

But the Saints will know they will have to put everything in place on Saturday or they will get nothing out of their derby day meeting with the Leicester Tigers.

GEORGE FURBANK – skippered Saints for the first time after Dan Biggar was forced to forfeit, and capped his run with a trial thanks to good work from Alex Coles… 7

OLLIE SLEIGHTHOLME – etched his name on the scoresheet after hanging on to a fine pass from James Grayson, but had struggled to get things done before that… 6.5

MATT PROCTOR – still poses a threat to the opponent and tried to get things going with a few bursts… 6.5

RORY HUTCHINSON – was back in the squad and looked eager to shake things up, but Irish actually defended well against him for the most part… 6.5

TOM COLLINS – was still looking to create an opening but was unable to get the ball in areas where he could really hurt the Irishman… 6.5

JAMES GRAYSON- came into the team late after Dan Biggar withdrew and produced a mixed performance as he stirred things up, but also tried to do a bit too much on a few occasions. Received a yellow card towards the end of the match… 6

ALEX MITCHELL- CHRON STAR MAN – the scrum half provided the spark his team needed, spotting openings and making the most of it when it mattered… 8

ALEX WALLER – had to withdraw towards the end of the first half after suffering a head injury assessment. Gave a few penalties before… 5.5

SAM MATAVESI – was another Saints frontline striker who was punished by referee Luke Pearce on more than one occasion, but did some decent stuff in open play… 6

PAUL HILL – The Irish certainly gave their all in the scrum and this man couldn’t have the impact he wanted, but he tackled when needed… 5.5

LUKHAN SALAKAIA-LOTTO – continues to impress as his physique helps the Saints make yards and he is a strong presence on the pitch… 7.5

ALEX MOON – showed what he was made of with a powerful performance that saw him eager to get in on the action, fending off Irish as much as he could… 7

ALEX COLLES – continues to improve and he was a key part of that performance, capping his display with a superb assist for George Furbank… 8

Aaron Hinkley- has yet to reach the heights of his performance last season, but the more he plays the better he will get… 6

JUARN AUGUSTE – a fine performance from the tall No.8 as he started the scoring for his side with a strong finish…8

Substitutions (who have played more than 20 minutes)

MANNY IYOGUN (for Waller 38) – certainly added to the Saints’ display as he advanced through midfield, putting the Irish under pressure… 7

ALFIE PETCH (for Hill 51) – an extremely impressive cameo from the prop, which carried with real power on a few occasions, opening doors for the Saints… 7.5

ANGUS SCOTT-YOUNG (for Hinkley 53) – seemed like a very handy addition to the squad, and he was able to help the Saints find their bearings in the second half… 6

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