The Daily Telegraph - Business

Le­ices­ter Northamp­ton

- By Gary Baker at Welford Road Sports · Rugby · Leicester City F.C. · Leicester · Northampton Town F.C. · Southampton F.C. · St Albans City F.C. · East Midlands · George Ford · Geordan Murphy · London Irish RFC · London · England national football team · England · South Africa · Northhampton, MA · Leicester Tigers · Hanro Liebenberg · Courtney Lawes · Francois de Klerk

Chris Boyd told it straight as his Northamp­ton side went down to a fifth suc­ces­sive Gal­lagher Premier­ship de­feat. The Saints di­rec­tor of rugby said the loss to their big­gest ri­vals, Le­ices­ter Tigers, in the East Mid­lands derby at Welford Road was “em­bar­rass­ing”.

“It is prob­a­bly the worst per­for­mance in two years since I have been here,” Boyd said. “Every­body is down in the chang­ing room and it is go­ing to be a pretty tough job to pick them back up again.”

The key time which saw the Tigers come up trumps on a bak­ing hot af­ter­noon was a 10-minute pe­riod at the end of the first half, when their backs-to-the-wall ef­forts de­nied Northamp­ton.

Ma­jor pres­sure on the Le­ices­ter line re­sulted in two yel­low cards for the home side within sec­onds of each other, as lock To­mas La­vanini and flanker Harry Wells were ac­cused of de­lib­er­ately tak­ing down a ruck.

For the se­cond of those, ref­eree Wayne Barnes awarded Northamp­ton a penalty try but, from there un­til the two Tigers re­turned to the fray sec­onds be­fore half-time, the Saints could not break the stub­born re­sis­tance of the 13 Le­ices­ter men.

“I could have stom­ached los­ing the game if we had a great per­for­mance but it was a very flat per­for­mance,” Boyd said. “So mas­sively dis­ap­pointed.”

An­other rea­son for the de­feat was their mul­ti­tude of er­rors in kick­able po­si­tions that Le­ices­ter fly-half Zack Henry lapped up.

Henry was in the stand-off role usu­ally oc­cu­pied by Ge­orge Ford, who was not risked, hav­ing a nig­gling in­jury. But the 25-yearold, in his first East Mid­lands derby, was sub­lime.

Ge­or­dan Mur­phy, his di­rec­tor of rugby, was happy enough with the sec­ond­string’s out­ing, and said: “I think Zack has cer­tainly im­proved in ev­ery game he has played.

Big chance: Zack Henry stood in for Ge­orge Ford and kicked 20 points

We had not orig­i­nally pen­cilled Zack in to play, but we had a cou­ple of bumps and bruises and he took his op­por­tu­nity well.”

Mur­phy said he was dis­ap­pointed to con­cede at the end, but added: “When you go into a big derby match, usu­ally you would be wor­ried if you had one man in the bin, but we had three in the bin.”

Some­thing had to give as both sides have been on los­ing streaks since they each beat Lon­don Ir­ish within days of each other last month. Eng­land scrum-half Ben Youngs, on his 250th ap­pear­ance, put Le­ices­ter ahead early for a lead they would never re­lin­quish. He seized on a thump­ing tackle from wing Ne­mani Nadolo on Saints full­back Ge­orge Fur­bank, took the ball and ran un­der the posts.

Saints had gone ahead via a penalty from Welsh fly-half Dan Big­gar af­ter three min­utes, but they were made to pay dearly for mis­takes within kick­able range as Henry booted over three in suc­ces­sion to put the Tigers 16-3 up.

Northamp­ton were gifted a golden chance to rack up points when La­vanini and Wells were yel­low-carded for pulling down rucks, and Wells’s of­fence was close enough to the Le­ices­ter line for the ref­eree to award that penalty try. But, down to 13 men, the Saints could not take ad­van­tage. It was the piv­otal point of the match.

With La­vanini and Wells back on, Le­ices­ter full-back Fred­die Ste­ward struck a huge penalty from al­most halfway.

Henry’s fourth penalty put Le­ices­ter 12 points to the good af­ter the break be­fore their ruck of­fences on their own line struck again and No 8 Hanro Lieben­berg was, this time, the yel­low-card re­cip­i­ent.

Re­place­ment prop Paul Hill’s dash through a static Le­ices­ter mid­field, with Big­gar con­vert­ing, handed Northamp­ton a chance of vic­tory.

Yet the sub­lime Henry stroked home a lovely dropped goal from dis­tance and his fifth penalty sealed Le­ices­ter’s sixth Premier­ship win this sea­son.

Saints’ re­place­ment scrumhalf Henry Tay­lor dashed over in the last sec­onds for a try which Big­gar con­verted to sal­vage a los­ing bonus point.

Wayne Barnes is one of the best ref­er­ees in the busi­ness and he cer­tainly was not stand­ing for any non­sense from Le­ices­ter’s Nephi Leati­gaga. The re­place­ment prop (above left) stormed into a brawl as the two sides had a dis­agree­ment in the se­cond half, tak­ing par­tic­u­lar ex­cep­tion to Court­ney Lawes. Barnes, though, was unim­pressed – as the tran­script from his con­ver­sa­tion with the cap­tains – caught by the BT Sport cam­eras – showed: “Six and 10 are hav­ing a bit of a pull and shove, that’s fine,” said Barnes (who is pic­tured in the top right of the above im­age). “But 18 has come in and es­ca­lated ev­ery­thing, chuck­ing peo­ple and telling peo­ple he wants to have a fight in the car park after­wards. That’s not re­ally ac­cept­able. It was go­ing to be a scrum, it’s now a penalty against No 18, just have a word with him please and calm him down.”

Barnes was not the only ref­eree to have his say yes­ter­day, with Matthew Car­ley telling Sale’s scrum – which is largely made up of South Africa in­ter­na­tion­als, with Faf de Klerk at scrum-half – that he speaks Afrikaans, just in case they tried to pull a fast one. It is un­clear at this stage whether or not Car­ley was telling the truth, but it was a good day for the of­fi­cials’ words to be caught on tele­vi­sion.

 ??  ??
 ??  ??

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK