Friday nights at Sixways stadium in Worcester are never easy. Let alone after a run of 4 losses on the bounce, a mini injury crisis and the six nations meaning we were 4/5 players light. Worcester themselves were on a run of 4 or 5 games without a win and were desperate to turn the tide and pick up a victory on their home patch. A team which hasn’t been hit quite so hard from the Six Nations and perhaps are a bit thicker on the ground with regards to their injured players. This made for a tasty encounter and one which would be vital in the end results of the table at the end of the season.
The game started in manic fashion with Ryan Mills from Worcester getting yellow carded for obstructing Cobus Reinach when chasing a kick through. The professional fowl was deemed bad enough by the fourth official that it warranted a yellow card. Northampton kicked the points and moved 3-0 ahead. Worcester bounced back from this and put the visitors under some real pressure, making a few breaks and looking like they were certain to score soon. The saints managed to scramble and force an extra pass a few times which ended up going to ground and saving the away side. But not without a little bit of ill discipline. Tom Collins got a yellow card for being off side and killing the ball post Worcester line break. This was similar to Ryan Mills offence and the referee deemed the offence enough to spend 10 minutes on the side line. Worcester kicked the resulting penalty though Jonno Lance and the home side were on the board. Northampton got back on top and kicked for the corner, the pressure was on the home side. The resulting line out saw the saints go over with a driving maul in the corner and the following conversion was good. The score was 10-3 and the saints were applying plenty of pressure. Another Worcester ill discipline gave the visitors a long range penalty chance which was put over and the score line was stretched to 13-3. A period of Worcester pressure just before half time came to nothing as the saints turned them over on their own line and kicked the ball off. A topsy Turvey first half with plenty of errors from both sides made for a slightly stop start game, but Northampton went in up.
The second half came around and not much changed. Both sides played with lots of ambition but as the teams got fatigued the skill level dropped and lots of mistakes were made. Worcester just like the first half put lots of pressure on the visitors and made plenty of breaks and had a few chances to convert. Finally after 65 minutes the warriors scored in the corner through the powerful run of Chris Pennell and the strong finish from Ollie Lawrence. The saints then pushed up the pitch and spent some time in the home sides 22. This eventually ended up in a penalty under the posts on 76 minutes to take the away side 6 points clear. The resulting re start was dropped and the warriors had 1 last chance to pinch a last gasp win! The held onto the ball and made a line break, the tackle from Henry Taylor was a try saving one, but at the break down Sam Matavesi infringed and that resulted in a penalty and a yellow card. Worcester kicked the penalty to the corner and went for the driving maul. All 8 forward piled in but as the maul went down, Tom Wood managed to get a big mit on the ball that the referee deemed un playable. The final whistle came and it was joy, excitement and relief for the Northampton saints. Their run of 4 games losing was over, they fought like hell away from home and managed to pick up a scrappy 4 points. I think at the end of the season (if we ever see it- coronavirus permitting) these will be a big four points we will look back on and be glad that we managed to hold onto.
In light of the recent coronavirus I hope everyone stays safe, looks after loved ones and stays positive. Thank you for all your support and fingers crossed we can get back to normal and have some sport on the TV soon.