The return of rugby at the gardens
Sunday afternoon at Franklins Gardens saw Northampton Saints vs Wasps in the return of Gallagher premiership rugby. But not as we know it. An empty 15000 seater stadium, the only voices heard, that from the pitch and the few support staff that are allowed into the ground and a handful of playing squad who are on the bench. It made for a very bizarre encounter, especially considering how good the atmosphere at the Gardens usually is.
Northampton’s run of games before lock down were pretty poor. They lost 3 and won the final game against Worcester before everything went Pete tongue. Wasps on the other hand had a shake up of their coaching staff and seemed to be rejuvenated. They were in a rich vein of form and looked as I’ve the changes had worked for them. Did lock down come at the wrong time for them?
The game started quite slowly with both teams making plenty of mistakes, a couple of penalties back and forth meant the game was being kept in the balance by the kickers. A long range kick for Biggar and a slightly easier kick for Gopperth. The game felt very much like a pre season game at the start, it took time for both teams to settle down and get back to normal. Eventually that happened and after a period of play were wasps looked dangerous they scored off set piece with Josh Bassett scything through the defence. Wasps went into the half time break in the lead but only by a handful of points and it seemed as though Northampton were going to come back at any point. Fekitoa got yellow carded but it could quite easily have been a red card. Northampton couldn’t capitalise on these 10 minutes and didn’t come away with any points in the time that he was off the pitch.
The second half commenced and both teams scored good tries. Wasps still just a hair in front at 21-24, Dan Biggar kicking a simple penalty to bring it back to 3 points. With 10 minutes to go its all to play for. Until Thomas Young produces a bit of brilliance and breaks away, he puts Dan Robson away who gives Josh Bassett his second on a plate. In 5 seconds the pressure and hope of Northampton scraping a win, snatched away from them in the pouring rain. With a minute on the clock, the game had been taken away from them.
In summery, we didn’t adapt well enough to the speed of the break down, Tom Willis was a menace all afternoon and I think that the weather and the greasy nature of the ball didn’t help the way Northampton wanted to attack. It wasn’t the perfect return to premiership rugby at the gardens, but we are just happy its back. The good thing is we get another crack on Saturday against London Irish and fingers crossed we can get back on the horse and steal a win down in London.
Thank you all for your support and a massive thank you to all the Key workers who have made any of this possible by holding the nation together. You are the true heroes.