Ospreys 9 Northampton Saints 20 - Tom Vickers’ view and player ratings

STAR TURN - Sam Dickinson was the pick of the Saints' bunch in their Champions Cup win in south Wales (Pictures: Kirsty Edmonds)
STAR TURN - Sam Dickinson was the pick of the Saints' bunch in their Champions Cup win in south Wales (Pictures: Kirsty Edmonds)
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From never looking likely to win at Sale to never looking likely to lose at Ospreys - Saints produced exactly the reaction they wanted in south-west Wales on Sunday evening.

Jim Mallinder’s men put in a professional performance at the sparsely-populated Liberty Stadium to keep their Champions Cup bid firmly on track.

Ospreys v Northampton Saints at the Liberty Stadium, Swansea. European Champions Cup. NNL-150118-202255009

Ospreys v Northampton Saints at the Liberty Stadium, Swansea. European Champions Cup. NNL-150118-202255009

It was everything that the previous week’s 20-7 defeat at the AJ Bell Stadium wasn’t, not least in the second row, where Sam Dickinson and Christian Day excelled.

Dickinson had picked up a yellow card on that difficult afternoon at Sale, but here the only thing he was acquiring was the man of the match Champagne.

Meanwhile, last season’s players’ player of the year Day produced a display full of fizz as he once again underlined his importance to the Aviva Premiership champions.

It is said you only notice what you’ve got when it’s gone, and in the case of the Blackpool-born lock that statement rings true.

Ospreys v Northampton Saints at the Liberty Stadium, Swansea. European Champions Cup. NNL-150118-202241009

Ospreys v Northampton Saints at the Liberty Stadium, Swansea. European Champions Cup. NNL-150118-202241009

Saints were all at sea without their lineout guru in Salford, but here he was back to steer the ship.

He was also impressive in the loose, with he and Dickinson even finding time to combine in midfield with some nice hands helping earn a first-half penalty.

That second-row showing was a microcosm of Saints’ improvement as they upped their game in defence and attack.

Gone were the long spells out of possession, as the men in lime returned to their dominant best.

Ospreys v Northampton Saints at the Liberty Stadium, Swansea. European Champions Cup. NNL-150118-202432009

Ospreys v Northampton Saints at the Liberty Stadium, Swansea. European Champions Cup. NNL-150118-202432009

The forwards, who have been hurting after taking hits to their pride in recent weeks, were in control, especially during the second half.

And, overall, an Ospreys side who currently top the PRO12 were unable to pose any real threat as they failed to score a try against Saints for the second time this season.

It was all very routine and all very frustrating for the home fans, whose booing will still be ringing in the ears of the players and, especially, referee Jerome Garces this morning.

The French official was not a popular figure after opting to yellow card George Pisi rather than send the Samoan off for a tip tackle on Dan Biggar.

Ospreys v Northampton Saints at the Liberty Stadium, Swansea. European Champions Cup. NNL-150118-202459009

Ospreys v Northampton Saints at the Liberty Stadium, Swansea. European Champions Cup. NNL-150118-202459009

Saints, as they have so often recently, shrugged off the loss of a player and proceeded to score a try, through George North.

It means they have now registered 50 points while being down to 14 men this season.

It is a sign of their character and resilience that they are able to cope during those tricky spells and, in fact, make them harder for the opposition than themselves.

At Sale, when Dickinson and Calum Clark were sent to the sin bin, they were unable to do that.

But thanks to this gritty win across the border, Saints have ensured that Eccles encounter was an anomalie.

They bounced back when it mattered most and must now rediscover the consistency that has seen them enjoy long winning streaks this season.

Ospreys v Northampton Saints at the Liberty Stadium, Swansea. European Champions Cup. NNL-150118-202445009

Ospreys v Northampton Saints at the Liberty Stadium, Swansea. European Champions Cup. NNL-150118-202445009

With Racing Metro coming to town on Saturday, it is winner-takes-all in the bid to top Pool 5.

And Saints would certainly have settled for that scenario after the opening-day defeat in Paris.

On that occasion, they were not at their best, but they will know they need to be at Franklin’s Gardens this weekend.

How they rated...

BEN FODEN

Made one key tackle before being forced off with a knee injury. No time to make a real impact on the game... 6

KEN PISI

Looked razor sharp throughout, with some slick breaks forcing Ospreys to scramble and some big hits putting the Welsh side in their place... 7

GEORGE PISI

Provided plenty of early spark before seeing yellow for a tip tackle on Dan Biggar. That was the only blot on his copybook... 6

LUTHER BURRELL

Made the hit that forced Justin Tipuric to spill the ball into George North’s path for Saints’ second try and, overall, bounced back well from a difficult day at Sale... 7

GEORGE NORTH

This man just loves playing against Ospreys. He has now scored five tries against them this season and also registered at the Liberty Stadium last January. Impressive... 8

STEPHEN MYLER

Put Saints in the right positions with a good kicking display from hand and was also typically accurate from the tee, aside from one effort that hit the post... 8

LEE DICKSON

A trademark high-tempo display from the scrum-half, who kept Ospreys on the back foot with some quick thinking... 7

ALEX WALLER

Was part of a big forward effort as Saints bossed the scrum, stopping Ospreys getting momentum... 7

DYLAN HARTLEY

The skipper was making his 200th appearance in Saints colours and it was an assured display as he led the team well... 7

GARETH DENMAN

Relished the chance to start a big game after Salesi Ma’afu was hit with a ban and stepped up with a sizeable performance in the scrum and around the park... 7

SAM DICKINSON - CHRON STAR MAN

Didn’t have the best time of it at Sale on the previous weekend, but made up for it here as he seemed to be everywhere in an all-action display... 8

CHRISTIAN DAY

Returned after missing the defeat at Sale and made a massive difference to Saints, ensuring the lineout functioned and also making some big tackles and the odd break... 8

CALUM CLARK

Showed good awarenesss to pounce on Tom Wood’s charge-down and score Saints’ first try. This was another strong showing from the flanker... 7

TOM WOOD

Was full of desire as he got over the ball quickly and got to Ospreys scrum-half Rhys Webb to charge the ball down to earn Saints’ opening try... 8

SAMU MANOA

His team-mates were delighted to have him back from compassionate leave and he showed why with another good performance... 7

Replacements (who played more than 20 minutes)

JAMES WILSON (for Foden 11)

Did nothing wrong as he once again filled in for Foden and, as always, he looked hugely assured in all aspects of the game... 7

ALEX CORBISIERO (for A Waller 53)

Helped Saints maintain their dominance up front as Ospreys struggled to deal with the power of the Premiership champions... 6

Ospreys v Northampton Saints at the Liberty Stadium, Swansea. European Champions Cup. NNL-150118-202418009

Ospreys v Northampton Saints at the Liberty Stadium, Swansea. European Champions Cup. NNL-150118-202418009