DCSIMG

Tom Vickers’ Saints view and player ratings: Belief gone on and off the pitch

BIG DISAPPOINTMENT - Saints players show their disappointment following the defeat to Quins (Picture: Linda Dawson)

BIG DISAPPOINTMENT - Saints players show their disappointment following the defeat to Quins (Picture: Linda Dawson)

There was a feeling of resignation in the air with less than 10 minutes to go at Franklin’s Gardens on Saturday evening.

When Nick Evans booted Premiership champions Harlequins into a 15-6 lead in the closing stages, some fans flocked for the exits.

That was perhaps understandable due to how difficult it can be to get out of car parks at the end of big games, but it was about more than that.

If those supporters had truly believed their side could still turn the game around, surely they would have stayed? No matter how many arduous minutes would have been spent in traffic.

It would have been worth it to see Saints mount a stirring comeback and slay their opponents.

It was only nine points, and there was still enough time to rescue the scenario.

A penalty and converted try can easily be scored in the space of eight or so minutes.

Just look at what Harlequins did to Saints at The Stoop in the dying moments of last season’s Aviva Premiership semi-final.

They were eight points down and won by two at 25-23.

That could have happened at the Gardens, but the lack of belief among the home fans was palpable and in the end Quins won the day, 18-9.

And therein lays the story of Saints’ season so far.

They have really struggled to break sides down on their own turf, with Saracens, Ulster and Harlequins – admittedly three of Europe’s better sides – shutting them out.

It’s all become a bit predictable, and the fans know it, hence why some chose to call it a day on Saturday.

So what’s the solution?

How do Saints win back the supporters who have already made their minds up before the final whistle?

It’s difficult to say, but what is clear is that there is a mutual reliance.

The fans need the players and the players need the fans.

If the players are to produce, they need some vocal support. And if the fans are to provide it, they need to see spark and spirit from their side. It’s a balancing act.

So when the Saints go marching in at stadium:mk – where there will be plenty dressed in green, black and gold - on Sunday, belief and backing will be needed to see off Saracens.

And somehow you feel a clash with the Fezheads will be the best way to unite those of a Northampton persuasion.

How they fared...

BEN FODEN

Walked all over England full-back rival Mike Brown at Franklin’s Gardens last season, but was a very different story this time. Not the best of days for the Saints 15... 5

KEN PISI

Showed some great footwork to get Saints on the front foot a couple of times and was a real bright spark on a gloomy day at the Gardens... 7

GEORGE PISI

Offloaded to Foden for the try that never was and the game could have been so different if that decision hadn’t gone against Saints... 6

TOM MAY

Steady enough but couldn’t find the spark needed to break down the white wall of Quins defence... 5

JAMIE ELLIOTT

Couldn’t replicate his superb display at Ulster seven days earlier, but did well defensively and made a good covering tackle to stop Nick Easter scoring... 6

STEPHEN MYLER

Had a good day overall and even through in some showboating to add to his typically reliable kicking... 7

LEE DICKSON

Couldn’t find the same tempo that typified Saints in their win at Ulster and was probably just edged in the performance stakes by England rival Danny Care... 6

SOANE TONGA’UIHA

Engaged in a titanic battle with Samoan star James Johnston, who was one of the stars of the show for Quins... 5

MIKE HAYWOOD

Another reliable display from the youngster, who is emerging as a real prospect and a great challenger for Dylan Hartley’s No.2 shirt... 6

PAUL DORAN-JONES

Tough task against Joe Marler in the scrum but stuck to it well and eventually helped Saints get some shoves on... 5

SAMU MANOA

This monstrous lock continues to impress and he was a real handful for Quins, putting in some huge hits... 7

COURTNEY LAWES

Still not quite at his best after plenty of injuries blighted his 2012, and will be hoping the next 12 months are kinder to him... 5

TOM WOOD

Did well in the lineout and is always an assured presence, but Quins stood their ground against the England star... 6

PHIL DOWSON

Another good display from the stand-in skipper, who is a key member of the squad in his use of words and actions... 6

GERRIT-JAN VAN VELZE

Not able to replicate the high of scoring a try at Ulster a week earlier and admits he is still finding his feet in the English game... 5

Replacements (who played more than 20 minutes)

BRIAN MUJATI

Unable to have the same level of influence on proceedings a he did at Ravenhill a week earlier, but still effective... 6

DOM WALDOUCK

Added some gusto to the Saints’ game, but couldn’t help them turn possession into points on a day when Quins’ dogged defence ruled... 5

 

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