Tom Vickers’ Northampton Saints v Newcastle Falcons review and player ratings

STAR MAN - Tom Collins stood out for Saints against Newcastle (Pictures: Sharon Lucey)
STAR MAN - Tom Collins stood out for Saints against Newcastle (Pictures: Sharon Lucey)
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If cup competitions were foods, the Champions Cup would probably be caviar and its LV=-sponsored counterpart would be a fried breakfast.

While Europe’s top tier competition boasts a classy mix of international stars and is richly-regarded, the Anglo-Welsh tournament is sometimes a bit stodgy.

It can be seen as a way to line the fixture schedule while the headline-grabbers are away.

But at Franklin’s Gardens on Saturday, the LV= Cup threw up a game to savour.

There was no feeling of lethargy, despite groups of players being thrown together in the space of a week as stellar names headed off to do their national service.

Saints made 14 changes to the team that showed plenty of bite to beat Ospreys in Europe a week earlier.

But it made little difference to the way they played, with the flowing rugby remaining and the Gardens brought to its feet once more.

Saints racked up their fifth bonus-point success in as many home games this season.

And this was up there with the rest of them, with some moments of magic illuminating the ground as the winter darkness fell.

Tom Collins’ double caught the eye, as the full-back showcased his flashy footwork and raw speed to glide through the Falcons defence.

But Collins’ efforts were eclipsed by a Mike Haywood score that displayed the near-telepathic understanding in the home ranks.

It was a swift move from right to left, including some great lines and even a piece of showboating from Christian Day, as Haywood picked up the ball to dart over.

It was a score you would expect to see in the Champions Cup, maybe from a French team who work on producing such moments of flair.

But this was the LV= Cup and this was a Saints team who once again displayed their burgeoning promise.

Some season ticket holders opted against attending, meaning a match that was declared as a sell-out saw a host of empty seats.

But if those who stayed away watch the highlights of what they missed out on, they might just be ruing their decision.

Because for those who witnessed this performance, it brought the kind of satisfaction one of those greasy breakfasts provides after a big night out.

The feeling of fulfilment came from seeing the next generation, allied with some old heads, winning in style.

Newcastle played their part, too, scoring a couple of impressive tries of their own.

And Alesana Tuilagi lived up to his role as pantomime villain, swinging an arm at Collins that saw the former Tigers winger sin-binned, to the delight of the Tetley’s terrace.

But that was far from the only thing they had to sing about on a day that sated the appetite of supporters who have grown used to being served with special displays.

How they rated...

TOM COLLINS - CHRON STAR MAN

Two tries, an assist and an all-around impressive performance from the full-back, whose pace caused problems for Newcastle throughout... 9

JAMIE ELLIOTT

Worked hard once again, desperately trying to get in on the try-scoring act and playing his part in some impressive scores... 7

TOM STEPHENSON

Kept the Falcons on their toes as he continually tried to gain ground for his team in a good performance... 7

DOM WALDOUCK

Doesn’t shy away from the heavy-duty stuff in midfield and was an important presence as Saints looked to push Newcastle back... 7

HOWARD PACKMAN

Etched his name on the scoresheet late on, adding the coup de grâce as Saints made sure of the win... 7

WILL HOOLEY

Impressed against Newcastle in a Premiership game in September and was at it again here, kicking well and pulling the strings... 8

JOEL HODGSON

A fine debut display as he impressed in attack and defence, showing his commitment to the cause with a big tackle on a second row forward double his size to save a try... 8

ETHAN WALLER

Dominated up front and was also important in open play as he blasted holes in the Falcons rearguard... 8

MIKE HAYWOOD

Put the finishing touches to one of the tries of the season so far and deserved his score after putting in another excellent display... 8

GARETH DENMANin

Played his part in Saints’ forward dominance and continues to improve with every game he plays... 7

ALEX WOOLFORD

Came in at late notice after James Craig was forced to pull out and didn’t let anyone down with a commanding performance... 7

CHRISTIAN DAY

Such an important figure on occasions like this as he relishes steering the youngsters around the park, leading the way with some big carries... 8

PHIL DOWSON

Like Day, thrives on imparting his wisdom on the younger players and this was an impressive showing from the experienced flanker... 8

TEIMANA HARRISON

Part of a good back row effort and grabbed a try on the back of an unstoppable lineout drive... 7

JON FISHER

A welcome return from injury and his power caused Newcastle problems as he punched through their defence and almost scored... 8

Replacements (who played more than 20 minutes)

BEN NUTLEY (for Harrison 51)

A player who never fails to impress and this was no different as he came on and added plenty to an already potent mix... 7

KAHN FOTUALI’I (for Hodgson 55)

Knew this was a game in which he could try a few things and although they didn’t always come off, he still brought a spark... 6

DANNY HOBBS-AWOYEMI (for E Waller 56)

Continued Saints’ dominance up front and is a player many will be looking forward to seeing more of... 6

TOM MERCEY (for Denman 56)

Is currently third in the tighthead pecking order, but that only serves to show how much strength Saints have in that position... 6