Tom Vickers’ Saints v Ospreys view and player ratings: Mallinder’s men are back on course

MAIN MAN - Courtney Lawes got to grip with Ospreys in Sunday's Heineken Cup clash (Picture: Linda Dawson)
MAIN MAN - Courtney Lawes got to grip with Ospreys in Sunday's Heineken Cup clash (Picture: Linda Dawson)

Saints ended Sunday’s game against Ospreys with two words in mind: Job done.

Because while the chance of a four-try bonus point went begging late on, Jim Mallinder’s men had what they set out for, and that was a win.

An extra point would have been the icing on the cake, but they will be more than happy with taking a bite out of Ospreys in what was a must-win match for both teams.

And while the Welshmen need something of a miracle to progress now, as displayed by the reaction of players and coaches at the end, Saints are definitely still in the hunt.

Five points from the first two games have set them up nicely for what is likely to be a decisive double-header against Leinster, who top Pool 1 on eight points.

And they should not fear the Irish giants, going on the evidence provided by the opening scenes of this season’s competition.

The key thing is, though, that Saints have at least given themselves a shot at making the knockout stages for the first time since 2011, and they did it with a determined display on Sunday.

Ospreys were hurting after their defeat to Leinster and the noises coming out of their camp before the game were ominous.

They were desperate to put things right on the road, where they had won only two of their previous 18 Heineken Cup games.

That they didn’t is to Saints’ immense credit.

The green, black and gold won the battle at the breakdown on several occasions, forcing Ospreys to cough up possession.

And Saints also won the scrum showdown, which was made all the more impressive when you consider the pillars of strength in the opposition pack.

Ospreys boasted four Lions, but Saints at times made them look like kittens as Alex Waller came of age at loosehead and Salesi Ma’afu showed his worth on his home debut.

Waller has been waiting for his chance for a number of years, standing in the shadow of Soane Tonga’uiha and, this season, Alex Corbisiero, but how he seized his chance.

Credit must also go to young Mike Haywood, who came on as a blood replacement for skipper Dylan Hartley, faced up to Lions hooker Richard Hibbard and helped Saints score their first try.

Academy graduates Waller and Haywood helped their side get a shove on five metres out and Samu Manoa’s run round the back from No.8 left Ospreys bamboozled.

It set Saints up and, led by gargantuan performances from Courtney Lawes and Dylan Hartley once more, they got the win they needed and the win they deserved.

For Ospreys, it may be game over. But for Saints it might just be game on in this season’s Heineken Cup.

How they rated...

BEN FODEN

Scored his second try of the season and made some superb stops to get Saints out of trouble. Kicked a bit too much, but his defensive work and try made up for it... 7

JAMIE ELLIOTT

Was always looking to come inside and find a way through the Ospreys defence as the game got narrower... 7

GEORGE PISI

Can always be relied up to make ground and managed to find a couple of gaps that bought Saints some territory... 6

LUTHER BURRELL

Made some great carries and huge hits to sting Ospreys into submission and once again show why he should be starting for England this autumn... 7

GEORGE NORTH

Was desperate to get involved in the action, working hard to grab possession and pick up the ball. Caused plenty of problems... 7

STEPHEN MYLER

Continues to impress with ball in hand and from the tee this season and is more than justifying Jim Mallinder’s decision to make him Saints’ No.1 fly-half... 7

LEE DICKSON

Saints have still not lost a game that he has started this season and he plays a huge part in everything the team does well... 7

ALEX WALLER

Some may have worried how he’d get on against experienced Lions star Adam Jones, but they needn’t have as the 23-year-old was more than up to the task... 8

DYLAN HARTLEY

The captain drove his team on time after time and showed Stuart Lancaster why he should be England’s first-choice hooker this autumn... 8

SALESI MA’AFU

Is important in the scrum and is getting fitter week by week. A decent home debut for the Australian prop... 6

COURTNEY LAWES - CHRON STAR MAN

What more can you say about this man? Such an influential figure in recent weeks and is making more big hits than the Klitschko brothers in their prime... 8

CHRISTIAN DAY

Saints always look far more secure when this man is on the pitch and he put in an all-action display which saw him score and create a try... 8

PHIL DOWSON

Like Day, brings stability to the Saints team and kept them on the front foot with some big carries... 6

TOM WOOD

His performance yielded plenty of praise as he was a picture of aggression and so key to his side’s fine work at the breakdown... 8

SAMU MANOA

Grabbed himself another try and imposed himself from No.8. The big American is getting back in the groove after a fragmented start to the season... 7

Replacements (who played more than 20 minutes)

CALUM CLARK (for Dowson 56)

Helped bring some energy to Saints just when they needed it and helped his team continue their good breakdown work... 6

VAN VELZE (for Manoa 56)

The South African No.8 has been in fine form for the Wanderers this season and he looked sharp here... 6

GARETH DENMAN (for Ma’afu 58)

Saints didn’t lose anything in the scrum when the former Rotherham man came on and he’s certainly a good prospect... 6