Tom Vickers’ Saints v Tigers view and player ratings: No Twickenham tears, just determination

DOWN BUT NOT OUT - the Saints players were in determined mood following Saturday's Premiership final defeat to Leicester (picture by Sharon Lucey)

DOWN BUT NOT OUT - the Saints players were in determined mood following Saturday's Premiership final defeat to Leicester (picture by Sharon Lucey)

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Two years ago Lee Dickson walked into the Millennium Stadium mixed zone with tears filling his eyes.

The scrum-half and his Saints team-mates had just been hit hard by a Leinster juggernaut, surrendering a 22-6 half-time lead to lose 33-22 in the Heineken Cup final.

There was no consolation in Cardiff.

But on Saturday, following Saints’ controversy-clouded defeat to Leicester Tigers, there was a different feeling. A feeling of pride.

Dickson emerged from Twickenham in philosophical mood. On his way to the team bus he talked of how the experience would stand he and his team-mates in good stead.

There were no tears. This wasn’t total torture. Who knows, had Dylan Hartley not seen red just before the break, it could have been Twickenham title glory.

But the over-riding feeling was not regret. It was honour.

Saints hadn’t surrendered. In their first Premiership final, they had fought for the shirt, for their fans and for their town.

The 14 men (and replacements) didn’t give in when their captain trudged off the field with head in hands. They stood tall. Together.

In fact, Saints were the better side for long periods of the game, before and after Hartley’s dismissal.

They started the second half with a bang, the impressive Ben Foden, who looked back to his best, flying over the tryline.

With just seven points separating the sides, Saints still had a sniff.

They had been written off at the break, but that’s exactly the situation they’ve thrived in this season. The ‘Why not us?’ mentality was alive and well.

In the end, it was just a bit too much to ask. Tigers, though not at their best, had too much - and too many men.

But for Saints, with the exception of their captain’s red card, there were nothing but positives.

Luther Burrell, James Wilson and other members of the cast showed they can be stars of the show on the biggest stage.

A backline that was so often doubted showed it is full of invention, only to be added to when the likes of George North, Kahn Fotuali’i and coach Alex King arrive this summer.

And the forwards, who systematically dismantled Saracens in the semi-final, once again showed their undoubted worth.

So while all the talk will be about the man who will now miss this summer’s Lions tour, Hartley, tribute must be paid to the other 22 players who roared at Twickenham.

And though Saints will still have the ‘nearly men’ tag for another season yet, there is now real belief they can shed it this time next year.

There is no huge chasm in class between Jim Mallinder’s men and their main Premiership rivals.

Tigers, Saracens and Harlequins are fallable and if Saints can step it up a notch or two next season, they have every chance of going one better.

Leicester lost their past two finals before putting that run to bed on Saturday, and Saints should remember that.

Yes, the same might have been said after the Heineken Cup showpiece in Cardiff.

But Saints didn’t strengthen as they would have hoped after that run. They stood still.

This time, they are on the move, bringing in players of proven quality and unknowns such as Glenn Dickson and Rob Verbakel.

So, none of that Millennium Stadium melancholy exists here.

There is just an overwhelming feeling of determination from Dickson and his team-mates to finally finish the job next time round.

How they rated...

BEN FODEN - CHRON STAR MAN

Back to his best after a rollercoaster season. Scored a try and was involved not to have another as he got involved in all that was good about Saints’ attack... 8

KEN PISI

Wasn’t able to have a huge impact on proceedings, but did play his part in some slick attacking moves... 6

JAMES WILSON

Has revelled his role at outside centre, providing the creativity that Saints desperately desired... 8

LUTHER BURRELL

Another huge performance from the blockbusting centre. Smashed holes in the Leicester defence, but also showed his intelligence... 8

JAMIE ELLIOTT

Was withdrawn at half-time as Saints were forced to compensate for Dylan Hartley’s dismissal, but showed flashes of his good recent form... 6

STEPHEN MYLER

Scored his second try in as many games against Leicester and though it didn’t all goes his way with the boot, he can be very happy with his showing on the big stage... 7

LEE DICKSON

Another sparky performance from the scrum-half, who has really stepped up in the end-of-season games. Unlucky to be on the losing side... 8

SOANE TONGA’UIHA

Not how he would have wanted to end his Saints’ career, with a final defeat to Tigers, but gave it his all in his final performance... 7

DYLAN HARTLEY

Day was tarnished by his red card and Saints were always going to struggle to win the game once their captain had left the field... 5

BRIAN MUJATI

Like Tonga’uiha, did his best to bring the trophy home in his final Northampton game, but he was unable to dominate Logovi’i Mulipola as he would have hoped... 7

COURTNEY LAWES

Made two huge hits on Toby Flood during the first half, showing his desire to claim the title, but Tigers just had too much - and too many men - in the end... 7

CHRISTIAN DAY

A typically assured showing from the second row, who was a calming influence after Hartley’s dismissal... 7

PHIL DOWSON

Came in for the injured Calum Clark and, as ever, didn’t let anyone down, with a display full of determination... 7

TOM WOOD

Took over captaincy duties in the absence of Hartley and was full of energy throughout as he tried to help Saints upset the odds... 7

SAMU MANOA

Couldn’t quite get the dominance he did at Saracens in the semi-final but was still a big presence and once again showed his capabilities under the high ball... 7

Replacements (who played more than 20 minutes)

MIKE HAYWOOD (for Hartley 40)

A real prospect who tried to blast past the Tigers with some steely running and also did well at the set piece... 7

ALEX WALLER (for Tonga’uiha 54)

Will benefit from these minutes on the Twickenham turf as he aims to contend with Alex Corbisiero for the No.1 shirt next season... 6

TOM MERCEY (for Mujati 56)

Kept Saints at least level in the scrum as tiredness began to tell and ended a good season with a decent showing... 6