Dragons 21 Northampton Saints 35: Tom Vickers' review and player ratings

Saints secured a much-needed success at Rodney Parade (pictures: Kirsty Edmonds)
Saints secured a much-needed success at Rodney Parade (pictures: Kirsty Edmonds)

Having been outclassed and overpowered by Clermont Auvergne six days earlier, Saints took their frustrations out on the Dragons.

In fact, the game at Rodney Parade was not dissimilar to the one at Franklin's Gardens on the previous weekend.

As Clermont did, Saints took a stranglehold in the set piece during the first period.

As Clermont did, Saints were in almost total control by half-time.

And as Clermont did, Saints took their foot off the gas a little late on to let their hosts make the scoreline slightly more respectable.

Saints did not quite possess the prowess of the French giants, but, as in the game at the Gardens, the gulf in ability between the two teams was clear at Rodney Parade.

Taqele Naiyaravoro was back in the team

Taqele Naiyaravoro was back in the team

If the Dragons are Saints' main rivals for second spot in Pool 1, then call it off now.

Because the Welsh region showed little that would suggest they will turn the tables when they travel to the Gardens on December 8.

In fact, the Dragons turned in one of the worst first-half performances this reporter has seen for some time.

It included ironic cheers from their own fans when they finally found touch at the third time of asking.

Alex Mitchell made the most of his first Saints start

Alex Mitchell made the most of his first Saints start

It included two sin-binnings as Saints' forward pressure told.

It included the concession of three scrum penalties.

It included the concession of a penalty try.

And it included an incredibly bizarre penalty attempt, which came from close to the touchline just inside the Saints half.

Cobus Reinach scored a superb try late in the game

Cobus Reinach scored a superb try late in the game

Needless to say, it did not go well, as the kick drifted well wide of the posts, straight into the hands of the bemused Taqele Naiyaravoro, who gathered the ball and started an attack.

Dragons, to their credit, did breathe a bit of fire after the break, ensuring their fans' frustrations switched from the team to the referee.

But Saints did enough to see the job through, scoring twice more to secure a bonus-point success that was hugely welcome after a sluggish start to the season.

As bad as Dragons were for the first 40 minutes, Saints deserve credit for how they put them to the sword, taking their chances when they came and defending when they had to.

There was some skill shown by the half-backs, with Dan Biggar and Alex Mitchell producing stand-out showings.

And there was plenty of power from the pack, with David Ribbans and Teimana Harrison among those leading the way.

All in all, it was a professional performance that still leaves plenty of room for improvement, as boss Chris Boyd admitted after the match.

Saints will now look to use their bonus-point success as a platform as they give some chances to some talented teens in the Premiership Rugby Cup during the next few weeks.

And then it is back to the serious business of the Gallagher Premiership, where Saints will need all of the good things they did at the Dragons and more.

Because you can be sure that the league opposition will be much stronger than the side they met at Rodney Parade on Friday night.

How they rated...

AHSEE TUALA

Did some decent defensive work during the second half, but with Saints' backs getting little ball in attack, he wasn't able to showcase his skills in opposition territory... 7

TOM COLLINS

Looked lively whenever he got the chance to get his hands on the ball, but it was rarely in threatening positions as the forwards took control... 7

ANDREW KELLAWAY

Looks to read the game very well, making some key tackles and doing his best to get involved in attack... 7

PIERS FRANCIS

Some flashes of class, especially during the second half as he displayed his footwork and defensive ability... 7

TAQELE NAIYARAVORO

Wasn't really able to get involved in the game as Saints once again struggled to get their big winger involved in the danger zones... 6

DAN BIGGAR

Showed his class during the first half, controlling the game well and making the brilliant break and pass for Alex Mitchell's try... 7

ALEX MITCHELL

Looked very lively on his first Saints start, making some good decisions and supporting Biggar well to bag a first-half score... 8

ALEX WALLER

Had a good night in the scrum and showed really good character as he picked up a knock during the second half but got back up to make a hit... 7

MIKE HAYWOOD

Got through plenty of work and showed once again why he will be key in the weeks to come... 7

BEN FRANKS

Took a few knocks during the first half but battled on until almost 20 minutes into the second period in a steady showing... 7

DAVID RIBBANS - CHRON STAR MAN

Win or lose, this man has been a hugely consistent figure for Saints during the opening weeks of the season and he scored two tries in a big showing here... 8

COURTNEY LAWES

Was desperate to play after missing a couple of games, and showed his hunger as he caused problems for the Dragons in attack and defence... 7

JAMIE GIBSON

Tried to be a nuisance for Dragons at the breakdown as he looked to get involved at every turn... 7

TOM WOOD

Made his first start for more than seven months and looked happy to be involved, getting through plenty of work... 7

TEIMANA HARRISON

Yet another big display from the tenacious No.8, who was still putting in big hits in the final minutes of the match... 8

Replacements (who played more than 20 minutes)

JAMES GRAYSON (for Biggar 40)

Saints were well on top when the fly-half entered the game but with Dragons starting to fight back, it was not as easy after the break and the fly-half admitted he was 'rusty'... 6

EHREN PAINTER (for Franks 58)

Saints were slightly more on the back foot when the prop entered the game, but he didn't do anything wrong... 6