Leicester Tigers 17 Northampton Saints 8 - Tom Vickers’ view and player ratings

LEADING BY EXAMPLE - Phil Dowson was the man of the match in the loss to Leicester Tigers (Picture: Kirsty Edmonds)
LEADING BY EXAMPLE - Phil Dowson was the man of the match in the loss to Leicester Tigers (Picture: Kirsty Edmonds)

Defeat to your bitter local rivals usually inspires a feeling of gut-wrenching disappointment.

It stings that bit more because you know that bunch you love to hate have the bragging rights once more.

It leaves you struggling to find the positives as you see your fans exit the stadium with the noise of the opposition supporters ringing in their ears.

But when the Saints players and coaches reflect on Saturday’s 17-8 defeat at Welford Road, it is unlikely they will go through such agony.

Instead, the void of defeat will be filled with pride in a performance that could have yielded an incredible result.

Jim Mallinder made 15 changes for the trip up the M1, placing faith in a group saturated with youth.

It was punctuated with some experience, with Phil Dowson, on his 178th Saints appearance, leading the side.

But even some of the 20-somethings turning out in lime green were making their first starts for Northampton, with lock Tom Ryder and No.8 Cam Dolan handed debuts.

Largely, this Saints squad was not one you will see at Franklin’s Gardens on a regular basis, unless you are hardy enough to watch Wanderers matches on Monday nights.

And nowhere was the first-team inexperience more evident than among the replacements.

Ben Nutley, a 22-year-old with 56 first-team games under his belt, was the only one in double figures in terms of Saints appearances.

There were debuts for hooker Reece Marshall and centre Rory Hutchinson.

While Leicester brought on the likes of hairy behemoth that is Logovi’i Mulipola and wily campaigner Matt Smith, Saints called on youth.

And not one of the players looked out of place.

Far from it, in fact. They added to the game.

Sam Olver, a young fly-half, placed a lovely grubber kick in the hands of 19-year-old wing Howard Packman for a score reminiscent of a Stephen Myler-George North combination.

Fledgling prop Danny Hobbs-Awoyemi got to grips with Mulipola in a fashion that many more senior players wouldn’t.

And the likes of lock Jordan Onojaife and scrum-half Alex Day were also worthy of praise.

All in all, it was a good day for Saints and their Academy, which produced 17 of the 23 players on show.

It is what the LV= Cup is all about: giving young players the chance to shine on the big stage.

Huge credit has to go to Leicester for selling out and providing an authentic derby atmosphere.

It really was a glimpse into the future for the Northampton youngsters.

And if they continue to show the kind of character they displayed on Saturday, these Saints boys will be Saints men for years to come.

How they rated...


Largely secure under the high ball with huge pressure placed upon him, the speedy full-back did a good job... 7


Only 22, but one of the most experienced players in the side and did his best to make things happen against a determined Tigers side... 6


His Saints career has been blighted by injuries, so he appeared to relish this opportunity to show why the club brought him in back in 2012.... 6


Always looking for gaps with his fleet-footed nature, keeping Tigers on their toes throughout, though they defended well... 6


Showed good awareness to finish off Olver’s expertly-executed grubber kick and also stood tall in defence... 7


Used what possession he had during the first half well, putting up some great up and unders and kicking well.... 7


So sparky early on, his mentor, Lee Dickson, would have been proud. Faded a bit at the start of the second half and was lucky not to be punished when charged down twice... 6


Strong day in the scrum, winning his battle with Fraser Balmain and being left disappointed by Nigel Owens’ decision not to punish Tigers further... 7


Wanted to make this day a happy one for his parents, who were in attendance when he broke his leg last April, and they would have been happy with this... 7


Another good performance from the prop as the Saints forwards showed their desire against a teak-tough home team... 7


A hugely impressive debut for the lock, who looks a real warrior, putting in an indefatigable performance... 8


The lofty lock is not afraid to put his body on the line and he belied his inexperience with an assured display... 7


Led the team with distinction once more and his physicality was an example to the rest on a day when Saints scrapped for everything... 8


A display that highlighted the strength in the Saints back row as the Kiwi relished the rough and tumble of a local derby and was unlucky not to score... 8


Will be happy with his debut as he thrived on the occasion and showed signs of why he is highly-rated at Franklin’s Gardens... 7

Replacements (who played more than 20 minutes)

ALEX DAY (for Olver 52)

Saints didn’t lose anything when he came on, with the scrum-half continually trying to get his side in the ascendancy... 7

SAM OLVER (for Hooley 52)

Produced Saints’ moment of the match with a clever grubber kick that provided a try for Packman. An impressive cameo... 7