Hartley delights in opening triumph
September 5, 2010
Man of the Match Tom Wood fights for the ball with Leicester's Scott Hamilton © Getty Images
Northampton captain Dylan Hartley described the Saints' 27-19 victory over defending Aviva Premiership champions Leicester as the "perfect start" to the season.
Despite a desperate day with the boot by Stephen Myler - he missed five penalties - Saints were worthy winners after storming into a 14-0 lead. And when Jim Mallinder spared Myler any further agony, replacing him with Shane Geraghty in the final quarter, England back Geraghty kicked five points and carved out a try for tighthead prop Brian Mujati. It was a special day for another of Hartley's front-row team-mates as loosehead Soane Tonga'uiha scored Northampton's first two tries during a sensational start.
England hooker Hartley said, "It's a special achievement, seeing off a pack as powerful as Leicester's, so we are feeling good inside. They are a quality side so the victory is excellent. This is the perfect start to the season, a reward for our hard work and a positive attitude. Now it's up to us to build on this."
Leicester rugby director Richard Cockerill was brutally honest about his team's failings. "The start was unimpressive from us. The laws dictate that you carry the ball and you cannot easily defend against that. We were in the game, but we were also indisciplined, conceded too many penalties and we did not look after the ball well enough. They did those things better than us.
"I have got no complaints. I put out a good side and there are some guys there who are learning. But there are no excuses, we cost ourselves a possible bonus point, but I haven't looked at the video of the performance yet.
"By the time we got to grips with holding onto the ball, we could have come away with two points from a fourth try. I've no complaints about the result or the referee. But on the performance, two points would have been more than we deserved.
Northampton rugby director Mallinder was delighted with his team's display and reserved special praise for Geraghty and scrum-half Lee Dickson. "It was about a good combination of forwards and backs and we ran at their weaknesses, at the heart of them. Stephen had an off day with the boot. Had he kicked his goals we'd have pulled well away from them. But then they had their misses as well.
"To see both props scoring tries is very pleasing because we want our props to be good in the tight, but also around the field. You won't get much better than that this season, three tries from two props. Shane has that bit of magic, a lad who can come on, create a try and then kick the goals in this level of game.
"And I believe Lee Dickson is right up there, a very good player, very energetic on and off the field, and he suits our game tremendously since coming down from Newcastle. Ben Youngs is a very good scrum-half, but so is Lee. The England management were here and they'll have seen that for themselves."
England broke their losing streak, but this was not them clawing their way back among the best, writes Tom Hamilton
Wales were just 13 minutes from a famous victory, but the lessons to be learned in defeat are almost exactly the same as those from previous near-misses, writes Huw Richards
Ahead of England's clash with Samoa, Scrum Sevens takes a wander down memory lane and celebrates seven examples of Pacific Islands magic
England must find a way to improve their game by tiny margins and they will get there, writes Phil Vickery