Saints start strongly to beat Worcester
September 22, 2012
Luther Burrell ran in for two tries as Northampton Saints beat Worcester Warriors 37-31
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Northampton Saints started with a flourish to build up an early lead against Worcester Warriors and eventually won 37-31, despite a late Worcester comeback in the final 20 minutes.
Luther Burrell scored two tries and Vasily Artemyev added a third, which along with two conversions and two penalties from Stephen Myler meant the hosts were 25-3 up at the break. Courtney Lawes and Steve Haywood added a fourth and fifth try for Saints before Worcester began their fight-back. Jonny Arr, Josh Matavesi, Josh Drauninui and Matt Kvesic all came off the bench to score tries for Worcester, but by then Northampton were too far in front.
The home side showed their forward power in the maul early on, driving a penalty out of Worcester's pack and then stopping the Warriors' own effort at a lineout drive on their line. Stephen Myler landed that penalty after Andy Goode had opened the scoring with three points on four minutes, and the Saints fly-half added a second penalty before Burrell opened the try-scoring with two in four minutes.
He had already shown some neat footwork before his first try on 20 minutes when he blitzed round the outside of flanker Chris Jones to run home from 25 metres. His third in two home games saw Burrell step around the outside of centre Alex Grove.
Northampton's best try was yet to come. Number eight Rhys Oakley broke off a scrum on halfway and offloaded to Phil Dowson, who delivered a beautiful reverse pass for Artemyev to finish off from 20 metres.
Twice Worcester turned down the chance of three points to go for five, but their handling was a constant let down and they went into the break 25-3 down.
Northampton wrapped up the bonus point nine minutes into the second half with Lawes, starting his first game since February 18, being sent over by the irrepressible Lee Dickson. Burrell missed out on a hat-trick when he decided to cut inside and slipped with the line at his mercy before Ken Pisi dropped the ball on the line. However, replacement hooker Mike Haywood eventually burrowed over for the fifth.
Myler missed a second conversion before being replaced as Northampton emptied their bench and their heads, with Ryan Lamb particularly poor. Worcester took advantage of the home side switching off to run in two tries in two minutes from Jonny Arr and Josh Matavesi.
The Worcester bench had a huge impact, scoring all four tries with Josh Drauniniu sweeping over and then James Currie winning a crucial turnover for the Warriors to storm up field, win a penalty and see Ollie Hayes squirm over from the lineout. More drama followed with Goode allowed to retake his missed conversion because Northampton charged too early and he landed it second time round to secure a losing bonus point with the last kick of the game. As Worcester celebrated wildly it was hard to tell who had won.
Northampton director of rugby Jim Mallinder admitted his side, which has won four out of four to start the Aviva Premiership season in impressive fashion, "relaxed" after running away with the game for an hour.
"We made a few changes and disappointingly they got back in the game," Mallinder said. "I don't think it was panic (among the coaches), it was frustration that we got away from doing the basics and our defence crumbled. We dominated Worcester for 60 minutes. The positive from that last 20 minutes is that a lot of the players got some good game time."
Worcester head coach Richard Hill felt his side would have registered a shock win at Franklin's Gardens if the game against Northampton had gone on for another five minutes.
"I was thinking it was going to be a difficult week with a big game against London Irish on Friday coming up, but that last 20 minutes has certainly lifted spirits. I was annoyed about the first half. We got well and truly beaten, but it was a special second half, we played some good stuff and the passes stuck.
"We put some attacking players on the field that can carve up. Josh Matavesi, Jonny Arr, they all made a good impact. Northampton had clearly taken their foot off the pedal, but to come to Northampton and score four tries and score 26 points at Welford Road, that is a good sign. We weren't doing that last year."
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