Leicester ruthless against Northampton
March 30, 2013
The Tigers were rampant against the Saints
Northampton came out to fireworks and a tumultuous welcome but they still could not stop Leicester winning their seventh east midlands derby in a row with a 36-8 victory.
In truth Leicester were in control throughout this Aviva Premiership game, with Manu Tuilagi scoring two tries and Niall Morris and Mathew Tait touching down in the final 10 minutes for the bonus point.
The visitors stopped Northampton's powerful pack and had the skill and nous, with Tuilagi unstoppable, to dominate in a performance that will have delighted director of rugby Richard Cockerill.
The visitors started well and a short flat pass from Toby Flood allowed Tom Croft to make the first significant break of the game. His 20-metre burst was halted - but Northampton were forced to give away a penalty in front of their posts and Flood gave the visitors a 3-0 lead after 10 minutes.
At the restart Courtney Lawes charged down a Ben Youngs kick and the ensuing pressure allowed Stephen Myler to draw Northampton level with a penalty.
The first scrum did not come until the 16th minute and it ended in the usual anti-climax with a free-kick for Northampton.
Tait did well under the ensuing bomb - as Northampton tried and failed all first half to take advantage of a swirling wind - and it was Tait's step inside George Pisi that forced the next penalty as Northampton failed to roll away. Flood made it 6-3.
Billed as the battle of the rolling maul, Leicester had the first go 20 metres out but Northampton held out to rapturous applause.
Leicester, with the wind behind them, were dominating territory and another penalty for offside allowed them to extend their lead to 9-3 after 28 minutes.
The game was simmering nicely and after the fights in recent clashes referee Wayne Barnes was keen to keep a lid on things, stopping play when Phil Dowson and Geoff Parling got into a battle on the floor.
Ben Foden was turned over by Tuilagi and when Lawes stuck out a hand to stop an overlap Barnes had no hesitation in issuing a yellow card four minutes before half-time. Flood made it 12-3 at the break.
Leicester dealt superbly with the high ball before the turnaround - but when Youngs launched a box-kick to start the second half Northampton spilled it and it proved costly. Tuilagi gathered and after a 50-metre multi-phase move up field the England centre was on the end of an overlap to dive into the corner. Flood missed the conversion but Tigers were now 17-3 in front and Lawes' sin-bin had cost the home side eight points.
Northampton fans were furious when Tuilagi was not shown yellow by Barnes for a deliberate knock-on on halfway, but it did at least give Saints the chance to get their line-out drive going, which brought them four tries last week at Wasps.
However, they could not find a way through Leicester after three efforts from five metres out. When Niall Morris deliberately knocked-on Barnes this time sent him to the bin and Northampton immediately took advantage. A rolling maul sucked in the Leicester defence and when Saints went wide the gap was there for Myler to dive over.
But any glimmer of a comeback was quickly wiped out by Leicester as their forwards pressed the Saints line and Tuilagi smashed through Tom May for his second try. It meant they actually won the sin-bin period 7-5 as Myler missed his conversion.
With the game opening up Morris returned to score Leicester's third try and Tait was on the end of a move started by the galloping Croft.
Leicester director of rugby Richard Cockerill was effusive in his praise for Tuilagi. The Samoan was a constant thorn in Northampton's side, as Tigers left Franklin's Gardens with a seventh consecutive win against their East Midlands rivals.
"I thought that was probably the best Manu has played for us," said Cockerill. "Saints defend very tight and slide and if they don't get it right you can expose them. I thought we did it very well. Anthony Allen was outstanding and Manu played very well for us today.
"Across the board everybody's performance was good. I think that second half performance was outstanding. Our attitude was good, we wanted to come here and play. It was a massive game for both sides, we wanted to meet fire with fire at the scrum and lineout, keep them on the back foot, and be as positive as we could be."
Northampton director of rugby Jim Mallinder was critical of his defence which let in four tries in the second half.
"We were well beaten and defensively it was very poor," said Mallinder. "We were a little bit soft in defence, we held off them and it was a long second half.
"We didn't defend as a team and our defensive system broke down, we conceded a lot of territory out wide. It is a big blow for us; we had a chance to put ourselves right up there. It is a major blow to lose like that at home."
Northampton's George Pisi had few chances to run with the ball against stubborn Leicester defence © Getty Images
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