Premiership: Chris Boyd hails Northampton Saints revival and relishes underdog tag against Leicester Tigers

·4-min read
 Credit: PA Images
Credit: PA Images

To score 35 more points than England’s cricketers managed runs in the same 80 minutes on Saturday took some doing – but that’s precisely what Northampton Saints achieved against Newcastle Falcons as they ran in four 100 metre tries among their 10 crossings to delight the Franklin’s Gardens faithful.

Their 65-26 victory sent this fabulous attacking side to a Premiership semi-final next weekend at their avowed rivals, Leicester Tigers.

In a day of national celebrations, Northampton had their own take on proceedings as a packed house paid respect to the many players leaving at the end of this season, and in particular, former England flanker Tom Wood, who was given a guard of honour onto the pitch before kick-off.

Attacking masterclass

The match was an absolute riot – end to end stuff with Saints playing some sumptuous attacking rugby against a hapless Falcons who seemed particularly confused in their defensive systems. It’s understood that their Worcester Warriors-bound defence coach Nick Easter, who has performed miracles with very little resource, hasn’t worked with the team for a month now and their disorganisation, especially around the short side, was clear for all to see.

Saints director of rugby Chris Boyd spoke to Planet Rugby’s James While post-match and agreed he was delighted at the season’s outcome.

“Well, you have to be happy with the result, but perhaps not the performance,” he quipped.

“Two months ago, we were sitting eighth or ninth so we have to be happy with what we’ve achieved. There was a feeling we were playing knock-out footy in a league situation and we’ve managed to get over that mindset and claw our way to fourth and you have to be pleased about that.

“At 36-28 we were up against it a little bit and for whatever reason, the changes we made were forced rather than the ones we wanted to make. But they were back in the game at that point and it wasn’t possible for us to take off some of the players we wanted to rest for next weekend.

“We are in the fortunate position we have a lot of guys who are playmakers and it’s really interesting how we use that to our advantage; it allows (Dan) Biggar to work in the second playmaker role and we’re in a really fortunate situation our 12s and 15s are well capable of standing in that 10 channel and Rory Hutchinson, who I believe is the best playmaking midfielder in the competition, is very good at doing that, with George Furbank able to make that switch between 10 and 15 to unleash the likes of Tommy Freeman and the finishers.

“When he first came into the academy, I looked at Freeman in terms of the skilful things he can do without even thinking about it. He’s got that X-Factor if he stays strong and fit and he’s a great student of the game, despite the fact he has a fair bit to learn still. He’ll work hard and it’ll be interesting to see where he ends up.

Looking forward to next week’s Premiership clash with old rivals Leicester Tigers, it’s key that Saints are able to provide their deadly backline with the speed of ball needed to strut their talents. Boyd is under no misapprehension as to the step up in intensity his team are likely to encounter next weekend.

“Speed of ruck has been a good strength of ours for most of this year and obviously winning those big collisions is key to speed of ball and that’s going to be our focus in training, especially given the style we’re likely to be up against.

“Our two worst performances this season have both been against Leicester – they were shockers! We’re under no misapprehension that we’ll need to step up a bit if we’re to challenge a team that’s had such a fantastic season. They’ve turned their club around very quickly and they’ve deserved to finish top.

“You don’t get a choice going into the knock-out stages as underdogs, but it suits us. Not many people fancied either La Rochelle or Lyon in the EPCR – and if you’re in, you’ve got a chance and I’m very happy about that.”

READ MORE: Premiership: Northampton’s annihilation of Newcastle seals playoff spot in final round of regular season

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