Ruthless Saints leave insipid Leicester in desperate relegation fight

first_imgShare on Pinterest Newcastle call for end to relegation as Premiership basement battle hots up Share on LinkedIn Northampton Share via Email Support The Guardian Since you’re here… If there was any doubt as to whether Leicester are involved in the Premiership’s relegation battle, it can now be said with some certainty that they are fighting for their lives. Take nothing away from Northampton, who ruthlessly romped to a second consecutive away win in the east Midlands derby with Cobus Reinach and Dan Biggar commanding, but it is hard to remember a more insipid performance from the Tigers against their bitter rivals.They are 10th in the Premiership table, and will stay there come what may in the rest of the weekend’s fixtures, but they will be anxiously awaiting the results considering they could wake on Sunday just four points from the foot of the table. “We want to be competing at the top end of the league but we are right down at the bottom and in the mire,” said the Leicester head coach, Geordan Murphy. “It’s going to be tight.”Against a hugely impressive Northampton side Leicester were 20-3 down at half-time after tries from Reinach and Tom Collins (2), before Biggar twisted the knife in the second. The Saints were superior in every department but their outside-centre Rory Hutchinson warrants special mention, twisting the Tigers’ blood with his quick feet. The flankers Heinrich Brüssow and Jamie Gibson deserve huge credit, too, in a comprehensive victory that lifts the upwardly mobile Saints into fifth place.It was during this fixture last year that the former Northampton centre Rob Horne suffered a career-ending arm injury, leading to the Saints turning their home fixture against Leicester into a memorial match at Twickenham earlier this season. Northampton failed to deliver that day and their director of rugby, Chris Boyd, admitted that frustration had lingered. “We were terrible disappointed with the way we played. I thought we disrespected that occasion so there was a little extra bird on the shoulder for Rob,” said Boyd, who revealed afterwards he expects Dylan Hartley to return to action before the end of the season, having undergone surgery on a knee injury.There is no need for Northampton to rush him back on this evidence but such is the pressure on Leicester at present that five of their six England internationals were in the starting lineup – Ben Youngs the only one not included because of a shoulder injury. Despite the cavalry, it was an inauspicious start for Leicester and proceeded to get worse when Reinach streaked into the left-hand corner for the opening try. Leicester felt that Northampton’s huge winger Taqele Naiyaravoro had knocked on George Ford’s towering kick in the buildup but they should be more concerned by the gaping hole Collins ghosted through. He arced back left and freed Reinach to race clear.Leicester responded with a period of concerted pressure but could not find a way past Northampton’s scrambling defence. They had some joy breaking Northampton’s line but less idea of how best to take advantage. The Saints, meanwhile, made the most of their visits into Leicester’s 22. A barrelling run from Brüssow got Northampton in behind and Mike Williams’s cynical infringement led to a simple three points for Biggar and a yellow card for the Leicester flanker. Share on Messenger Share on Twitter Leicester Share on Facebookcenter_img Rugby union Premiership Northampton’s second try soon followed and Leicester cannot claim they had not been warned. Hutchinson had made good ground on the left not long before he scythed his way through on the right, releasing Collins to canter under the posts. Leicester simply could not live with the tempo brought by Reinach and Biggar. Between them they ran the Tigers defence right, then left before a glorious floating pass from Hutchinson found Naiyaravoro on the touchline. His offload teed up Collins for his second try of the evening.A somewhat bizarre wedding ceremony on the pitch at half-time did little to change the funereal atmosphere in the stands, so poor had Leicester been in the opening half, and it got no better when Biggar extended Northampton’s lead to 20 points with a penalty early in the second. Another two routine penalties for Biggar – the first conceded by Dan Cole, who also received a yellow card – and Leicester were resigned to defeat. Ford did scamper over – if it was going to be anyone for Leicester it was going to be him – with 14 minutes to go and Tom Youngs added another from close range after Gibson’s late yellow card but it did little to disguise just how emphatically Leicester had been beaten.LeicesterOlowofela; Aspland-Robinson, Tuilagi (Owen 69), Eastmond (Toomua ht), May; G Ford, Harrison (White 61); Genge (Gigena 72), Youngs (capt), Cole (Heyes 78), Spencer, Kitchener (Wells 68), Williams (Kerr 74), O’Connor (Fitzgerald 62), Thompson.Tries G Ford, T Youngs. Con G Ford. Pen G FordSin-bin Williams 30, Cole 52NorthamptonTuala (Kellaway 68); Collins, Hutchinson, Francis, Naiyaravoro (Furbank 58); Biggar, Reinach (Mitchell 68); Van Wyk (Waller ht), Fish (Marshall 65), Hill (Franks 62), Ratuniyarawa (Craig 74), Moon, Gibson, Brüssow (Wood 62), Harrison (capt).Tries Reinach, Collins 2 Con Biggar Pens Biggar 4Referee W Barnes. The Breakdown: sign up and get our weekly rugby union email. 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