McGeechan given food for thought

Rugby Union: Northampton 41 East Midlands 3

There were two stone-cold certainties surrounding Northampton's festive flirtation at Franklins Gardens yesterday: that Stirling County, their appointed visitors from Scotland, would decide to stay at home and that the Saints' faithful would consign their customary fanaticism to the back burner just for a day and do likewise. A steaming plateful of curried turkey or a meaningless outing on a brick-hard pitch? No contest.

Which just goes to show how wrong the cynics can be. The Scots fulfilled their half of the double wager by crying off, but they gave the Saints sufficient notice for them to conjure up an alternative in the rag-tag shape of the East Midlands, who last sent a side to the Gardens 73 years ago as a gesture to the memory of Northampton's first great hero, the First World War victim Edgar Mobbs. To their eternal credit, the supporters turned out in sufficient numbers - 3,000 plus was the best estimate - to justify the effort.

Sadly for those who parted with their Christmas beer money to watch a match that had the word "anachronism" stamped through its middle - Northampton's senior squad was to be found on the training pitch rather than the competitive one while the East Midlands team was drawn from such renowned rugby hotbeds as Luton and Leighton Buzzard - the anticipated return of Martin Bayfield, the England and Lions lock, failed to happen.

Bayfield, missing all season because of a chronic pelvic condition, had pencilled in the fixture for a possible comeback but the prospect of pounding around on a surface hardened and rutted by frost helped him resist the temptation.

There were others intent on proving a point to Ian McGeechan and his fellow Saints selectors, irrespective of the conditions.

First among them was Chris Johnson, the former Leicester and England Under-21 hooker, whose career has been in freefall for the last 18 months. Blessed with outstanding ball skills and quicker than most back-rowers, he underlined his talents yesterday against willing, if outclassed, opposition.

Johnson let rip as early as the seventh minute, breaking clear on halfway and leaving most of the East Midlands back division for dead before realising to his horror that his try would not count because of a forward pass earlier in the move. He would get his consolation in the second half, though, crossing at the right flag after a half-break and a round-the-corner pass from Ben Cohen, his left-wing.

Cohen cut quite a dash, opening up the visitors at will with his rapid forays from the deep. Northampton have wings coming out of their ears - Harvey Thorneycroft, Craig Moir, Ian Hunter, Michael Dods and the versatile Nick Beal are all chasing places on a weekly basis - but Cohen has already tasted first-team rugby this season and on this evidence will soon provide another option for McGeechan.

Northampton: Tries Merlin 2, Taylor, Cohen, Foster, Johnson, Law; Conversions Hepher 3. East Midlands: Penalty Tapper.

Northampton: J Walker; A Beales, N Law, M Foster, B Cohen; A Hepher, B Taylor; C Allen, C Johnson, P Brunel, J Hearne, M Birke, S Foale (capt), D Merlin, N Clark.

East Midlands: P Feetham; P Jarram, J Chandler, S Williams, J Cooley; A Tapper, M Llewellyn; S Barter, P Hales, L Mansell, C Wright, R Searle, J Allen, P Alston (capt), M Wright.

Referee: P Dickens (East Midlands).

Rob Wainwright, Scotland's captain last season, made a try-scoring return for Watsonians against Heriot's FP. Wainwright, who has been out of action with an achilles tendon problem since returning from Scotland's summer tour of New Zealand, went over for an early try. Gavin Hastings also scored a try but Watsonians were eventually overhauled 34-27 by Heriots, for whom the former Olympic sprinter Elliot Bunney scored a hat-trick of tries.

News
The two faces revealed by the ultraviolet light
newsScholars left shaken after shining ultraviolet light on 500-year-old Welsh manuscript
News
Rosamund Pike played Bond girld Miranda Frost, who died in Die Another Day (PA)
news
Arts and Entertainment
books
News
newsHow do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? With people like this
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: In House Counsel - Contracts

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This leading supplier of compliance software a...

Recruitment Genius: Associate System Engineer

£24000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Associate System Engineer r...

Recruitment Genius: Executive Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An Executive Assistant is required to join a l...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager - B2B, Corporate - City, London

£45000 - £50000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?
How Tansy Davies turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

How a composer turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

Tansy Davies makes her operatic debut with a work about the attack on the Twin Towers. Despite the topic, she says it is a life-affirming piece
11 best bedside tables

11 best bedside tables

It could be the first thing you see in the morning, so make it work for you. We find night stands, tables and cabinets to wake up to
Italy vs England player ratings: Did Andros Townsend's goal see him beat Harry Kane and Wayne Rooney to top marks?

Italy vs England player ratings

Did Townsend's goal see him beat Kane and Rooney to top marks?
Danny Higginbotham: An underdog's tale of making the most of it

An underdog's tale of making the most of it

Danny Higginbotham on being let go by Manchester United, annoying Gordon Strachan, utilising his talents to the full at Stoke and plunging into the world of analysis
Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police

Steve Bunce: Inside Boxing

Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police
No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat