Brooks brings more sparkle

Northampton 48 Leeds 24
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The Independent Online

"It's not been a bad day," joked the public announcer as the players trooped off the pitch. "If you feel like extending your family, tonight might be a good night," he continued.

It was surreal, but it was one of those days in Northampton. Backs were slapped and hearty greetings exchanged in the stands and tries scored aplenty on the pitch.

Not surprisingly though there was a large element of after the Lord Mayor's Show here as the Saints comprehensively defeated the Tykes, especially as the match was all but over by half time, despite an encouraging start in the difficult, wet conditions by the visitors.

Ten-nil up inside the first 11 minutes courtesy of a Gordon Ross penalty and Liam Botham's try, Leeds started to concede ball and territory, and then two scores to Shane Drahm and Bruce Reihana in the 16th and 22nd minutes.

When Gordon Ross deliberately killed the ball in the 35th minute and received a yellow card for his efforts, Saints scored once more through a clever grubber kick to John Leslie and then, as if the Saints fans did not have enough to cheer with three men on the field in Sydney, an England win and dominance here, Dan Scarbrough threw a punch and followed his captain to the sin-bin and James Brooks touched down in the corner for the fourth try and a bonus point.

All that remained was to bask in the glory from Down Under. Sporadic outbursts of 'Swing Low' punctuated the second half amid the staple fare of "Oh when the Saints", but in truth all lacked conviction. The fact is both games were won, and despite the crowd of 11,292, Saints' biggest of the season, the feeling was of satisfaction rather than passion.

Some 700 had gathered in the morning to watch the final in the Rodber Suite beneath the main stand, and that had been completely different, particularly when Jason Robinson slid over for his try. However, as Elton Flatley kicked successfully at goal, agonised silence reigned. Then the pose adopted was not that of calm Jonny Wilkinson, hands together as if in prayer, but one of panic, hands on head in despair.

Only later when the drop goal landed did the arms go aloft, a proud rugby town celebrating a national victory and the efforts of their men, Matt Dawson, Ben Cohen and Steve Thompson. On their return they will receive a rapturous welcome from the Saints faithful, much like Tom Smith, the Scottish prop, yesterday. Oh yes, it was one of those days.

Northampton: N Beal; J Brooks, C Hyndman, J Leslie (M Tucker, 62), B Reihana; S Drahm (O Ripol, 80), J Howard; T Smith, D Richmond, R Morris (C Budgen, 62), M Lord (J Phillips, 62), M Connors (R Hunter, 28), G Seely, D Fox, A Blowers (capt) (M Miles, 73)

Leeds: D Scarbrough; D Rees, P Christophers (A Snyman, 32), L Botham, D Albanese (T Walsh, 62); G Ross, C Stuart-Smith; M Shelley (capt), R Rawlinson (M Holt, 80), M Holt (G Powell, 40), S Morgan, S Hooper, M Salter (P Murphy, 62), J Ponton, D Hyde

Referee: S Leyshon (Bristol).

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