Fabulous Foden makes the difference for Saints

Worcester 6 Northampton 26: Full-back's moment of magic is key to unlocking hosts' stubborn resistance
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The Independent Online

One flash of brilliance from Ben Foden helped Northampton to end the Sixways try drought and extended their unbeaten sequence in all competitions to eight games.

Foden's pace and vision, after Miles Benjamin had fumbled Johnny Arr's kick, unlocked Worcester's miserly defence and a perfectly timed inside pass allowed Chris Ashton to score the first League try at the ground since 24 October.

Having broken Worcester's stubborn resistance Foden scored himself when he darted over on the short side after a period of sustained forward pressure and a third try late on from Phil Dowson embellished a win that was not as comfortable as the scoreline suggested.

"We had a good start but then made a lot of mistakes in that second period of the first half which allowed Worcester back into the game," said the Northampton director of rugby Jim Mallinder.

"But we put pressure on in the second half, our scrum got stronger, we took a lot of ball from their line-out and teams tire.

"When teams tire with the players we have in our side we always have a chance of scoring."

Courtney Lawes, capped by England as a lock in the autumn internationals, displayed his versatility with an industrious display on the blindside flank, particularly at the line-out where he successfully disrupted Worcester's normally reliable supply of possession.

Even so there was little to choose between the sides for most of the game and Worcester might even have secured a record equalling fourth successive Premiership draw had Willie Walker not missed two penalty kicks.

Worcester were also left to reflect on their continuing inability to convert periods of pressure into points. They have now managed just one try in their last five League games, a worrying trend, despite some incisive running from new Scotland cap Alex Grove, and a first- half break from Rico Gear.

Mike Ruddock, the Worcester director of rugby, said: "Unfortunately little things didn't go for us and what seemed like a no-danger kick, where we put the ball up, bounced out of Miles Benjamin's hands straight to Ben Foden who is probably the most dangerous player on the field. That was the crucial moment."

Despite their attacking frailties and going nine points down to three penalties from Stephen Myler, Worcester were only three points adrift at the break. But Walker hooked an important penalty wide of the target just before he was replaced by fly-half Matt Jones who immediately scuffed a drop-goal attempt.

The game turned with Foden's counter-attack and Ashton's try. Worcester looked a shattered side in the final quarter and they wilted under Northampton's renewed challenge. A speculative flick pass from replacement scrum-half Alan Dickens was snaffled by Phil Dowson for a third try and Northampton were only denied a bonus-point try in injury time by the alert Chris Latham.

Worcester C Latham; R Gear, A Grove, S Tuitupou (D Rasmussen, 70), M Benjamin; W Walker (M Jones, 55), J Arr; A Black (M Mullan, 56), A Lutui (C Fortey, 76), T Taumoepeau, G Rawlinson (G Kitchener, 56), C Gillies, T Wood, P Sanderson (capt), K Horstmann.

Northampton B Foden; C Ashton, J Clarke, J Downey, P Diggin (C Mayor, 76); S Myler (S Geraghty, 76), L Dickson (A Dickens, 76); S Tonga'uiha, D Hartley (capt; B Sharman, 76), E Murray, I Fernandez Lobbe (N Best, 62), J Kruger (C Day, 70), C Lawes, P Dowson, R Wilson.

Referee: R Debney (Leics).