Leeds losing away is as close as the notoriously competitive Guinness Premiership gets to a certainty. They have now lost 19 away games in a row in the top flight.
Northampton, inspired by Shane Geraghty and Jon Clarke, were the latest team to exploit the most porous defence in the league. Leeds have conceded 86 points in a week and are rooted to the foot of the table.
The Saints have no such worries. Some of their rugby here was electrifying – indeed, they collected their four-try bonus point after only 32 minutes – and they had far too much ability for their opponents in a first half that produced all but six of their points. Most of Saints' guile was provided by Geraghty, who has started this season superbly following his summer move from London Irish. The England player scored one try and set up two for the powerful Clarke – Leeds simply could not cope with him.
"He was outstanding. We are really pleased he is playing here and nowhere else," said Jim Mallinder, Northampton's director of rugby. Mallinder thinks that Geraghty, who is currently a second-string Saxon, will be promoted to Martin Johnson's senior England squad for the autumn Tests in November. Some of the fly-half's kicking from hand was awry and he landed only three of his six attempts at goal, but in open play he was majestic.
Leeds had only three points to show for an opening 15 minutes in which they controlled a fiercely contested breakdown area, earning three penalties for Ceiron Thomas, their fly-half. He landed one – the first, in the second minute – and he was replaced as kicker by Henry Paul, who kicked the conversion of the Welshman's try on the stroke of half-time. By then Northampton had scored four tries within 13 minutes of play.
Geraghty scorched over for the first, down the right in the 19th minute, and set up the second and third for Clarke with left-footed kicks, one a deft grubber and the other a high ball to the corner. It was delicious stuff from Geraghty, who is justifiably in contention to play at No 12 for England this autumn. Clarke, at outside-centre, has scored four tries this season.
For the fourth try, the former Wigan rugby league winger Chris Ashton finished off a flowing, 70-yard move which was started by Ben Foden, the full-back, and which included Bruce Reihana and Chris Mayor. That score brought a bonus point and a 24-3 lead. "It was an unbelievable bit of rugby," Mallinder said.
Leeds were more than a match for their hosts in the second half but they still lost it 6-0, Geraghty and Reihana kicking penalties.
Leeds's spirit may not be enough to keep them up this season but Neil Back, their head coach, believes survival to be possible. "The guys are bitterly disappointed," he said. "But the players have got tremendous belief and the win will come."
Northampton B Foden; C Ashton, J Clarke (J Ansbro, 40), C Mayor, B Reihana; S Geraghty (B Everitt, 68), L Dickson (A Dickens, 63); S Tonga'uiha (R Dreyer, 63), B Sharman (M Cairns, 63), S Bonorino (B Mujati, 46; Tonga'uiha, 71), C Lawes (I Fernandez Lobbe, 57), J Kruger, P Dowson (capt; N Best, 57), S Gray, R Wilson.
Leeds J Goodridge; R Welding, J Hepworth, H Paul, S Armstrong (P Blackett, 75); C Thomas (L Burrell, 57), A Gomarsall (S Mathie, 57); G Hardy (A Moreno, 75), P Nilsen (V Ma'asi, 52), J Gomez, E Lund, J Pendlebury (capt), T Denton, H Fourie (C Clark, 64), R Oakley (A To'oala, 52).
Referee: S Davey (London).Reuse content