Rebuilt Tigers expose Pontney's illusions

Leicester 32 Northampton 0
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The Independent Online

Can it be too early to make a prediction of that sort? On the evidence they offered on Saturday - in a game which could have finished in a record defeat in the series of East Midlands derbies that began 111 years ago if Andy Goode's goal-kicking had been up to scratch - Saints have much more to do than their director of rugby, Budge Pountney, suggested afterwards.

"We can take some positives from that," said Pountney. "It's going to take some time for our newcomers to settle in. I know from experience that Welford Road is a very difficult place to come and play well."

What Pountney did not say was that it would be difficult to imagine how they could play as poorly again. Given that Saints had won four of the previous five Premiership matches against the Tigers, this was a loss going well beyond what could be considered acceptable.

At least they adhered to the Rugby Football Union's stricture about an 11-week rest period for their Lions and England players who were on summer tours. This meant an afternoon summarising on local radio for their Lions hooker Steve Thompson. Whether his considerable on-field presence would have made much difference is questionable.

Leicester, rebuilding now the Martin Johnson and Neil Back era has ended, did not just front up, it was up front where they were so in command. Two of their five tries came out of the Johnson textbook on how to execute a forward drive, while the others bore testimony to their superiority in broken play.

If Goode had been in anything like prime kicking form this would have been a rout rather than an embarrassment for Saints. Before the interval, Goode had squandered 19 points by missing four penalties, two conversions and a drop at goal.

Two of the Tigers' first-half tries came while the Saints prop Tom Smith was in the sin-bin for tipping Leo Cullen out of a line-out. The third came when Alesana Tuilagi scooped up a pass spilled by Daniel Browne and ran 75 metres to score.

With two Bruce Reihana penalty attempts sailing wide, that made it 17-0 at the break. After it Tuilagi made the break to send Dan Hipkiss in and Carlos Spencer - Saints' All Black summer signing - was shaking his head in disbelief.

Goode's conversion, a penalty, and a try from Tom Varndell made the truth even harder to bear for Saints.

Leicester: Tries Hamilton, Holford, Tuilagi, Hipkiss, Varndell; Conversions Goode 2; Penalty Goode.

Leicester: S Vesty; A Tuilagi, D Hipkiss (L Lloyd, 48-58), D Gibson (Lloyd, 58), T Varndell; A Goode (R Broadfoot, 68), H Ellis (A Healey, 68); M Holford (J White, 59), G Chuter (E Taukafa, 70), A Moreno (M Holford, 78), J Hamilton, L Cullen (B Kay, 55), W Johnson, S Jennings, M Corry (capt; L Abraham, 49).

Northampton: B Reihana (capt); J Rudd (S Lamont, 71), J Clarke, S Mallon, B Cohen; C Spencer, M Robinson; T Smith (C Budgen, 59), D Hartley (D Richmond, 78), B Sturgess, M Lord, Damien Browne, A Rae (S Boome, 40), D Fox (B Lewitt, 61), Daniel Browne.

Referee: R Maybank (Kent).