Referee blunders as Leeds hit new low

Northampton 18 - Leeds 9

If Northampton and Leeds are still involved in the relegation struggle during the final weeks of the season the last thing they will want is to be refereed by Steve Leyshon, who made such a hash of this game as to defy all understanding. Leyshon, when he was not blindingly lenient, was incompetent on a heroic scale and ruined what was always going to be a difficult game.

In the first half the referee, with a clear view of an assault by Richard Parks on Corne Krige and anyone else in range of his flying fists, chose to ignore the Leeds flanker's excesses. A yellow card was the very minimum Parks ought to have received. Towards the end of the game, which Northampton deserved to win by a much larger margin, Leyshon was not more than a metre away from Colm Rigney when the Leeds No 8 delivered four full-blooded punches to Grant Seely's face. Leyshon awarded a scrum rather then a red card to Rigney. His extraordinary decision beggared belief.

Leyshon will pray that the Rugby Football Union's élite referees' manager, Colin High, does not see a video of his dismal performance, or he might be relegated to refereeing women's rugby, where they tend not to punch with such premeditated ferocity.

The referee's contribution apart, this was an almost classical basement battle, although Leyshon's decision-making at the breakdown and failure to penalise the Leeds scrum-half, Mark McMillan, for delaying the put-in at every scrum awarded to the Tykes was another failure of his ability to police the game with the necessary level of authority.

Somehow Saints rose above Leyshon's lack of understanding and discipline to score the only two tries of a disjointed match, both in the first half.

Andrew Blowers claimed the opener and Ben Cohen the second, being the beneficiary of the Australian fly-half Shane Drahm's slashing break. If Drahm's goal-kicking had matched his general play Saints would have been out of sight by half-time. But two penalties and a conversion went sailing past the posts and it was not until after the break that Drahm found some kicking form by adding two more penalties. That made the game safe for Northampton, who will surely now haul themselves away from the danger zone.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for Leeds, for whom this was a fifth successive Premiership defeat. Once again the Tykes demonstrated a woeful lack of creativity and generalship. Their fly-half, Gordon Ross, kicked all their points with three penalties.

Northampton: Tries Blowers, Cohen; Conversion Drahm; Penalties Drahm 2. Leeds: Penalties Ross 3.

Northampton: B Reihana; J Rudd (N Starling, 63), B Cohen, M Stcherbina, W Human; S Drahm, J Howard (B Jones, 83); S Emms, S Thompson (capt; D Richmond, 63), C Budgen (B Sturgess 11-22; 65), G Seely, M Lord (D Browne, 57), A Blowers, R Beattie, C Krige (D Fox 51).

Leeds: T Stimpson; M Cardey, C Bell, A Snyman (D Rees, 72), P Christophers; G Ross, M McMillan; M Shelley, M Regan, R Gerber (G Kerr, 40), S Morgan (C Murphy, 63), T Palmer (capt), D Hyde, C Rigney, R Parks.

Referee: S Leyshon (Gloucestershire).

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