Northampton's revival continued with a comprehensive if not really convincing defeat of Leeds, and the Saints faithful are starting to believe that they can finish in the top four as well as win the Powergen Cup. If they do they will certainly have to sharpen up the basics like ball retention.
They frequently turned the ball over to an eager, committed and hard-working Leeds defence. However, they scored four tries to secure a bonus point and, with Harlequins winning, thrust Leeds back into the relegation quagmire. If Leeds do go down it will certainly not be through a lack of effort or determination. The Saints totally dominated possession and territory in the first half and yet could not cross the visitors' line until Dan Richmond drove over in the 36th minute.
Undoubtedly the semi-final Saints of last week would have taken full advantage of Japie Mulder's yellow card in the 22nd minute for a late tackle on Nick Beal, but too often the attacks were scrappy and disorganised, a point appreciated by their coach, Wayne Smith. "Give credit to Leeds, they were very aggressive in the tackle area and slowed the ball down well. But I thought we were individuals today, egotistical, trying to find solutions ourselves rather than sticking to the system. We had opportunities to score at least four further tries and were unable to take them."
The best moment actually came from a missed tackle by Mulder on Beal which allowed the full-back to break 40 yards before going to ground and recycling the ball. Paul Grayson spun it out to Tom Smith, the prop, who deftly flicked it on to Ben Cohen.
Peter Jorgensen completed the try, but it was the flick pass that created the gap. As a piece of skill it would have been breathtaking from a centre, and indeed Jorgensen, the Australian back, offered a few examples of "quick hands"' to please the purists. But from a burly prop, it demonstrated the hard work that the Saints players are doing.
It was another forward that excelled throughout the game though. Olivier Brouzet, the lock, was a powerful figure in the loose whether breaking the gain line, tackling or supporting his team- mates. Considering the frenetic pace of the game, it is testament to his work ethic and fitness that he seems to be everywhere with the ball.
After the interval, Leeds themselves had more possession and exposed glaring weaknesses in the Saints' defence. Dan Scarbrough scored two tries, the second having chased a clever kick by Braam van Straaten, and if they had not themselves gifted a try to Beal they would have had an outside chance of salvaging the game.
Saints deserved the win, though, and wrapped it up in fine style, eschewing a kick at goal for a line-out in search of the bonus point. "I would have kicked the goal," admitted Smith, but John Leslie's show of the ball and elegant body swerve split the defence and Saints had the try.
And Leeds? They have a crucial match against Harlequins at the Stoop on Friday, 3 May which could just decide which club finishes bottom.
Northampton: N Beal; C Moir (M Tucker, 68), P Jorgensen, J Leslie, B Cohen; P Grayson, M Dawson; T Smith, D Richmond (S Thompson, 40), R Morris (C Budgen, 74), J Ackermann (J Phillips, 40), O Brouzet, A Blowers (M Soden, 55), B Pountney (capt), G Seely.
Leeds: Dan Scarbrough; C Hall, S Woof (S Bachop, 55), J Mulder, C Emmerson; B Van Straaten, S Benton (J O'Reilly, 77); M Shelley (capt), R Rawlinson (M Holt, 40), G Kerr, C Murphy (P Murphy, 46; J Benson 55), T Palmer, C Mather, J Ponton, I Feaunati.
Referee: S Lander.Reuse content