Saints produce thrilling comeback after England star gets red card
PREMIERSHIP SATURDAY WRAP: There were wins for Northampton Saints and London Irish on Saturday in Round 17 of the Premiership.
Northampton Saints produced their greatest-ever Premiership comeback to defeat Sale Sharks 38-34 at a packed-out cinch Stadium at Franklin’s Gardens.
At the Rec, London Irish secured a 25-10 win over Bath.
At Franklin’s Gardens, the men in Black, Green and Gold trailed 7-24 at the interval despite Tom James’ try – with Arron Reed, Tom Curry, Rob Du Preez, and Ewan Ashman all crossing to hand the visitors a try bonus point.
Sharks then extended their lead to 20 points early in the second half, but with Manu Tuilagi sent off earlier in the match and then two more yellows for Cobus Wiese and Ashman, Northampton roared back as Tommy Freeman, Matty Proctor, Callum Braley, and Fraser Dingwall all scored to send Saints third in the table in dramatic circumstances.
Sale broke the deadlock after nine minutes; with a line-out on five metres, the Sharks’ drive edged towards the line, and while Saints managed to halt it short, they had committed numbers on defence and Rob Du Preez was able to hit a cross-field kick over for Reed to score in acres of space.
The conversion was missed by Du Preez, and the Sharks were dealt a blow in the 14th minute when Tuilagi was red-carded for a dangerous fend to the head of Freeman.
The visitors came close on 17 minutes with a smart line-out routine sending Ashman down the left touchline. Saints scrambled back to clear, but there was nothing they could do two minutes later as Curry powered through a gap in the line to run under the posts.
The scoreline went to 12-0 as Du Preez landed the routine conversion, and the Sharks added seven more points in the 22nd minute after Curry broke from deep, and after Du Preez put Saints under pressure in defence with a well-placed grubber, the fly-half then dummied his way over the line.
However, Northampton burst into life two minutes later with Freeman dancing through a gap on halfway and turning on the afterburners, before the wing found scrumhalf James with a brilliant support line to finish under the posts.
At 19-7, the next score was crucial, and Sale thought they had it four minutes before half-time. With a penalty kicked into the corner, Jean-Luc Du Preez burrowed over into the corner, but the TMO stepped in to chalk off the try for an infringement at the previous line-out.
But the Sharks were not to be denied with the clock in the red, as another penalty was kicked into the corner and this time the visitors’ maul rumbled over the whitewash, with Ashman coming up with the ball to make the scoreline 7-24 at the break.
A Du Preez penalty ensured Sale started the second 40 with three points, but they went down to 13 men when Cobus Wiese made contact with the head of Fin Smith and was yellow carded.
Saints threatened a comeback immediately, winning a couple of penalties to take them five metres out before Freeman crashed through after the ball came quickly off the top of the line-out.
Smith landed the conversion to make it 14-27, and a 50-22 from James shortly after kept Northampton on the front foot. After earning another penalty for offside, the hosts spun the ball wide through Smith and Freeman for Proctor to walk over in the corner.
Northampton’s pack got their revenge on 66 minutes as they earned a penalty try and a yellow card for Ashman, who came in at the side to cynically drop a five-metre drive.
Tom Collins, on as a replacement, showed his electric pace to dart through a gap ten minutes later and found Braley on his shoulder, and the scrum-half did well to hold off two defenders and score under the posts.
Hutchinson’s conversion brought the score difference to just one point, and when Collins fired the ball out wide for Dingwall to dive over with two minutes remaining, Saints led for the first time in the game and the sensational turnaround was complete.
There were still two minutes to hold out, but Saints captured the kick-off and held out to allow Hutchinson to boot the ball into touch and send the home supporters into raptures.
*London Irish secured their first league double over Bath since the 2006/07 season.
The Exiles won for the first time away from home to Bath in the league since 2009, but it was the home side’s Josh Bayliss who opened proceedings with the maiden try of the game.
Declan Kidney’s men took a 12-10 lead into the interval after tries from initially Paddy Jackson and then replacement Ben White, Jackson contributing 15 points on the day.
Whilst Bath’s scoring stagnated, Irish continued adding to the scoreboard in the second 40 with a converted Benhard Janse van Rensburg try and a Jackson penalty, as the boys wrapped up their first away win of the 2022/23 Premiership campaign.
The scores and scorers
Northampton Saints 38-34 London Irish
For Northampton Saints:
Tries: James, Freeman, Proctor, Braley, Dingwall, Penalty try
Cons: Smith 2, Hutchinson
For Sale Sharks:
Tries: Reed, T Curry, R Du Preez, Ashman, Dugdale
Cons: R Du Preez 3
Pen: R du Preez
Red card: Manu Tuilagi (Sale Sharks, 13′- foul play, dangerous elbow)
Yellow cards: Cobus Wiese, Sale Sharks, 46′); Ewan Ashman (Sale Sharks, 66′)
Northampton: 15 George Furbank (captain), 14 Tommy Freeman, 13 Matt Proctor, 12 Fraser Dingwall, 11 James Ramm, 10 Fin Smith, 9 Tom James, 8 Juarno Augustus, 7 Aaron Hinkley, 6 Angus Scott-Young, 5 Alex Moon, 4 David Ribbans, 3 Paul Hill, 2 Robbie Smith, 1 Alex Waller.
Replacements: 16 Tom Cruse, 17 Ethan Waller, 18 Alfie Petch, 19 Alex Coles, 20 Sam Graham, 21 Callum Braley, 22 Rory Hutchinson, 23 Tom Collins.
Sale: 15 Joe Carpenter, 14 Tom O’Flaherty, 13 Sam James, 12 Manu Tuilagi, 11 Arron Reed, 10 Rob du Preez, 9 Gus Warr, 8 Jean-Luc du Preez, 7 Tom Curry, 6 Jono Ross (captain), 5 Jonny Hill, 4 Cobus Wiese, 3 Nick Schonert, 2 Ewan Ashman, 1 Bevan Rodd.
Replacements: 16 Ethan Caine, 17 Si McIntyre, 18 Coenie Oosthuizen, 19 Josh Beaumont, 20 Sam Dugdale, 21 Raffi Quirke, 22 George Ford, 23 Tom Roebuck.
Referee: Ian Tempest
Assistant referees: Nick Woodand, Jamie Leahy
TMO: Claire Hodnett
Bath 10-25 London Irish
For London Irish:
Tries: Jackson, White, Van Rensburg
Cons: Jackson 2
Pens: Jackson 2
Bath: 15 Matt Gallagher, 14 Joe Cokanasiga, 13 Jonathan Joseph, 12 Cameron Redpath, 11 Ruaridh McConnochie, 10 Piers Francis, 9 Ben Spencer, 8 Josh Bayliss, 7 Sam Underhill, 6 Miles Reid, 5 Josh McNally, 4 Dave Attwood, 3 D’Arcy Rae, 2 Tom Dunn, 1 Beno Obano
Replacements: 16 Niall Annett, 17 Valeriy Morozov, 18 Will Stuart, 19 Quinn Roux, 20 Fergus Lee-Warner, 21 Louis Schreuder, 22 Orlando Bailey, 23 Chris Cloete
London Irish: 15 James Stokes, 14 Lucio Cinti, 13 Benhard van Rensburg, 12 Rory Jennings, 11 Ben Loader, 10 Paddy Jackson, 9 Joe Powell, 8 Matt Rogerson (captain), 7 Tom Pearson, 6 Juan Martin Gonzalez, 5 Rob Simmons, 4 Api Ratuniyarawa, 3 Oliver Hoskins, 2 Agustin Creevy, 1 Facundo Gigena.
Replacements: 16 Mike Willemse, 17 Tarek Haffar, 18 Lovejoy Chawatama, 19 Josh Caulfield, 20 Chandler Cunningham-South, 21 Ben White, 22 Luca Morisi, 23 Will Joseph.
Referee: Wayne Barnes
Assistant referees: Anthony Woodthorpe, Wayne Falla
TMO: Rowan Kitt
Additional sources: London Irish and Northampton Saints