Leicester Tigers in seventh heaven as Northampton are crushed

Blue skies, seven tries and an unbeaten run extended. A Fijian wrecking ball, a South African bulldozer and some rearguard resistance. These were the ingredients of a near perfect day for Leicester who left this east Midlands derby with a crushing victory that underlines their status as the best team in the land.

That is seven wins from seven for Steve Borthwick’s men, who dominated every facet of the contest, battering their hosts at the breakdown and punishing mistakes like a Victorian schoolmaster. This is their biggest win at their rival’s stadium and the scoreline accurately reflects their supremacy.

George Ford slotted an early penalty that nudged him ahead of Jonny Wilkinson on the Premiership scoring charts. His player-of-the-match performance will no doubt be regarded by Eddie Jones the next time England assemble a squad.

“He was absolute class,” Borthwick said, declining to wade into the debate over his international snub. “I’m fortunate to have him.”

From there it became the Jasper Wiese and Nemani Nadolo show. The former perpetually put his team on the front foot, making 70 metres from 13 carries. One charge in the 12th minute opened the field before Dan Kelly floated the ball out left, where Nadolo collected before rounding Courtnall Skosan to go over for the opening try.

Wiese, who joins the Springboks on Sunday for their tour of the UK, was at it again shortly afterwards as the Tigers prowled inside the Saints 22. Prop Francois van Wyk ran a smart line and received Richard Wigglesworth’s pass on the gallop to crash over for his first Premiership try.

Before the half was up, Nadolo would add another off a 30-metre run and Julian Montoya would secure the bonus point from the base of a rolling maul.

Skosan ensured his team would take their break with something on the board after zigzagging past Kelly and Nadolo.

Wigglesworth was shown a yellow five minutes into the second period for a dangerous tackle and that gave the home side a lift. It also created a vacuum around the fringe that Alex Mitchell exploited from fractured play to score Northampton’s second.

When Wiese was sent to the bin for a dangerous hit, Franklin’s Gardens, which was full to its capacity for the first time since the pandemic, started to bounce.

But Leicester managed the two-man disadvantage superbly. Nadolo joined the pack in the scrum and Ford slotted in at No 9, nailing a drop goal to prove that even a wounded Tiger is a dangerous animal.

Saints were not done, however. Alex Waller dotted down with just over 20 minutes remaining to cap off a move that spanned the width of the field.

Ford extended the gap to two converted tries with a penalty as both teams settled into their respective rhythms, with Saints looking to run from deep and the Tigers happy to counter and kick for territory.

This translated to an over-exuberance from Northampton, whose forwards stayed on the wrong side of Tom Foley’s whistle. Ford kicked two penalties before Jack van Poortvliet put the game to bed with 15 minutes to go,, charging down Rory Hutchinson’s relieving kick and gathering to score unimpeded.

Kini Murimurivalu sparked an exodus from the ground when he shrugged off two challengers to score near the left touchline. Skosan scored from a cross-field kick, scoring his fifth try in two games, but that was swiftly cancelled out by Van Poortvliet, who stole an intercept a few seconds before the final whistle.

“All I’m concentrating on is what we need to do next,” was Borthwick’s emphasised point. That he delivered this line sincerely explains why his side are so emphatically leading the pack.