Tigers recorded their 6th straight win in all competitions against the Saints courtesy of a Matt Smith try. That try was the decisive moment of the match as it gave Tigers the lead they never surrendered, if not for George Ford's erratic boot Northampton would have been dead and buried much earlier and the score of 16-12 much larger.
That try was a corker though and well worth winning the game. Steve Mafi won the lineout scruffily forcing Julian Salvi and Anthony Allen to tidy up the possession with strong carries. Ground was gained with a left to right flowing move as Marcos Ayerza breached the Saints 22. Ed Slater carried well getting Tigers on to the front foot and the defence moving backwards and becoming disorganised. Enter George Ford. His game had been hit and miss so far, mainly miss with the boot, but he saw Martin Roberts and Mark Sorenson on the fringe defence and took advantage. He straightened and moved slightly towards to the ruck getting on to Sorenson's inside shoulder. Coming like a steam train on his now trademark inside line was Flying Fijian Vereniki Goneva, Roberts had no chance to close the gap. As the crunching tackle from the full back came in Goneva's unconventional off load laid the path clear for Matt Smith to finish off the lovely move. 5 phases, 10 players handling the ball, marvelous stuff all round.
If only the rest of the game was so thrilling. Saints looked turgid and constipated in attack, never really threatening Tigers line at all, whilst the Leicester crowd was cheered by some good positions that came to nought.
The lack of England internationals certainly contributed to the lack of cutting edge, for all Matt Smith or Tom May are very good players they don't have the X factor of Manu Tuilagi or Ben Foden. It is a bit of a joke that they schedule big matches between the top 4 for international periods, let alone a big derby match to boot.
There were a couple claims for a penalty try, first when Allen was taken out off the ball with the try line begging then when a maul was collapsed millimeters from the Saints line, but referee Greg Garner didn't even consider them penalties, let alone penalty tries.
Tigers discipline was good; only giving up 5 kickable penalties. One of those was a scrum penalty and as that is such a lottery it is hard to blame Castro too much. Northampton in contrast gave away 8 chances, though Ford's profligacy did give Tigers a lot of time in the Saints half.
Many comparison are drawn from George Ford's game, most of them like to compare him to the automaton Jonny Wilkinson myth that the press created. But really he is a classic Leicester fly half in the Andy Goode mould. Hit and miss. His highs are magnificent recalling the range of skills of Carlos Spencer with the application of Dan Carter; but his lows can be awful and frustrating. 4/9 with the boot is a very Andy Goode statistic, getting just enough to win the game but missing a hat full for no obvious reason. His inspiration turned the game but if we had lost it would have been his wastefulness to blame. Such is the life of a fly half.
Graham Kitchener and Ed Slater were again impressive with their carrying game and their rucking looks to have improved. Julian Salvi was very impressive and is almost single handedly responsible for Tigers disruption of any opposition possession. But it was Vereniki Goneva's pass after the tackle that sprung the game from its coffin and it is he who is my Man of the Match. The Champagne is in the post!