Tigers secured a third straight win, their 15th of the Premiership season, to claim an 11th straight ticket to the play off lottery. The opponents will be Bath, at the Rec, the last visit drew Tigers largest ever reverse. 45-0. As if you could forget that. I know I've tried.
To the match. Northampton had drawn criticism for resting many players, Myler, Manoa, Lawes and more, but this is criticism is beyond stupid. Northampton had to way up the chance to knock Tigers out against the chance of injury to their players. Exeter, Saracens or Premiership Rugby have no right to make that decision it is Jim Mallender's alone.
Tigers started brightly earning a penalty converted by Freddie Burns; Tigers maul was strong and progressing at a rate of knots when hauled down. It was the maul again that earned the first try, Ed Slater rose to claim the lineout and Jordan Crane squeezed down the blindside to score in the corer.
Saints had tied the scores at 3-3 with a James Wilson penalty and two soft penalties allowed them to go into the break ahead. All Black Brad Thorn sometimes struggles to remember he no longer possesses the black cloak of invisibility and was pinged for the laziest of rolls away whilst Wilson poked Northampton ahead following a scrum penalty that many in the Crumbie felt should have gone the other way.
Tigers were unlucky to go into the break behind as they controversially had a try ruled out, the referee ruled Freddie Burns was "in at the side" at the ruck following Ben Youngs sniping break. If Youngs had passed better moments before however Tigers would surely have scored.
After half time Burns notched Tigers quickly into the lead with a long range penalty before The Scrums.
Well first a bright spell of Tigers possession; Logo Mulipola peeled round the front of the lineout to get onto the front foot with Ben Yougs keeping the pace high we zig zagged up the pitch to within inches of the line. After battering the door down for several phases Youngs thought he spied a gap and burrowed at the base of the post. The TMO was asked if there "was ay reason I cannot award a try" and despite finding no clear pictures of held up or short (or a grounding to be fair) decided he couldn't award the try anyway and we had The Scrums.
The Scrums. Anyone who was there will know the story, anyone not will quickly recognise the tale. Northampton were under the cosh and collapsing on the engage. There was one scrum where a reasonable shove was put on but that one was re-set and not penalised, therefore the referee had his hands tied and felt unable to award the penalty try. Instead he sin binned both Northampton tightheads causing uncontested scrums when Corbiseiro refused to play tighthead and meaning Tigers had to be content with just 3 points.
Most have said the referee could not award the penalty try as we were not shoving them backwards, but surely the referee can decide that where Saints not collapsing on engage the pushover was inevitable and still award the score? After all just because Saints were collapsing before they could go backwards this does not stop that penalty preventing the try.
Either way Northampton played some bright possession rugby to run down the clock but were unable to totally keep a baying Tigers attack out. Niall Morris eventually burst through to score Tigers second try.
Tommy Bell, on for an injured Freddie Burns, slotted an long range kick for Tigers to stretch the lead to 13 and all but securing the game.
Northampton did make a game of it with a try for Tom Stephenson but Sam Olver, son of John, shanked the conversion wide.
As after most games this season there was has been criticism of the Tigers backs however there were two great opportunities taken only to be ruled out by the officials, if these had stood we would likely be looking at a bonus point win.
For all the gnashing of teeth on the blog throughout the year our win/loss record is as good as it has been in many years. The lack of tries has held us back but the reality is we have won 15 games and Bath and Northampton have won only 1 more.
We are contenders now. We just have to do what we have not done this season and win against a top 4 side. We have to do what we have only done once in four years and win in Bath. That was a semi final too. And our fly half that night was George Ford. What ever happened to him?