Northampton Saints player ratings vs Munster

Northampton Saints player ratings vs Munster

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By TOM JEFFREYS

Northampton Saints produced a memorable display to earn their first Champions Cup knockout victory in 13 years against tournament stalwarts Munster.

Phil Dowson’s men defied unfavourable weather conditions to win 24-14, after heading into the break at 14-14 having struggled for territory.

As has been typical of this side recently, the four tries came from back three players as James Ramm and Tommy Freeman crossed in the first half, before substitute George Hendy produced some magic in the second to help his side to victory.

The win came off the back of some top quality defence and strong set piece, as they repelled the URC Champions whose media had backed them for an upset this week. Saints prevailed, though, with a top quality performance across the board, here’s how the players were rated:

1. Emmanuel Iyogun – 7

Produced a couple of key turnovers and his handling in open play is typical of Saints’ all-encompassing attack. At 23 years old he deserves a namedrop in the international set up.

2. Curtis Langdon – 8

Man of the match thanks to another superb display in the loose and solid showing at set piece. His chase back, recovery, and pacey return of a Tom Ahern chip and chase was a real highlight. Alongside Theo Dan, England are blessed with front rowers with a real eye for a gap.

3. Trevor Davison – 7

Solid at set piece and a strong contributor in defence, what a signing this man has been for Saints.

4. Alex Moon – 8

Every successful side needs an enforcer in the engine room and with Moon they have just that, the 27-year-old has a habit of jumping on a double hit and bullying his opponent back behind the gainline.

5. Alex Coles – 7

To compliment Moon is Alex Coles. The England man proved once again he is deserving of his international recognition, his offloading game was on show once again and added a dimension to his side’s attack.

6. Courtney Lawes – 7

The talisman was as quality as ever, producing jackals, lineout steals, loose carries and even, albeit speculative, miss passes. The last dance feeling gathers momentum with each game.

7. Lewis Ludlam – 7

Echoing the last dance sentiment, Ludlam perhaps nailed down his starting spot with an all-action display in Tom Pearson’s absence. Another nuisance at the breakdown and deserves credit as captain for his side’s discipline turnaround after a troublesome opening 20.

8. Sam Graham – 9

Except perhaps Ludlam hasn’t nailed down a starting spot given the unerring quality of this man’s display. His most crucial contribution came when he jackaled his team out of a period of Munster pressure before barrelling over Jack Crowley off the back of a scrum to help set up Tommy Freeman’s equaliser.

9. Tom James – 7

Whilst a fully fit Alex Mitchell has to start, James’ form is symptomatic of a team capable of winning trophies. His box kicking is excellent, the best being a booming drive that flew past Jack Crowley and gave Saints the territory upon which James Ramm scored the opener.

10. Fin Smith – 8

If the pool stage fixture against Munster was Smith’s coming-of-age, this was a consolidation of his status as a top class fly half. Heading into the second half with wind blowing directly into his kicks, Smith showed maturity to dominate territory, and the delay on his pass to Sleightholme ahead of Hendy’s first try was delightful.

11. Ollie Sleightholme – 7

A quiet game by exceptional recent standards but there is an audible buzz whenever he’s on the ball. Crowley’s kicking game was good, but so was this man’s return, either hitting tramlines on his kick or beating men with ball in hand.

12. Burger Odendaal – 8

His best game in a Saints shirt. It’s assumed that if Furbank returns, Freeman will shift into the centres at Odendaal’s expense but todays display complicates this solution. He found constant gainline ball in hand and a big defensive read and dump tackle on Tadgh Beirne typified a busy defensive performance.

13. Fraser Dingwall – 8

A defensive slip between Dingwall and Odendaal for Sean O’Brien’s try can be forgiven as a result of another top class display. His defensive leadership in the wide channels allowed a second half shut out and he takes the ball to the line magnificently – the best case study being his skillful catch and pass ahead of Hendy’s first try.

14. Tommy Freeman – 7

As ever transitioned seamlessly between wing and centre, coming up with some useful defensive reads whilst playing the latter. Showed good pace for his try and continues to work off his wing to provide robust carrying with good effect.

15. James Ramm – 8

As with Tom James, in Ramm Saints have a deputy to George Furbank that would currently start at most other Premiership clubs. Epitomised Saints intent with his choices to carry back kicks, played a crucial role for Hendy’s first try and capitalised on a classic piece of fullback support play to open the scoring.

Bench – 8

Coaches can only dream of impacts as positive as in this game, with the bench unloaded between the 50 and 65 minute mark to help Saints seal victory. It must be said that Munster were light on the ground given some last minute selection dilemmas, but it’s doubtful that anything could have solicited for the impact George Hendy made, with two top class finishes.

The second in particular will live long in Saints’ memory, and was made by Alex Mitchell being a defensive nuisance. The forward replacements dominated set piece in the meantime too.

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