We knew a storm was coming. We knew we had a rickety ship. However, a doing over is a doing over and this was a doing over.
Maybe Dan Biggar wasn’t fully fit for this one, maybe this was the wrong firepit in which to baptise Hutchinson at full back maybe Alex Mitchell should do the unthinkable for a scrum-half from time to time and take a breath.
I’m not sure it would have made any difference against the overwhelming forces of narrative that were accumulating in this fixture.
Steve Borthwick’s big plan for the Tigers is coming together this season and the rugby nation’s eyes were on Northampton, their ancient foe, to end their unbeaten run. This defeat rings out across the land like an ominous warning bell about the man-eating potential of resurgent Tigers.
In many ways Francois Van Wyk’s new haircut summed it up.
When he was a Saint, van Wyk had a raffish quiff on the go like a naughty uncle at a wedding but back at the Gardens as a Tiger van Wyk’s head was shaved to a menacing layer of space marine stubble. And he plonked the ball down for a try in the first half.
As soon as he scored you knew what kind of day it was going to be. One of those humble pie days. One of those ‘what were you really thinking?’ days.
If anything Saints comeback in the third quarter was more than I expected. Overall I’ve felt that Saints slow down in games as the opposition works out their threats and the arrival of James Grayson for an injured Biggar was a revitalising influence. Tigers rocked on their heels with two in the sin bin and Saints threatening their line for a score that would bring them more or less level.
Somehow Saints never found a dull but effective way of turning that two man advantage into the necessary number of points. There was too much good honest lung-busting effort going on and we used up our time trying to kick down the door instead of climbing through the window of opportunity.
It’s meaningless to pick out individual errors which will always happen are never intentional and cannot be planned for. An upgrade in herd wisdom would be welcome.
George Ford had his midfield general’s medals on. Steve Borthwick glowered with contentment like a Star Wars baddie. Maybe, ironically, we lost this one last week with the injuries we picked up smashing Worcester.
It is part of our beautiful pact with Leicester, the best of all our enemies, that whatever else happens in the season the loser of this game must hurt unconditionally and so we must do that for now. We shouldn’t let this result overshadow the potential of what Saints can achieve this season and it will be interesting to see what is at stake in terms of the league when the return fixture comes round. We might be the only team that still believes Tigers can be beaten by then.
Pictures by Dave Ikin