I’ve given myself some cool-off time before putting together this review of the 250th Saints – Tigers derby just to let the emotion dissipate.
Without a doubt the scoreline reflects the yellow cards to Juarno Augustus, Mani Iyogun and Alex Mitchell that fell just after the hour mark.
No doubt referee Karl Dickson’s ears were burning after the game and there was a general sense Saints did not get the rub of the green, but to be fair to Dickson it was the decisions that weren’t given that bothered me more than the ones that were.
We could tell ourselves as Saints fans that it was the cards that killed it for us but we would be overlooking the fact that the handsome first half lead we built up was despite getting pretty badly owned at scrum time.
Furbank and Hutchinson made a try for Mitchell, Mitchell made a try for Furbank and Ludlam and Dingwall made a try for Coles after Leicester hit back with a score of their own.
The Gardens was rocking and Tigers were rocking but they were monstering their way back into it inch by inch. The scores were about even when Augustus’ yellow card came for an offence in a ruck.
Mani and Leicester’s scrummaging legend Dan Cole had both been subbed and there was one scrum with Ethan Waller propping which looked a bit more stubborn, but this was followed by Waller taking a knock to the head from a team mate around the ruck and so Mani was recalled.
It’s a tough ask bringing someone back onto the pitch after they have cooled down, let alone them having to do it in a pressure cooker scrum battle like the East Midlands derby.
The next scrum collapse Dickson yellowed Mani and he trudged off, paying the price for failing to deal with the picture that was being painted for the referee by the expert Tigers front row. New fans coming to rugby must be absolutely baffled by the way scrums play out sometimes and feel the baked-in injustice when a player is dismissed because on balance his pack seemed less on top than the other.
It has to be said, however, it is a sweet feeling when those things go your way and older Saints fans will remember the days when our pack was a penalty generating machine. Myler would ping it into the corner. Woody would crash over. Things were so simple then weren’t they?
With two players gone and Tigers getting a bit rampant Mitchell was judged to have deliberately knocked on and that was the final yellow. The stinger there is that similar flailing hands earlier in the game from a Tigers player were deemed legal but to be honest that is just me bitching. By that stage the problem was that Saints had no plan to come back from being 20 points and three players down with five minutes left on the clock in the East Midlands derby.
Up until the cards it had been tight with Leicester in the ascendant. We would have needed some magic to win from there with all our players on the field but actually, that is what Saints do these days. It certainly would have helped.
It would be a bit knee-jerk to have beef with Dickson over this though. Is there a referee who would have left all Saints’ players on the field all afternoon? Probably not.
I think that this important fixture came a couple of games too soon for us as Saints commence a new era with new faces in the mix and now it takes a place in the history of this derby as one of the ones that hurt.
And when you think about it, that’s a future spoon of sugar in the derby win when it comes.