Northampton v London Welsh, Aviva Premiership
Lamb pulls strings as Saints beat Exiles
November 24, 2012
Ryan Lamb helped Northampton to their win%]
Northampton moved into the play-off positions in the Aviva Premiership for at least 24 hours with a hard-fought win over London Welsh amongst the rain and mud at Franklin's Gardens.
After three successive league defeats it was a welcome four points for Northampton, who saw backs coach Paul Grayson leave in the week.
In atrocious conditions it was always going to boil down to a forward battle with Northampton's tries coming through a penalty try and Ken Pisi, though it was London Welsh's pack who made the first impression with a penalty try.
The visitors' maul trundled 25 metres from a lineout before it was hauled down under the posts. Referee David Rose awarded a penalty and sent Saints number GJ Van Velze to the sin-bin. Gordon Ross added the extras to make it 7-0 in as many minutes.
Ryan Lamb hit back with a calmly taken drop goal four minutes later after the home side nicked a Welsh lineout, but the visitors' maul was proving a handful even for Northampton's much-vaunted pack.
Another London Welsh lineout drive drew a penalty and from 45m Ross restored their seven point lead. Ross missed with another long range effort before Van Velze returned to the field.
At the second scrum of the game the Northampton pack had a huge drive that drew a penalty, with Phil Dowson - among the ensuing scuffle - making sure the London Welsh front row knew they were back in the game.
Suddenly the crowd and Saints were alive. From the lineout the home pack hit back with a retaliatory drive that almost galloped into the London Welsh 22 before Franck Montanella brought it down and was sin-binned.
With a forward down for a scrum on their five-metre line the visitors succumbed to the inevitable as they conceded a penalty try and Lamb drew Northampton level with the conversion after 27 minutes.
London Welsh were hanging on and a series of penalties saw them back defending another five-metre scrum. This time they had a full complement of forwards with Montanella back at loosehead and they drove a penalty out of Saints.
But the visitors had 15 players for barely a minute when they had a second player binned after Dan Caprice took out Jamie Elliott as the Northampton wing caught a high, hanging kick.
Saints took advantage with Lamb's vision giving them a second try. With advantage being played, Lamb's crossfield kick bounced perfectly into the arms of Pisi to score in the corner. Lamb converted to give Saints a 17-10 lead two minutes before half-time.
Lamb added three more points five minutes into what proved to be a dire second half.
Ross wiped that out on 55 minutes after Saints' lineout, which malfunctioned all afternoon, lost another throw on the visitors' 10m line and a sweeping move needed Elliott to sprint across to kick the ball out just a metre from his tryline.
After Welsh started the game with a huge maul, Saints ended it with one of their own, with the visitors lucky to concede just three points after a 20m lineout drive.
With seven minutes to go Ross landed a 35m penalty to give the visitors a deserved losing bonus point.
Northampton forward coach Dorian West felt he allowed London Welsh to impose their style of play on them.
"They have a big pack of forwards and we didn't get a chance to run them round the pitch and tire them out because of the conditions, so they could stick in the game for long periods," he said. "We were a bit ill-disciplined early on and we stood off their maul for their opening try. Once they got momentum they are hard to stop. I didn't like that try at all - it was a big boost for them."
London Welsh director of rugby Lyn Jones meanwhile felt his side fully deserved their losing bonus point.
"We are really pleased. We came here looking to leave with something," he said. "I was pleased with the attitude and the boys' approach to the game. Northampton have a huge reputation at set-piece time and we took them on there today. We just lost the kicking battle, but we stuck in there and I think we deserved a point."
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