DEPTH of squad and understanding carried the night for Northampton as Alan Solomons’ reign at Edinburgh opened with a three tries to nil defeat at Franklin’s Gardens.
However, in defeat, there was much to admire about the Edinburgh effort and clearly the new coach has something on which to build, in particular some sterling defensive work by his men.
The home side had the better of the first half in terms of territory but, when their attacks were not ended by some storming Edinburgh defence, Saints were too-often sinners when it came to handling. At least three good try-scoring openings were squandered by poor handling under pressure.
On at times frugal rations, Edinburgh nevertheless showed a willingness to run at their opponents and some of their off-loading and passing under pressure, not to mention their greater security in handling must have pleased Solomons.
The visitors also “won” the first half by virtue of Greig Laidlaw’s successful penalty goal, awarded for the home pack going over the top at the breakdown a couple of metres inside their own 22 and almost head-on to the posts. Laidlaw doesn’t often miss such “sitters”.
But, earlier in the half, there was bad news for Edinburgh, as centre Matt Scott injured his right ankle and had to leave the field, meaning a reshuffle after just 15 minutes. Piers Francis moved out one place to fill Scott’s position, with Laidlaw stepping out to stand-off and young Sean Kennedy coming on at scrum-half.
Kennedy quickly fell foul of referee Luke Pearce, being pinged for only his second put-in at the scrum; confirming that rumours of a crack-down in this department this season are correct.
Edinburgh still took the first-half honours courtesy of Laidlaw’s 20th-minute penalty, however their lead was cancelled out just two minutes into the second half when some terrific broken field running from the Saints backs enabled centre George Pisi to present brother Ken with the simplest of run-ins. Stephen Myler converted and Saints led 7-3.
Not for long, however, some five minutes later another spot of Saints sinning by the pack allowed Laidlaw to cut the deficit to a single point going into the final half-hour, before Myler stretched the Saints’ lead with a penalty goal.
Both coaches then went to their benches and Saints got the better result. In the final ten minutes some sustained pressure finally broke the brave Edinburgh defence, England cap Phil Dowson getting the touchdown for Myler to again convert. Right on the final whistle, further sustained Saints pressure was rewarded with a second Dowson try, converted by replacement Sam Olver with the final kick of the game.
Northampton Saints: B Foden; K Pisi, G Pisi, L Burrell, J Elliott, S Myler, L Dickson; A Waller, M Haywood, T Mercey, C Lawes, C Day, G Clark, T Wood, GJ Van Velze. Replacements: J Wilson, P Dowson, T Stephenson, R McMillan, A Corbisiero, G Denman, J Craig, B Nutley, S Dickinson, R Glynn, S Olver, T Collins, G North, P Diggin.
Edinburgh: G Tonks, D Fife, N De Luca, L Jones, P Francis, G Laidlaw; A Dickinson, R Ford, WP Nel, G Gilchrist, I Van Der Westhuizen, S Cox, R Grant, D Denton. Replacements: S Kennedy, A Lutui, L Niven, G Cross, O Atkins, H Watson, S Hydalgo-Clyne, J Cuthbert, D Basilaia, T Brown.