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Northampton player ratings vs Leinster | 2023/24 Champions Cup

By Liam Heagney
Northampton skipper Courtney Lawes reacts at Croke Park (Photo by Sam Barnes/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

Northampton player ratings live from Croke Park: This was quite the atmospheric rugby spectacle in contrast to when these two teams last met in Dublin.


That was in December 2020, a sombre, closed-doors pool game at the RDS where the 19-35 bragging rights in front of a zero attendance comfortably went to Leinster.

Here, Leinster won again, but there was a world of a difference in how this 17-20 nerve-shredder unfolded in front of a tournament record 82,300 enthralled spectators.

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Just when it seemed as if the hosts would again run away with it, James Lowe needing just four second-half minutes to complete his hat-trick, Northampton demonstrated they are made of much sterner stuff these days.

Energized by their excellent bench and astutely led by skipper Courtney Lawes and the youthfulness of Fin Smith, they ravenously got stuck into the 3-20 scoreboard disadvantage.

Investec Champions Cup
20 - 17
All Stats and Data

Two converted tries later, they had the margin sucked down to three points with six minutes remaining and they then exhibited guts in threatening to complete the comeback.

In the end, it took sublime Leinster turnover defiance at a ruck about 50 seconds from time to finally quell the delicious Shoe Army riposte.


It meant it was London calling for the Irish province in three weeks, their third successive final, but it would be no surprise to see these Saints contesting the Gallagher Premiership final some weeks after that at Twickenham given this fine demonstration of second-half Champions Cup semi-final stubbornness. Here are the Northampton player ratings.

15. George Furbank – 6
Saints’ out-half all those years ago at the empty RDS, he returned to Dublin a far more mature player whose full-back ability was best seen when he gave what should have been a first-half, try-scoring assist to the flappy-handed James Ramm. A 64th-minute knock-on was frustrating but the head never dropped.

14. James Ramm – 1
Three nightmare first-half moments summed up his miserable effort, missing the tackle on Lowe for the first try, high-tackling Ciaran Frawley in the build-up to the second, and then butchering his own team’s sole opening-period try chance with poor hands. Then left grasping air when Lowe completed his hat-trick just minutes after the break. Ouch!

13. Tommy Freeman – 6.5
Came a cropper with an unfortunate midweek turn of phrase and was then left numberless due to an early shirt change. A first-half high point was the break and wristy pass that created the wasted Ramm try chance. Defiant second-half effort. Nicely played.


12. Fraser Dingwall – 6.5
Given the thankless task of repeatedly carrying into first-half Leinster traffic, his frustration was clear on 26 minutes when penalised on the floor trying to rescue a ball that was about to be lost by a teammate. Had a better second half, similar to Freeman’s improvement.

11. George Hendy – 7
The two-try slayer of Munster as a sub in the round of 16, Ollie Sleightholme’s unavailability got him the start here. He gave Leinster their early onslaught invite with a soft knock-on when poorly covering a kick-through, but he is a lovely operator and his 59th-minute comeback-launching try was a peach.

10. Fin Smith – 8.5
Leinster initially had this gem of a youngster all worked out, as was seen with how Ross Byrne picked off his pass on halfway with the Saints seven points down and needing respite. Accelerated down the finishing straight, however, raising his all-round game brilliantly, ending with a crazy tackle count and also landing two ballsy touchline conversions. The future England No10.

9. Alex Mitchell – 7.5
Usually enjoys more of a running game at club level compared to his Test-level efforts with England, but his kicking helped get the Saints back into this contest. Had momentum flowing their way before he exited on 69.

1. Alex Waller – 6.5
The soon-to-retire prop warrior gave as good as he had in his 55 minutes, starting with a scrum penalty win and then getting another late in the opening half.

2. Curtis Langdon – 7.5
Another top tackler, his defiance was best seen with his drive in the contact to the breakdown where the penalty advantage became the prompt for Saints to finally create that late first-half try chance wasted by Ramm. A galvanizing presence while he was on.

3. Trevor Davison – 6
Engine can’t be faulted as he was another busy tackler but he badly erred at the scrum, costing his team three points on the half-hour and then conceding again soon after at another set-piece. His last act before exiting on 56 was getting penalised at an important scrum just five metres from the Leinster line.

4. Alex Moon – 7.5
Another of the cavalry added to the pack after last weekend’s league slip against Harlequins, he was an important part of the glue that kept this Northampton team together in that dark period after the break. Excellent hands in giving Hendy the try assist.

5. Alex Coles – 7
Another whose grittiness was valuable in ensuring the game wasn’t done and dusted way too early. Tackled his heart out but did have a brain fart playing the nine just after his team got it back to 10-20. Was saved by Byrne failing to punish with a missed penalty.

6. Courtney Lawes – 8
As was the case with England at the World Cup, he showed up best when under the pump. Just look at the immense turnover penalty won off Joe McCarthy just metres from his line near half-time with his team 15 points down. There was another around halfway with his team 10 points down and fighting for their inspired last-quarter flourish.

7. Sam Graham – 6.5
The least known cog in his team’s back row, he stuck at it against the odds and can be pleased the tide had turned when he exited on 64

8. Juarno Augustus – 8
Back in the row with Lewis Ludlam sidelined, his vigilance in the 22 resulted in one chunky tackle on Lowe and another that forced a spill from Jamison Gibson-Park when things were looking bleak early on. Finished the game as his pack’s best ball carrier, with one second-half kick and chase from halfway showing his lovely footballing skills. An excellent showing.

Phil Dowson ran a smart operation, making changes that upped the effort of his team incrementally. He will be especially pleased with Tom Seabrook, who was a 74th-minute try-scorer, while the grand efforts of Sam Matavesi and Elliot Millar-Mills also caught the eye in showcasing their strength in depth.



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