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Jonny May injury mars Leicester’s dismantling of Northampton

The Guardian logo The Guardian 06/10/2018 Paul Rees at Franklin's Gardens
Leicester’s Jonny May leaves the field after injuring his arm against Northampton. © REX/Shutterstock Leicester’s Jonny May leaves the field after injuring his arm against Northampton.

Northampton’s bid to achieve a hat-trick of Premiership victories against their East Midlands rivals was washed away in the rain as Leicester’s full-back Jonah Holmes defied the conditions to inspire his side’s first successful road trip this season.

The match was switched to Twickenham to help raise funds for Northampton’s former Australia centre Rob Horne, who lost the use of his right arm after making a tackle in the derby against Leicester at Welford Road last season.

That incident summed up how physically demanding rugby union has become, and here four players needed to be replaced before the interval – including Leicester’s England wing Jonny May, who suffered a shoulder injury after running into Teimana Harrison.

May’s right arm was put in a sling and his forlorn expression as he sat with the Leicester replacements for the rest of the first half suggested he will struggle to make England’s opening autumn international against South Africa here next month.

Northampton lost their wing Ahsee Tuala with a leg injury before scrum-half Cobus Reinach left the field with blood pouring from his nose, returning after the break. One minute before the interval, Leicester’s flanker David Denton was taken off for a head injury assessment after mistiming a challenge on Reinach’s replacement, Alex Mitchell.

Leicester were by then 20-5 ahead after playing a counter-attacking game in the wet conditions. The Saints had enjoyed 70% of the possession but were trailing by two tries to one. Former Tiger Jamie Gibson’s early score, which came after David Ribbans won a penalty after appearing to simulate being impeded in a line-out by Dan Cole, was trumped by efforts from Ben Youngs and May’s replacement Jordan Olowofela, who scored after Jonah Holmes had wrong-footed the defence.

Jonah Holmes impressed for Leicester © Getty Images Jonah Holmes impressed for Leicester

Leicester’s first try came after Dan Biggar’s high kick was taken by Adam Thompstone, who passed to Holmes out of the back of his hand. The full-back drew the defence before unselfishly passing inside to Youngs, and two minutes later he broke from just outside his 22 and left three defenders on the ground before freeing Olowofela.

The tries belied the conditions. George Ford, who endured a mixed afternoon, put Leicester ahead with a penalty and restored his side’s lead after Gibson’s try with his second, but Northampton had the last word when Cole was penalised at a scrum the Tigers only needed to win to end the opening half. Northampton opted for another scrum and eventually drove Ribbans over the line.

Leicester looked to protect their lead in the second period, extending their lead with Ford’s third penalty. They were comfortable until Tom Collins prompted a Northampton break-out on the hour and the Saints laid siege to the line of the side with the worst defensive record in the Premiership.

They eventually scored with 10 minutes to go, when Mike Haywood finished off a driving maul, but Biggar failed to add the two points that would have put Northampton within a converted try of victory. Last time the two sides met there was in the 2013 Premiership final when Dylan Hartley was sent off, but they have both since fallen some way from the top and this largely subdued derby meandered to its conclusion.

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