sport

Saints see off London Welsh

Northampton moved into the play-off positions in the Premiership for at least 24 hours with a hard-fought 23-16 home win over London Welsh.

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.