Sensational Scarlets shock Northampton Saints

The Scarlets all but ended Northampton’s chances of reaching consecutive Heineken Cup finals with a 23-28 bonus point victory over the Saints at Franklins Gardens in Pool 1 of the Heineken Cup.

Northampton lost England fullback shortly before the match which meant that George Pisi was a late replacement starter but the bad luck continued throughout the night for the Saints.

As much as the Scarlets were brilliant Northampton Saints were inept and almost looked uninterested in the match and trailed throughout the match after the Scarlets scored in the first three minutes.

Northampton fought their way back on the scoreboard at the death and even scored the last try just before full time and ccould have stolen the result with another try but in truth it would not have been a deserved win by any means as Scarlets were a league above.

Man of the match Rhys Priestland picked up where he left off in New Zealand for Wales and controlled the game with ease.

A second loss for Northampton means that have a mountain to climb if they are to reach the Heineken Cup play offs.

After the heartbreak of their 84th minute defeat in Munster, Northampton Saints were given no respite as they returned to Franklin’s Gardens to face a supercharged Scarlets side who took the lead in the second minute and never lost it.

Having opened their account with a good home win over Castres Olympique, Matthew Rees brought his side into England to try to find an antidote to the power of the Saints’ scrum and driving line-out.

They must have done their homework because from the first scrum they fashioned a blindside try for full back Liam Williams and never looked back from there. Welsh World Cup hero Rhys Priestland added the conversion and the Scarlets were on their way to a famous win.

The Saints hadn’t been beaten in a European game since Biarritz Olympique went away with the spoils way back in 2007 and, of course, had gone eight games unbeaten on their way to their second final last season.

But their defeat at the hands of Leinster in Cardiff last May was the start of a run of what are now three consecutive defeats. If the loss in Limerick in Round 1 was a bitter pill to swallow, as Ronan O’Gara landed his last gasp drop goal, home director of rugby Jim Mallinder had no qualms about this second Pool defeat.

“We have to look at ourselves and we were very disappointing in many areas. We played badly and deserved to come second,” admitted Mallinder.

“They put us under a lot of pressure at the breakdown and we didn’t look after the ball well enough. Our performance wasn’t good enough.

“This was always going to be a tight Pool, but to lose our first two games is a massive blow to our chances of qualifying for the quarter-finals this year.”

The Saints’ scrum grew in confidence, and power, as the first-half wore on, but the Scarlets dominated possession and looked the most dangerous of the two sides and likely to score. Ryan Lamb landed a penalty after 18 minutes, but there was drama from the restart.

Priestland kicked high and deep into the home 22 and Scottish wing Sean Lamont chased and jumped to tap down ahead of Courtney Lawes.

TV replays later showed that Lamont may have been in front of the kicker at the drop out, and both Chris Ashton and Lee Dickson thought the ball had gone forward from Lamont’s leap, but play was allowed to go on and Aaron Shingler picked up and outpaced Ashton to score in the left corner.

Priestland’s inch perfect, touchline conversion merely added insult to injury and there was worse to come before the half-time whistle.

Two more Lamb penalties cut the deficit to five points and now more pressure was coming from the home side.

But a sky high bomb from Priestland was dropped by Samoan international George Pisi, who was drafted in at short notice to replace the injure

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