Castres end Northampton’s Heineken Cup dream

Northampton Saints hopes of reaching a consecutive Heineken Cup final when they were soundly beaten 41-22 by Castres at Stade Pierre Antoine in France.

The Saints – beaten finalists in last season’s competition and who last went
out at this stage eight years ago – didn’t do themselves any favours in being
reduced to 14 men twice in the match as Castres wing Romain Martial scored two
tries – his first for the club since he joined from Narbonne two years ago.

Romain Teulet scored 21 of their other points with his boot to help his club
to their first victory in any rugby since October 22.

There was something of a surprise in another of the early matches as Italian
side Treviso beat ailing two-time European Cup finalists Biarritz 30-26, set
up mainly on an explosive first-half which saw them score three tries and lead
24-12 at the break.

Castres took an early lead against their English opponents with a try by Steve
Malonga but Saints were back on level terms soon afterwards as flanker Mark
Sorenson burrowed over and Steve Myler added the two points.

The hosts spoilt a great chance to score another try a minute later as they
made inroads into the Northampton 22 but an infringement cost them a penalty
which allowed the English side to clear – but when they too conceded a penalty
Teulet slotted it over to give Castres a 10-7 lead after 20 minutes.

Teulet – a prolific points scorer over the past few seasons and nicknamed ‘RoboCop’
for his singular style of preparing for penalty kicks – added another penalty
to extend the lead to 13-7.

However, in an open and entertaining if error-strewn encounter it was the visitors
who grabbed the second try as winger Jamie Elliott went over in the 32nd minute
after being brilliantly set up by Samoan George Pisi.

Myler was unable to convert from the touchline to leave them a point adrift
of Castres, who went four points ahead as Teulet landed another penalty.

Myler cost his side even more dearly just before half-time when he was rather
harshly yellow-carded for a high tackle.

Almost immediately Castres added another try as wing Martial ran on to former
All Black Chris Masoe’s brilliant grubber kick to touch down for his first try
for the club – Teulet converted to make it 23-12 at half-time.

However, the Saints rebounded after the break before Myler rejoined the fray
as Elliott scored his second try of the game intercepting Ibrahim Diarra’s pass
deep inside the English side’s 22 and ran it back the length of the pitch –
Tom May failed to convert.

However, just as Myler did return Teulet added another penalty and give the
hosts a nine point cushion with half-an-hour remaining.

The Saints were right back in it though as after good work by Pisi and Ben
Foden American No8 Samu Nanoa went over to at least guarantee a bonus point
for tries scored – Myler failed to convert to leave them trailing 26-22.

Saints hopes, however, suffered a hammerblow in the 63rd minute as Tom Wood
was sin-binned – a week after being redcarded – and Teulet added the three points
to leave the English outfit requiring a converted try to draw level.

That task became even more demanding as Martial went over for his second of
the afternoon, the remarkable Teulet added the conversion from the touchline
– Martial for good measure set up Diarra for another try to round off a memorable

Final Score Castres 41 (23) Northampton Saints 22 (12)


Tries: Malonga, Martial 2, Diarra
Penalties: Teulet 5
Conversions: Teulet 3

Northampton Saints
Tries: Sorenson, Elliott 2, Manoa
Conversions: Myler

Referee: John Lacey (Ireland)

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