Northampton book Challenge Cup final spot

Northampton Saints booked a place in the Amlin Challenge Cup final when they beat Harlequins 18-10 at Franklin’s Gardens on Friday.

Northampton will face the winners of the other Semi-final between London Wasps and Bath Rugby on Friday May the 23rd. 

Kahn Fotuali’i won man of the match after setting up a try for Tom Collins  and scoring one of his own.

The 2009 tournament winners ended the hopes of a fourth title for the competition’s
most successful side thanks to a try in either half from wing Tom Collins and
scrum half Kahn Fotuali’I at Franklin’s Gardens.

Saints led 11-3 at the interval after Collins crossed out wide six minutes
after replacing the injured George North and Amlin Man-of-the-Match Fotuali’I
put them in real command with a fine score just five minutes after the restart.

Quins looked dead and buried at 18-3 down but Nick Easter’s try gave them
hope with a quarter of an hour remaining. It wasn’t enough, though, as Saints
dug deep to set up a Cardiff Arms Park clash with either London Wasps or Bath
Rugby on Friday, May 23.

The night began promisingly for the visitors as Jamie Elliott saw yellow for
tackling Mike Brown in the air with just three minutes played but they failed
to capitalise while the right wing was in the sin bin. Ben Botica fell short
with a 50 metre penalty with 11 minutes played but it was the only time they
really threatened the scoreboard while they enjoyed the early numerical advantage.

Stephen Myler eventually opened the scoring for Saints with 22 minutes gone
courtesy of a 40-metre penalty from straight in front of the posts and it was
the hosts who hit next, this time for the first try of the night.

Ross McMillan’s powerful burst set the platform deep inside the Quins 22 before
Fotuali’I produced a moment of magic to put Collins over in the corner. With
a penalty already coming for offside, the Samoan star produced the cleverest
of lofted chips ahead and Collins’ diving catch supplied the appropriate finish.

Myler pulled the touchline extras narrowly wide of the near post but Northampton
were eight points up with 27 minutes gone despite the blow of losing North.

Saints were buoyed by the change in scoreline and then went close again three
minutes past the half hour as Tom Stephenson and Phil Dowson made inroads before
Calum Clark lost control in contact.

Quins lost lock George Robson before Myler added insult to injury with a 35th
minute penalty that pushed Saints 11 points in front.

The visitors threatened to respond in style in the closing stages of the first
half after Tom Guest put them on the front foot and patient phase play left
Saints in trouble.

The chance went begging when Charlie Walker knocked on as they attempted to
move the ball from right to left, but they did get off the mark when Saints
were penalised at the resulting scrum and Botica sent over the close-range penalty
seconds before the break.

England full back Brown failed to come out after the restart but Botica came
within an inch or two of narrowing the gap further when he sent a 40-metre penalty
just across the face of the posts.

Their mini revival was shortlived, though, as Fotuali’I sprinted home for
Saints’ second score with just five minutes gone in the second period. Fotuali’I
cut a fine arcing line after picking up a loose ball at a midfield ruck and
his pace took him around and then through the covering defence.

Referee George Clancy called for the TMO amid suggestions that the Northampton
No9 might have knocked on in the build up but Jim Yuille saw no clear and obvious
reason to rub out the try, much to the delight of the Franklin’s Gardens faithful.

Myler’s well-struck conversion from 10 metres in

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