Northampton Saints into Heineken Cup Semis

Northampton Saints secured a place in the Heineken Cup Semifinals after they beat Ulster 23-13 at stadium:mk in Milton Keynes


Northampton lived up to their billing as favourites as they advanced to the semi-finals of the European Cup.


The only English side left in the competition joined Leinster and Perpignan in the final four with the last ticket being decided between French clubs Biarritz and Toulouse who play in San Sebastien later Sunday.


Northampton had entered the quarter-finals as the top seeds being the only team unbeaten through the pool stages, but had to power back in the second half after trailing by three points at the break.


They next meet Perpignan who came away with a tight 29-25 victory over another French team Toulon in Barcelona on Saturday.


In a match between former European champions, the Saints got off to a blistering start, taking advantage of early Ulster nerves with Soane Tonga’uiha touching down a try after just two minutes.


The Tongan prop steamrollered his way down the middle and stretched his right arm over the line to slam down with Stephen Myler converting.


But Ulster launched a series of attacks which paid dividends with Andrew Trimble touching down and Ian Humphreys’ boot ensuring the Irish lead 10-13 at half-time.


A Myler penalty levelled proceedings 13-13 with half an hour to go and ten minutes later the Saints were ahead when Lee Dickson scored the decisive try, which Myler converted.


A further Myler penalty put Northampton ten points ahead, as the fly-half accounted for 13 of his side’s points, to ensure Northampton will return to Milton Keynes for their semi-final against Perpignan.


Ulster fought for a late try but could not find their way past the hosts.


On Saturday, four Jonathan Sexton penalties and an Isa Nacewa try ensured Leinster reached their third successive European semi-finals with a 17-10 win over Leicester at Dublin’s Aviva Stadium to book a final four showdown with Biarritz or Toulouse later this month.


It was another blow for Leicester’s England half-backs Toby Flood and Ben Youngs whose Six Nations Grand Slam hopes were ended in the same stadium just a few weeks ago.


Fly-half Sexton, who kicked 14 points when Ireland defeated England, proved solid again and ended Leicester’s bid for a third European and domestic double after 2001 and 2002.


Leicester’s cause was hampered when England lock Louis Deacon went off injured early, and Alesana Tuilagi’s 43rd-minute touchdown was ruled out by the video referee.


The English side replied however with a late Rob Hawkins touchdown that Toby Flood converted to add to an earlier penalty.


In Barcelona, full-back Jerome Porical kicked 19 points as Perpignan powered their way past Toulon, as they target their second final after finishing runners-up to Toulouse in 2003.


England star Jonny Wilkinson failed to inspire his side despite kicking four from five attempts, although Toulon lead by five points going into the second half.


Perpignan, buoyed by the support of their regional Catalan fans, did not disappoint the 55,000 crowd packed into Barcelona’s Olympic stadium.


Adrien Plante (51) and Perry Freshwater (72) scored Perpignan’s tries with George Smith (40), South African captain Joe Van Niekerk (53) and Fabien Cibray (80+1) touching down for Toulon.


Final Score Northampton Saints 23 Ulster Rugby 13



Scorers


Northampton Saints
Try – L Dickson, S Tonga’uiha
Conversion – S Myler (2)
Penalty – S Myler (3)


Ulster Rugby
Try – A Trimble; Conversion – I Humphreys
Penalty – I Humphreys (2)


Heineken Man of the Match: C Lawes (Northampton Saints)


Referee: Romain Poite (France)


Teams


Northampton

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