French champions Castres got their Heineken Cup campaign off to a winning start on Saturday with a 19-13 victory over Northampton.
French champions Castres got their Heineken Cup campaign off to a winning start on Saturday with a 19-13 victory over Northampton Saints at Stade Pierre Antoine.
Castres resisted everything Saints threw at them in the second half to ground out a hoem win.
The Top 14 champions got off to a flying start as winger Romain Martial intercepted a loose pass from Luther Burrell and sprinted the length of the field to score the opening try of the game inside the first 10 minutes.
Northampton regrouped as the half wore on though and Stephen Myler continued his excellent kicking form this season with a penalty on the half-hour mark but, after Ben Foden was sent to the sin bin, Rory Kockott restored the hosts' seven-point lead with a long-range penalty to make it 10-3 at the break.
Saints threatened to inflict a rare home defeat on Castres, who have lost just one match at Stade Pierre Antoine in the Top 14 since the beginning of last season, at various stages in the second half.
Dylan Hartley got his side right back into the match 10 minutes after the interval after Brice Mach fumbled a ball that was knocked back from a line-out and the England hooker was quickest to pounce on the ball and stretch his arm out over the line.
However, Kockott was ever-reliable with the boot and knocked over three penalties during the course of the second half as the French side used all of their nous and experience to close the game out.
Northampton will be pleased to have come away from the south of France with a losing bonus point though and that could prove to be pivotal when the so-called 'pool of death' reaches its conclusion in January.
Pens: Kockott 4
Pens: Myler 2
Yellow card: Foden
Castres: 15 Geoffrey Palis, 14 Romain Martial, 13 Romain Cabannes, 12 Remi Lamerat, 11 Max Evans, 10 Remi Tales (capt), 9 Rory Kockott, 9 Antonie Claassen, 7 Piula Faasalele, 6 Jannie Bornman, 5 Rodrigo Capo Ortega, 4 Richie Gray, 3 Anton Peikrishvili, 2 Brice Mach, 1 Mihaita Lazar.
Replacements: 16 Marc-Antoine Rallier, 17 Karena Wihongi, 18 Michael Coetzee, 19 Christophe Samson, 20 Pedrie Wannenburg, 21 Julien Tomas, 22 Remi Grosso, 23 Daniel Kirkpatrick.
Northampton Saints: 15 Ben Foden, 14 Ken Pisi, 13 George Pisi, 12 Luther Burrell, 11 George North, 10 Steve Myler, 9 Kahn Fotualii, 8 Sam Dickinson, 7 Calum Clark, 6 Tom Wood, 5 Christian Day, 4 Courtney Lawes, 3 Salesi Ma'afu, 2 Dylan Hartley (capt), 1 Alex Corbisiero.
Replacements: 16 Mikey Haywood, 17 Alex Waller, 18 Tom Mercey, 19 Samu Manoa, 20 Phil Dowson, 21 Lee Dickson, 22 James Wilson, 23 Jamie Elliott.
Venue: Stade Pierre Antoine
Referee: George Clancy (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Gary Conway (Ireland), Eddie Hogan-O'Connell (Ireland)
Television match official: Simon McDowell (Ireland)