Northampton Saints outscores Castres by four tries to three with back-row Teimana Harrison scoring twice in a 28-21 win.
Two tries for Harrison and one from Stephen Myler opened up a comfortable half-time lead before the French side found a way back in to the game.
Alexandre Bias and Julien Dumora carried over for the visitors, with the boot of Rory Kockott topping up their score to bring it level in the second half. A late try from Tom Wood sealed the bonus-point win for the Saints.
It didn’'t take long for Northampton to open their account after an early spell of pressure, when fly-half Myler timed his pass perfectly to allow Harrison to power his way over near the posts, making the conversion a formality.
Despite the Saints’ dominance, Castres converted the one chance they did get when Kockott kicked three points, before Jody Jenneker was sent to the sin-bin for an accumulation of offences in defence.
With only 14 men on the field and against the run of play, Castres hit back through flanker Bias to take a one-point lead thanks to a sensational one-handed off load from centre Robert Ebersohn.
The lead was short-lived though, as Myler carried over unchallenged just one minute later following a well-worked Northampton set piece. He then converted his score, taking his side six points clear.
Just before the interval the hosts’ had their third of the afternoon when excellent groundwork from flanker Wood won the turnover five metres out, giving Harrison the chance to pounce on a loose ball and score his second. Myler'’s kick saw the half-time score settle at 21-8.
A revitalised Castres came out after the break and dominated the early knockings of the second half. After playing through a total of 28 phases, outside half Dumora found a gap in the Northampton defence to carry over, seeing Kockott’'s conversion reduce the deficit to six points.
The visitors’ fight back continued through the boot of scrum-half Kockott, who kicked consecutive penalties to bring the scores level just before the hour.
Northampton kicked in to gear once again with 10 minutes left, when an overthrown lineout found it’s way to the hands of England back row Wood, who was helped by his teammates on his way to the whitewash. Myler added the conversion to make it a seven-point gap and seal the win.
Tries: Harrison 2, Myler, Wood
Cons: Myler 4
Tries: Bias, Dumora
Pens: Kockott 3
Yellow Card: Jenneker
Northampton Saints: 15 Ben Foden, 14 Juan Pablo Estelles, 13 Luther Burrell, 12 Harry Mallinder, 11 George North, 10 Stephen Myler, 9 Nic Groom, 8 Teimana Harrison, 7 Jamie Gibson, 6 Tom Wood (c), 5 Christian Day, 4 Courtney Lawes, 3 Kieran Brookes, 2 Mikey Haywood, 1 Alex Waller
Replacements: 16 Charlie Clare, 17 Ethan Waller, 18 Paul Hill, 19 James Craig, 20 Ben Nutley, 21 Lee Dickson, 22 JJ Hanrahan, 23 Ahsee Tuala
Castres: 15 Geoffrey Palis, 14 Horacio Agulla, 13 Afusipa Taumoepeau, 12 Robert Ebersohn, 11 David Smith, 10 Julien Dumora, 9 Rory Kockott, 8 Maama Vaipulu, 7 Alexandre Bias, 6 Yannick Caballero, 5 Victor Moreaux, 4 Loic Jacquet, 3 Damien Tussac, 2 Jody Jenneker, 1 Mihaita Lazar
Replacements: 16 Brice Mach, 17 Antoine Tichit, 18 Daniel Kotze, 19 Rodrigo Capo Ortega, 20 Antoine Dupont, 21 Benjamin Urdapilleta, 22 Steve Mafi, 23 Thomas Combezou
Referee: Andrew Brace (Ireland)
Assistant Referees: Leo Colgan (Ireland), Paul Haycock (Ireland)
TMO: Olly Hodges (Ireland)