Planet Rugby

Luck of the draw cost Saints

18th January 2014 11:00

Share:

George North of Northampton Saints and Brice Dulin of Castres Olympique

No free ride: Castres came to play

With Northampton likely to miss out on the Heineken Cup quarter-finals, director of rugby Jim Mallinder lamented being drawn in a tough pool.

Saints put in a dogged performance to beat Castres 13-3 at Franklin's Gardens on Friday but Leinster's thrashing of Ospreys meant that the English club had to settle for second place in Pool One.

Only an unlikely set of results this weekend would see Northampton finish as one of the two best runners-up and avoid failing to reach the knockout stages for a third consecutive year.

Castres had nothing to play for on Friday yet the strength of their display, especially on defence, highlighted what a tough group it was.

While content with his team's performance, Mallinder feels it was the defeat in France in Round One that ultimately cost his side top spot in the pool.

"They are the French champions and they proved it," said Mallinder after the hard-fought tussle.

"Their defence was very good, their line speed cut down our options, stopped us getting on the front foot and getting any momentum.

"You asked what we have learned from the Heineken Cup this year, and first of all you could really do with an Italian side in your pool rather than three quality sides.

"We will also look at the game down at Castres and think that was a big opportunity we missed. We gave them an interception try early on. We came back into the game and very nearly won the game. But when you are up against good sides like that you have really got to take your opportunities."

Northampton skipper Dylan Hartley praised his side's character for squeezing out a positive result.

"Before the game I said 'let's not worry about the maths, let's just win tonight and see where we are at. Whatever competition we will be in we will give it a good crack'," said Hartley.

"We showed plenty of character to play to 80 minutes against the French champions and take that opportunity right at the end. As frustrating as it was to watch, playing it was equally frustrating.

"With nothing to play for you might have expected them to fold, but they didn't. We probably should have got the scoreboard ticking over early on, but I decided to go for the pushover try and it didn't come off. If we had gone 3-0, then 6-0, 9-0, 12-0 they might have shut up shop.

"But if you have a feel for it on the field you have to go for it, the scrum was dominant so you have to go for it."

Man of the Match Tom Wood said that while they didn't get the tries they wanted, Saints can be pleased with the win.

"We always want to push for four tries and go for five points," he told SaintsTV.

"We knew in the back of our minds that that was what it was going to take if we were going to put pressure on Leinster.

"But we were under no illusions. We were up against the Top 14 champions who brought a big heavy pack. There was speculation during the week about whether they'd bring a second team given that they're out of the competition, and away from home French teams can sometimes lose focus.

"But they came here to play and picked a pretty much full strength side. They gave us a real game. They were really stubborn in defence, came looking for the big hits and we had to front up.

"We took scrums early on with the view that we would grind them down and hope that some gaps would open up later on, but fair play to them, they're not Top 14 champions without good reason.

"They stuck with us all the way and it was just pleasing to get the win, never mind the four tries."

Forthcoming Fixtures
FixtureDetails
All times are local
Aviva Premiership
Saturday , April 19
Exeter vs SaleExeter vs Sale Preview
Bath vs WorcesterBath vs Worcester Preview
Wasps vs GloucesterWasps vs Gloucester Preview
Sunday , April 20
Northampton vs London IrishNorthampton vs London Irish Preview
Newcastle vs SaracensNewcastle vs Saracens Preview
More Aviva Premiership fixtures
RaboDirect PRO12
Saturday , April 19
Zebre vs EdinburghZebre vs Edinburgh Preview
Connacht vs MunsterConnacht vs Munster Preview
Sunday , April 20
Cardiff Blues vs ScarletsCardiff Blues vs Scarlets Preview
Newport Gwent D'gons vs OspreysNewport Gwent D
More RaboDirect PRO12 fixtures
Amlin Challenge Cup
Friday , April 25
Northampton vs Harlequins20:00
More Amlin Challenge Cup fixtures
Top 14
Friday , April 18
Castres vs MontpellierCastres vs Montpellier Preview
Saturday , April 19
Oyonnax vs Toulouse14:55
Perpignan vs Toulon17:00
Grenoble vs Bayonne18:30
Biarritz vs Brive18:30
Racing Metro Paris vs Clermont AuvergneRacing Metro Paris vs Clermont Auvergne Preview
Stade Francais vs Bordeaux-Begles20:35
More Top 14 fixtures
Super Rugby
Saturday , April 19
Waratahs vs BullsWaratahs vs Bulls Preview
Sharks vs CheetahsSharks vs Cheetahs Preview
Stormers vs LionsStormers vs Lions Preview
Friday , April 25
Blues vs Waratahs17:35
Brumbies vs Chiefs17:40
Sharks vs Highlanders19:10
More Super Rugby fixtures
Recent Results
FixtureDetails
All times are local
Super Rugby
Saturday , April 19
Chiefs 17 - 18 CrusadersChiefs vs Crusaders Report
More Super Rugby results
Aviva Premiership
Friday , April 18
Harlequins 24 - 20 LeicesterHarlequins vs Leicester Report
More Aviva Premiership results
RaboDirect PRO12
Leinster 62 - 7 Benetton TrevisoLeinster vs Benetton Treviso Report
Glasgow 27 - 9 UlsterGlasgow vs Ulster Report
More RaboDirect PRO12 results
Super Rugby
Hurricanes 39 - 20 BluesHurricanes vs Blues Report
Melbourne Rebels 22 - 16 Western Force
More Super Rugby results
Aviva Premiership
Sunday , April 13
Saracens 28 - 24 NorthamptonSaracens vs Northampton Report
London Irish 40 - 12 NewcastleLondon Irish vs Newcastle Report
Saturday , April 12
Worcester 33 - 38 ExeterWorcester vs Exeter Report
Leicester 27 - 15 WaspsLeicester vs Wasps Report
Gloucester 17 - 18 BathGloucester vs Bath Report
More Aviva Premiership results
RaboDirect PRO12
Benetton Treviso 45 - 27 Newport Gwent D'gonsBenetton Treviso vs Newport Gwent D
Munster 5 - 22 GlasgowMunster vs Glasgow Report
Scarlets 27 - 20 ZebreScarlets vs Zebre Report
More RaboDirect PRO12 results
Top 14
Bordeaux-Begles 20 - 22 ToulonBordeaux-Begles vs Toulon Report
Grenoble 30 - 36 Montpellier
Perpignan 22 - 12 Oyonnax
Toulouse 16 - 9 BriveToulouse vs Brive Report
Racing Metro Paris 37 - 7 Biarritz
Bayonne 24 - 19 Stade Francais
More Top 14 results
Super Rugby
Chiefs 22 - 16 Melbourne RebelsChiefs vs Melbourne Rebels Report
Lions 12 - 25 SharksLions vs Sharks Report
Cheetahs 31 - 52 CrusadersCheetahs vs Crusaders Report
Western Force 28 - 16 WaratahsWestern Force vs Waratahs Report
More Super Rugby results
Aviva Premiership
Friday , April 11
Sale Sharks 12 - 27 HarlequinsSale Sharks vs Harlequins Report
More Aviva Premiership results
Aviva Premiership Table
PosTeamPPts
1Saracens1976
2Northampton1966
3Leicester Tigers2064
4Bath1959
5Harlequins2058