Northampton Saints upset the odds with a 34-21 victory over Clermont in an entertaining Champions Cup encounter at Franklin's Gardens on Saturday.
It was Clermont who got off to the best possible start as Remi Grosso scored an excellent try after just two minutes, bashing his way past two defenders and keeping himself inside the field of play on the left touchline. It all started as Clermont won the ball from their own kick-off and went on the counter-attack.
Northampton responded ten minutes later with a well-worked Teimana Harrison try as ball was switched between Saints' backs and forwards in slick interplay from the hosts. Unfortunately, Harry Mallinder's conversion hit the post.
Soon after, Isaia Toeava restored the visitors' lead as Fritz Lee drew in two defenders with a powerful run on the wing before he made the offload to Nick Abendanon who passed to Toeava who put down the accelerator and raced to the corner, bumping off a tackler to crash over for the five-pointer.
However, the Saints responded on the half hour mark. Ben Foden's expertly-weighted chip kick in between the defence bounced perfectly for Anthony Tuitavake who collected well, stepped in off his left past a couple of defenders to run in under the posts.
Three minutes in to the second half, Foden collected a poor Clermont kick and immediately launched the counter attack selling the dummy to Grosso before pinning his ears back and heading all the way to dot down in the corner. Mallinder added the extras to make it 20-15 to the Saints.
But Morgan Parra hit back with a pair of penalties before Mallinder shanked one badly and suddenly the score was 21-20 to the French side.
The topsy-turvy nature of the match continued as the lead changed hands once again when the Saints secured the bonus-point try as Ken Pisi got his name on the try column. Mallinder's conversion made it 27-21 to Northampton Saints with 63 minutes gone.
Soon after, the Saints extended their lead even further as they showed excellent ball retention and patience, scoring from 13th phase through replacement scrum-half Cobus Reinach. Mallinder slotted the conversion as the Saints ran out shock 34-21 winners.
Tries: Harrison, Tuitavake, Foden, Pisi, Reinach
Cons: Mallinder 3
Tries: Grosso, Toeava
Pens: Parra 3
Northampton: 15 Ahsee Tuala, 14 Ken Pisi, 13 Rob Horne, 12 Tom Stephenson, 11 Ben Foden, 10 Harry Mallinder, 9 Nic Groom, 8 Teimana Harrison, 7 Tom Wood, 6 Courtney Lawes, 5 Christian Day, 4 Api Ratuniyarawa, 3 Kieran Brookes, 2 Dylan Hartley (c), 1 Campese Ma’afu
Replacements: 16 Mikey Haywood, 17 Francois van Wyk, 18 Jamal Ford-Robinson, 19 Michael Paterson, 20 Mitch Eadie, 21 Cobus Reinach, 22 James Grayson, 23 Nafi Tuitavake
Clermont: 15 Isaia Toeava, 14 Nick Abendanon, 13 Peter Betham, 12 Rémi Lamerat, 11 Remi Grosso, 10 Luke McAlister, 9 Morgan Parra, 8 Fritz Lee, 7 Alexandre Lapandry, 6 Damien Chouly, 5 Sébastien Vahaamahina, 4 Flip van der Merwe, 3 Rabah Slimani, 2 Benjamin Kayser, 1 Etienne Falgoux
Replacements: 16 Yohan Beheregaray, 17 Raphael Chaume, 18 Davit Zirakashvili, 19 Paul Jedrasiak, 20 Arthur Iturria, 21 Charly Trussardi, 22 Scott Spedding, 23 Viktor Kolelishvili
Referee: George Clancy (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Sean Gallagher (Ireland), Leo Colgan (Ireland)
Television match official: Peter Fitzgibbon (Ireland)