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Thursday 27 July 2017

Jim Mallinder turns his attentions to Stade Francais after Connacht win

Jim Mallinder says Northampton will have to
Jim Mallinder says Northampton will have to "play a lot better" when they face Stade Francais

Northampton director of rugby Jim Mallinder was a relieved man as Saints just held off Connacht 21-15 to keep alive their hopes of European Champions Cup qualification for next season.

Saints now face a home tie with Stade Francais next Friday with the winners taking the last remaining place in next season's competition.

Nic Groom and Harry Mallinder scored tries for the home side with Mallinder converting one and adding three penalties.

Jim Mallinder said: "We knew they would stick together and be competitive throughout as we've never had an easy game against them.

"Remarkably I didn't have any problems raising the players for this game as they've been fantastic throughout the week.

"It's a terrific way to end the season with a home game against Stade but we'll have to play a lot better if we are going to win as they are getting better week by week.

"I'm not really a fan of these play-offs as it makes it a long season but we've been given a chance so we need to take that opportunity and from a financial point of view it's not the end of the world with two extra home games."

David Heffernan and Niyi Adeolokun scored tries for a spirited Connacht with Craig Donaldson converting one and kicking a penalty but there was to be no fairytale ending for their head coach, Pat Lam, who takes over at Bristol for next season.

Lam said: "I was proud of the effort and am happier to be leaving after this performance as opposed to a couple of very poor performances in recent weeks.

"We fronted up and worked hard off the ball but discipline and little errors cost us as we didn't have enough accuracy and needed to play at a quicker tempo.

"We had opportunities to win the game but didn't take them and that's been the story of our season.

"It wasn't an easy decision to make to leave Connacht after four years but while we are still the weakest province in terms of budget, there have been lots of changes for the better with the support of all four counties in Western Ireland being terrific."

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