Tuesday 20 February 2018

Saints maintain record in high-octane tussle

Northampton 23 Cardiff 15

Wingers Paul Diggin and England star Chris Ashton showed their finishing power with the tries which enabled Northampton to maintain their 100 per cent record in Pool 1 of the Heineken Cup.

The Saints have now won three out of three while Cardiff, beaten twice so far, have huge ground to make up to qualify for the quarter-finals.

Fly-half Stephen Myler kicked the other 13 Saints points with Dan Parks landing five penalties for Cardiff.

A total of five players were sin-binned in a high-octane clash featuring an intense battle between two packs fired up by a pre-match controversy over scrummaging.

After Parks landed a third-minute penalty to kick Cardiff into the lead, the Northampton scrum was penalised in the sixth and eighth minutes.

Following yet another scrum, Northampton scrum-half Ryan Powell whipped the ball out to Diggin who squeezed over in the corner, with Myler landing the conversion from the touchline.

But, despite being on the receiving end for most of the first half, Cardiff led 9-7 at the interval thanks to the consistent kicking of Parks.

Myler reduced the deficit to two points with a penalty and the Saints took the lead two minutes into the second half after coming out with all guns firing.

Roger Wilson was hauled down just short of the Cardiff line and then the visitors used all their defensive strength to stop the Northampton pack rumbling over their line.

But the numbers required left them short of resources out wide and the Saints whipped the ball to England full-back Ben Foden who sent Ashton over, with Myler again converting to restore the Northampton lead.

Two more Myler penalties, in the 54th and 66th minutes, denied Cardiff the consolation of a losing bonus point despite a further penalty from Parks after England lock Courtney Lawes was sin-binned for playing the ball when he was off his feet.

Scorers -- Northampton: P Diggin, C Ashton tries; S Myler 2 cons, 3 pens. Cardiff Blues: D Parks 5 pens

Northampton: B Foden; C Ashton, J Clarke, J Downey, P Diggin; S Myler, R Powell (L Dickson 64); S Tonga'uiha (R Dreyer 78), D Hartley, B Mujati (T Mercey 75), C Lawes, C Day, P Dowson (C Clark 66), T Wood (B Sharman 76), R Wilson

Cardiff Blues: C Czekaj; R Mustoe (R Williams 76), C Laulala, T Shanklin, T James; D Parks, R Rees; G Jenkins, G Williams, T Filise, B Davies, P Tito (M Paterson 54), M Molitika, M Williams (S Warburton 54), X Rush

Referee: Romain Poite (France)

Sunday Independent

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