Monday 18 December 2017

Saints sunk in five-star Castres show

Castres 41 Northampton 7

David Smith of Castres breaks clear of Stephen Myler to score their third try. Photo: David Rogers/Getty Images
David Smith of Castres breaks clear of Stephen Myler to score their third try. Photo: David Rogers/Getty Images
Antoine Dupont scores the fifth try for Castres. Photo: David Rogers/Getty Images
Northampton's Ben Foden is tackled by Florian Vialelle during the Champions Cup match against Castres. Photo: David Rogers/Getty Images Newsdesk Newsdesk

Castres ran in five tries in a demolition of old European rivals Northampton, courtesy of a dominant forward performance that saw the visitors' pack shoved all over the park. Winger David Smith was the main beneficiary of the hosts' total control up front in the ninth European meeting between the two sides.

He touched down twice - the first a saunter under the posts after captain Alex Tulou's powerful run punched a hole in the Saints' defence after 31 minutes, while his second came four minutes into the second period when he danced past two defenders to score in the corner following a smart offload from Thomas Combezou.

Smith should have notched his hat-trick little more than a minute later, but he was unable to hold on to a sleight-of-hand pass from Tulou with his route to the line clear. Smith's brace sandwiched a try for Antoine Tichit, who was shoved over the line by his forward colleagues. Benjamin Urdapilleta converted both.

Saints had turned down four relatively straightforward penalty chances in favour of kicks to the corner during a period of concerted pressure midway through the first half. But they were unable to make their possession tell, despite crossing the Castres line. After consulting with the TMO, the referee ruled the ball was held up, and the hosts simply shoved the Saints pack off the ball from the resulting five-metre scrum.

It was not the first time the Saints' pack had been embarrassed. The hosts' forwards were on a mission to prove that last week's dismantling at Leinster was an aberration. They pushed the Northampton unit off the ball time and time again. And captain Tulou was causing mayhem. Not even a yellow card for scrumhalf Rory Kockott seemed to alter the game plan - or affect their control.

Northampton, in the second half, were consigned to the role of doughty defenders. They barely broke into Castres territory in the opening quarter of the second half - and even when they managed to get over the gain-line, they were held at bay.

The game was over as a contest by the time Saints' winger James Wilson touched down for a consolation try with eight minutes left. There was still time for Castres to notch two more tries. Fittingly, it was a forward who scored the bonus-point try. Replacement Alex Bias charged over in the corner. And the home celebrations were under way when 19-year-old replacement Antoine Dupont burst clear for Castres' fifth.

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