Mallinder delights in Cup triumph
Huw Baines at Sixways
March 21, 2010
Saints boss Jim Mallinder thanks his side's fans at Sixways Stadium © Getty Images
Northampton boss Jim Mallinder was happy man after seeing his side book a place in next season's Heineken Cup with a thrilling 30-24 victory over Gloucester in this season's Anglo-Welsh Cup Final.
Victory over their Premiership rivals also completed stage one of a possible trophy treble, with Northampton facing a Heineken Cup quarter-final against Munster next month and currently standing just two points behind Guinness Premiership leaders Leicester.
"Cup finals are all about winning," he said. "You would take 3-0 in a final, but it is more encouraging when you can go out and play like that. There were two teams who wanted to play rugby, and I thought it was a good advert for the game. It shows how far the side has progressed, and it was great for our fantastic set of fans who have supported us through thick and thin. It was special."
Saints' pulsating triumph was secured through tries by prop Soane Tonga'uiha, centre James Downey and scrum-half Lee Dickson in a game when the lead changed hands five times. Fly-half Stephen Myler's 100% goalkicking return harvested 15 points, and that proved the difference against a Gloucester side that underlined its post-Christmas resurgence.
Myler's opposite number Nicky Robinson kicked 14 points, including the conversion of a penalty try, while flanker Akapusi Qera also touched down, but Saints deservedly shaded an epic tussle.
"The win will give us a lot of confidence," added Mallinder. "It is a tournament you have got to work hard in, and we have still got a chance in two other competitions, so there is plenty to play for."
Northampton's England trio of Ben Foden, Chris Ashton and Dylan Hartley all made it to Worcester from Six Nations duty in Paris, and they witnessed a thrilling contest. Saints' undoubted star though, was Tonga'uiha, whose all-round excellence played a key role in Northampton securing silverware.
"He had a really good game," said Mallinder. "He has been good for us all season, and he is really developing."
Gloucester boss Bryan Redpath could not mask his disappointment after the west country club finished as beaten Anglo-Welsh finalists for a second successive season. Last year, they shipped 50 points in losing to Cardiff Blues at Twickenham, and although there was never any danger of Saints inflicting similar damage, Gloucester still came up short.
"It is never easy, losing finals," said Redpath. "It was a game that could have gone either way - Nicky Robinson said he'd scored in the second-half (the television match official ruled otherwise) - but that's life.
"I can't change it now. Nicky said he had scored, but it didn't happen and you get on with it. We didn't control possession well enough and there were one or two little errors. Credit to Northampton. They worked hard and battled hard for each other. I am chuffed for Jim."
Huw Baines is the Assistant Editor of ESPNscrum.
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