Myler boots Saints to euro glory
May 22, 2009
Northampton captain Bruce Reihana lifts the European Challenge Cup at The Stoop
© Getty Images
Five penalties from the boot of fly-half Stephen Myler propelled Northampton to a 15-3 victory over Bourgoin in their European Challenge Cup Final clash at The Stoop.
The Saints booked a place in next season's Heineken Cup, and condemed Premiership rivals Wasps to the second-tier Challenge Cup, after surviving a ferocious assault from the French bruisers from the Top 14.
Instead Bourgoin's French rivals Brive, who include England internationals Andy Goode, Steve Thompson, Riki Flutey and Jamie Noon in their ranks, will take the last remaining spot in Europe's premier club competition.
Myler, the England Saxons fly-half, laid the foundations for Saints' triumph with in a fiery contest containing numerous flashpoints. Brawls erupted throughout the evening, the worst of which was when substitute Thomas Genevois landed a cheap shot on Courtney Lawes who was then attacked by a posse of Bourgoin players.
Genevois was sent off for the punch with five minutes to go while Neil Best and Morgan Parra were shown yellow cards earlier as referee George Clancy was subjected to a difficult night. Victory brought with it only Saints' second piece of major silverware and their first since winning the Heineken Cup in 2000, making them the third English club to complete the European double.
Bourgoin, battle hardened by Top 14 action over the last two weekends, clearly intended to soften up their opponents who had not played since beating Saracens in the semi-finals on May 1. But Saints took everything thrown at them and kept the scoreboard ticking over through Myler, keeping their own discipline intact in the process.
The occasional flashes of brilliance in the first half made way for an attritional contest which looked beyond Bourgoin, conquerors of London Irish in the semis, heading into the final quarter. Inspired by their rampaging props Arnaud Tchougong and Karena Wihongi, Bourgoin weathered a strong start by Saints and hit back with some thrilling play that created a half-chance for Jean-Francis Coux.
Amazingly the ubiquitous Tchougong, playing like an openside, was in support of the winger but the move broke down and two brawls erupted. Play swept from end to end, Myler slotting a second penalty and then linking up nicely with the lively Paul Diggin to start another attack.
Bourgoin's France fly-half Benjamin Boyet used the up and under whenever possible but the tactic met with little reward. Boyet's half-back partner Parra slotted a long-range penalty as the last 10 minutes of the first half became far tighter with the mounting tension sparking a large punch-up.
Best and Parra were judged to be the worst offenders by Clancy who brandished yellow cards to both players, but the ill-feeling clearly lingered. Saints moved further ahead with a third Myler penalty and the second half started with some bulldozing runs by man of the match Dylan Hartley and Yann David.
As expected Bourgoin were dominating the scrum but Saints were masters in the loose, putting the visitors under pressure and winning a penalty which Myler converted. The match was becoming increasingly attritional yet the chances to score were still falling Saints' way as Myler booted his fifth penalty with 10 minutes to go.
Bourgoin looked finished but they were determined to leave their mark on Saints, Genevois receiving his marching orders after blindsiding the hapless Lawes.
Northampton: Foden, Diggin, Clarke, Downey, Reihana, Myler, Dickson, Tonga'uiha, Hartley, Murray, Fernandez Lobbe, Kruger, Best, S Gray, Easter
Replacements: Ansbro for Clarke (70), Everitt for Myler (79), Dickens for Dickson (66), Smith for Tonga'uiha (74), Sharman for Hartley (78), Lawes for Fernandez Lobbe (40), Day for Kruger (70).
Sin Bin: Best (36).
Bourgoin: A Forest, Coetzee, Viazzo, David, Coux, Boyet, Parra, Tchougong, J Genevois, Wihongi, Levast, Basson, Frier, Jooste, Labrit.
Replacements: Laloo for Viazzo (80), Denos for Coux (56), M Forest for Parra (74), Cardinali for Tchougong (68), Vigneaux for J Genevois (58), S. Nicolas for Basson (52), T Genevois for Labrit (63).
Sin Bin: Parra (36).
Sent Off: T Genevois (75).
Referee: George Clancy (Ireland)
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