Hartley buoyed by Saints victory
May 1, 2011
Northampton wing Chris Ashton is wrapped up during the game in Milton Keynes © Getty Images
Northampton captain Dylan Hartley admitted that his side will go into their Heineken Cup final clash with Leinster as underdogs but declared that the Saints are more than capable of beating the Irish outfit.
The Saints booked their place in Cardiff with a stirring 23-7 victory over Perpignan on Sunday afternoon which came courtesy of tries from Jon Clarke and Ben Foden and an impressive demolition of their opponents' much-vaunted scrum. Consequently, Hartley feels that Northampton have no reason to fear Leinster, who progressed to the final with a 32-23 win over Toulouse in Dublin on Saturday.
"I think we go in as underdogs - we've already been told that," the England hooker said. "I think we were under the radar even going into this game, to be honest, but we've worked hard together and we are in a cup final.
"It's a one-off game, and it's quite nice going in as underdogs. This team can beat any team on its day. We spoke in the week about gaining parity up front, but we got a little bit of dominance in the end. It takes 40 minutes of tiring out the opposition, and 20 minutes into the second half we started to get an edge."
Unsurprisingly, Saints boss Jim Mallinder was thrilled with his side's display, arguing that they had confounded some of their critics with their fully deserved success.
"I am delighted. I am really proud of the performance - it's a fantastic achievement," he said. "I think we've been criticised a bit in the past for being one one-dimensional with our forward power, but I was delighted today to see our all-round game.
"You always hope for a first half like that, and then it was a case of keeping playing the way we were playing. It is very important to savour the moment, to enjoy it and take a really long day off tomorrow. Then we are back in it - we have got to beat Leeds next Saturday to finish in the top four in the Premiership.
"It's all about winning - no-one remembers losing semi-finalists or losing finalists. We've done remarkably well, but we haven't won anything yet.
"We will look at Leinster and make sure we are accurate against them. They are full of international-quality players with recent experience of winning competitions."
Meanwhile, Perpignan prop Perry Freshwater conceded that the Catalans had been dominated up front.
"We wanted to get into them early, but by the end we were outmuscled," the England international said. "We started really well, but we lost a crucial lineout and then we lost our shape completely. There was a lack of discipline. I thought Northampton were very good on the day - they were very smart - and there is no doubt they are a good side."
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