Foden looks for positives
May 22, 2011
Foden grabbed a first half try but it would not be enough for the Saints © Getty Images
Northampton fullback Ben Foden believes his side have no choice but to learn from their agonising Heineken Cup defeat at the hands of Leinster at the Millennium Stadium.
The Saints appeared on course for their second Heineken Cup triumph after powering to a 22-6 half-time thanks to tries from tries from Phil Dowson, Foden and Dylan Hartley. But their Irish rivals rallied from first half mauling to turn the game on its head and claim a stunning 33-22 victory - inspired by a 28-point haul from man of the match Jonathan Sexton.
Sexton scored two tries and Nathan Hines crashed over for the third try as Leinster racked up 27 unanswered points to record the biggest comeback in Heineken Cup Final history. Northampton were well beaten before the final whistle confirmed their fate but Foden has backed his side to bounce back from what was a crushing end to an otherwise noteworthy season.
"We will learn a huge lesson from this game," insisted the England No.15. "A lot of players haven't been involved in games such as these. Our first taste of major silverware is a bitter one.
"We play this game to be in moments like this. We had one foot through the door. For Leinster to come back from that scoreline probably makes the taste of victory even sweeter, and for us that little bit more bitter.
"It builds character, and we are a good enough team to go away and build from it. We are a young team and these moments bring us together. I think we are a good enough side to repeat the performances we put in this year and rebuild and make sure we are there or thereabouts again next season."
Northampton scored early through Dowson and kept their foot on Leinster's throat until the interval. Even when prop Brian Mujati was sin-binned, Northampton's seven-man pack won a scrum against the head and Foden scampered outside Brian O'Driscoll to score.
Hartley was driven over the line just before the interval but Northampton's fairytale then turned into a horror story with Sexton their tormentor-in-chief. O'Driscoll reported that Sexton had been like "a man possessed" and he turned his passionate words - invoking the spirit of Liverpool's 2005 Champions League Final comeback - into ruthless deed.
The Irish province made some technical changes to their scrum at half-time which negated Northampton's control of the set-piece and they attacked with renewed ferocity and intensity. Sexton touched down twice and compiled 20 points in as many minutes as Leinster surged into a lead they would never relinquish.
"They put in an outstanding performance. Jonny Sexton was outstanding with the boot and in open play," said Foden. "There was some great rugby played by both sides. I am pretty sure the neutral spectator would have had a ball watching it - it was a credit to rugby. We knew it was an 80-minute game, that's the thing about rugby. There was a momentum swing and things started to go their way."
After defeat to Leicester in the Aviva Premiership semi-final, Northampton's promising season ended without silverware. Director of rugby Jim Mallinder put some of the second-half collapse down to fatigue but in the cold light of day he will reflect on promising signs for the future.
"We played a very tough semi-final last week and an incredibly tough final today. I am nothing but immensely proud to be part of this team," he said. "We have learned a lot this year, not just tonight. We have shown we can compete with some of the best teams in Europe.
"These lads have now experienced being in a final. Leinster have been together a long time, playing at the top level. Four years ago we were in the first division. We have come a long way to where we are now. Hopefully we can stay there and we can win one of these big ones."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
As Scotland decides its future, Scrum Sevens looks at a group of players who transcended rugby both for country and the British & Irish Lions
Ahead of November's USA-All Blacks match, America's ESPN Magazine explains rugby to its readers who may not be familiar with the game
Tom Hamilton talks to World Cup-winning captain John Smit about life after rugby, his fears over the South African exodus and the World Cup